In early December my co-pilot got really sick. Vomiting, not eating, he couldn't even hold water down. It was a Wednesday or Thursday night around midnight I picked him up, put him in my truck and took him to a 24 hour vet clinic. They gave him something calm his stomach and he seemed to get slightly better until Saturday night. Lori and I stayed with him non stop.
He got horribly pukey again on Sunday night.
On Monday morning I took him into our vet.
They poked, prodded and placed medical devices on the poor mutt in places where nothing should be placed. Not a whimper or a growl. He just sat and leaned his head into my shoulder. The vet wanted to run some blood tests and other tests and get some fluids into the usually slobbery oaf. I left him at the vet clinic and waited to hear back on the tests they could run at the clinic.
Around twelve thirty that day the vet called. She asked to see Lori and I together. My heart just dropped. This is not the kind of thing anyone wants to hear from a vet, doctor, or financial planner.
Lori zoomed over and we were at the vet clinic by two. Just Lori and I standing in an examination room. No Bart. IN walked the vets. Could this scenario get any worse? If you have ever been punched in the nose you may understand the way I know I felt at that very minute I saw the two vets walk in together. My eyes started to water and I know I squinted. The lump in my throat was painful and I placed both hands on the examination table to make sure I kept myself upright and somewhat focused. Lori looped her arm through mine and stood like a pillar next to me. Likely fearful that I was about to have a demon surface through my mouth or just pass out.
Charts and titers and subcutaneous fluid delivery and more numbers with sub categories were flung about like multi sided die at a nerd party on a Friday night (so I hear). I remember only two things from all of this – Bart’s kidneys ammonia levels were 33 times the normal average for a dog his size and another level of kidney output was 4 x normal operating levels. Every piece of bad news that came out of the vets turned my knuckles a shade whiter as all I could do was clamp down on the table and try to listen.
Shortly after, “where’s my dog?” and “What are you saying?” ,the x rays came out. After some discussion about things I know nothing of, one of the vets pointed to a spot on the film. It was one of Bart’s kidneys and from her estimation it was 4 cm longer than the other. The lump in my throat had just gotten larger and I couldn’t feel my fingers anymore. The vets were unsure if El Barto had a severe kidney infection or a large tumour on his kidney(s).
“This isn’t possible! He’s only six years old!” My outright denial would make this all go away.
Not being a vet, for obvious reasons relating to me and academia not seeing eye to eye, I chose a career that was more suited to my mental abilities and disposition. As a contractor we tend to do things differently than, well, normal people. Typically contractors will walk into a room drop some plans and notes on the table tell everyone they’re ‘f-cked’ and list the reasons why. We like to get our audiences attention and keep them listening. We will show you what is wrong and why BUT we usually follow up quickly with a proposed solution and the cost.
Vets need to learn this. Lori and I both thought we were there to put our co-pilot to sleep because of some cursed genetic anomaly or because some asshole left a pail of antifreeze out in the open. Don’t run us through the pain of thinking the situation is hopeless. Tell us there’s a problem but there is hope. By the way- I’m not paying to have your exam table sanded and painted. Take that!
Finally we got to take our Black son home with us. He had lost nearly 10 pounds from his weight in October. Bart was on a regimen of 13 pills a day. Now Bart likes what Bart likes, and if Bart no likee-Bart no likee. Bart does not like pills. We tried the ‘pill cookies’ they sell at Pet Smart-no go. I jammed pills down his mouth, held his mouth shut and rubbed his throat. That dog would sit, with dissolving pills in his mouth, wait for me to take my hand away and spit the pills out. Or my favourite- eat the pills then vomit them out because he refused to eat the low protein food the vet wanted us to feed him. That sure was my favourite.
It came down to this- feed him cookies. Wait. Give him his pills. Sit with him, pretend we were stealing his food out of his dish- at which he would walk in front of us, lay down and try to distance us from the food he didn’t want and wouldn’t eat. We got so desperate to make sure he would take his pills we coated them in cream cheese frosting. Bart really liked that. He also enjoyed being fed cookies all day. He had us trained within 3 days.
Everyday I took that meatbag to the vet where they poked and probed him. Everyday (except one day-Lori wanted the Saturday shift) I sat and held him while they jammed a needle under his skin and let fly with 900 millilitres of room temperature saline. Not one whimper or growl. The technician didn’t even bother with the muzzle after the second day. Everyday Bart was eager to leave and everyday, with 900 millilitres of saline under his skin in a mound that would make Pamela Anderson jealous he got stronger and pulled me to the door with his stupid orange ball or squeaky toy in his mouth with less and less effort.
Between moving into and painting the new house, end of season work madness and Christmas insanity all I could concern ourselves with was trying to make sure the slobbery oaf was getting better. There was not a single day I didn’t take the mutt to work with me. He slept under my desk on the dog bed we bought for him. The first week was rough but when Bart grabbed his orange ball and just sat next to my desk staring at me and wagging his tail, I finally knew he was getting better.
We still don’t know what is/was wrong with Bart. Hopefully the next set of tests will let us know he is healthy again. He is down to two servings of antibiotics per day and he is eating like a lab/mutt should and gaining weight.
There were times I asked myself when is enough. That damn pound mutt was costing us a lot of money. A few people told me they would help out and everyone pretty much never even questioned that Lori and I would keep paying the vet bills until the very end if need be. Why? He’s our co-pilot. My Black son. Fatso. El Barto. Every night when Lori and I sit on the couch and Bart’s enormous fat head blocks my view and he gets the hound dog eye thing going and won’t stop until he is invited up on the couch. I watch him as jumps up and does his multiple spins until he finds the perfect place to lie down where he can place his head on either of our laps and just look up at us. It’s this look that makes me know he’s saying thanks to Lori and to me. I hope he knows that it we’re the ones that are thankful.