Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Muzzle it

Last Tuesday, Leo and I were out for our early morning walk. It was a beautiful morning with mild temperatures and a bit of pink sun peeking out from the clouds. We were in the home stretch: He had pooped and we were heading for home.

Thoroughly relaxed and content, I was contemplating what I would have for breakfast (Cereal or bagel? Coffee or tea?) when Leo lunged for a black plastic bag in the grass. I gave him a quick yank but it was too late: The bag was firmly clenched in his mouth, bits of unidentifiable meat poking out, wriggling maggots falling to the ground.

I watched in horror as he chomped and swallowed, chomped and swallowed, unable to summon the bravery to try and grab the bag from his mouth. Those foreboding teeth, that growl, those writhing maggots….no, no, no. All I could do was yell and scream and demand that he drop the bag, to no avail.

Judging by the maggots, and the stench, I knew the meat was well beyond rotten. But that wasn’t what worried me: The plastic bag, about the size of a doggie bag (ironically enough), had been knotted closed. I worried that the bag might get stuck in his intestine somewhere along the line. This was bad, very bad.

I hoped that maybe if I walked him a bit more, maybe he would just vomit the whole mess up. Maybe.

We walked. And walked. He appeared perfectly unfazed by the garbage that must be roiling in his belly. When we got home, he assumed his usual position in the kitchen, by the counter, waiting for me to serve his breakfast.

What to do? What to do? I fretted. And fretted. Should I feed him? No. Would he just throw up all over the rug eventually? Maybe. Should I take him to the vet? Probably.

But I had so much work to do and it would cost so much money and I’d have to drive him in my pickup truck, which was always a disaster (he insists on either lying in my lap, blocking my vision; or sitting up on the passenger seat and flying into the windshield whenever I make a stop). Urg. What to do?

I finally decided to call the vet, explain the situation and ask for their advice. They suggested I bring him in immediately.

“Please don’t cost $400 like last time,” I silently pleaded. (Last time being when he gobbled down some roadkill and pierced the inside of his mouth with a bone, which then formed a huge infected abscess and had to be drained, under anesthesia. Very pricey procedure, that one.)

So I sent a crazy-dog-lady frantic e-mail to work (“Dog emergency! Back later!”), loaded Leo into the truck (who, though excited to be going for a ride, was quite miffed that I had neglected to feed him his breakfast) and sped off.

After a short wait, the vet came in, heard my sad story, and took Leo into the examination room. He came back a few minutes later and led me into the exam room, explaining that he had given Leo some morphine to calm him (Where’s mine?) and an injection that would make him very nauseous.

It was almost comical back there: Dogs were flopped everywhere. To my left, a Husky was on an exam table, under anesthesia, having its teeth cleaned. To Leo’s immediate left, there was a Great Dane passed out on an exam table, a person in scrubs hunched over it.

And there was Leo on the floor, chained to the Great Dane’s exam table, his head hanging over a bowl with a vet tech encouraging him to “Let it up, Leo.” Visions of myself in high school, having had too much to drink, my head hanging over a toilet bowl, came floating back.

“Ewwww,” I said, and returned to sit quietly in the waiting room.

A few more minutes passed and then, bursting forth from the exam room, a chorus of “Oh! Gross! What is it? Gross!” I came back in just in time to see the vet tech hand the bowl to the vet. He shoved it in my direction. “Look familiar?”

The stench was staggering. In the bowl was a slab of gray mystery meat and a very slimy pile of black plastic.

“Yep, that’s it. Bag and all.”

They ushered Leo to a cage so they could keep an eye on him throughout the day, and I rushed home to work. Later that evening, I came back to pick him up. He was fine, his usual wiggle butt self. The bill was $158, not so bad after all. We drove home without incident. I fed him his dinner and put in a couple more hours of work.

Oh, and I bought a muzzle. Leo isn't gonna like this.