Sunday, June 24, 2012

The scary puppy post (and scary long-- sorry)

You know the cute puppy from the previous post? This is the post about the Bad Thing (TM) that happened to him, how we got lucky, and how the whole thing messed me up. I am not sure that the last part was a necessary consequence of the first two put together, but in the context of my pre-existing crazies, it might not have been easily avoidable.

This magnet is prominently displayed on the filing cabinet at the emergency check in at the big veterinary hospital where the main act of the drama went down. It's funny, and, as it turns out, prescient. Which, I am sure, is the reason it is positioned in that very strategic location.

So let's rewind reality, about oh say... 11 weeks and three days. Monkey and JD are out of the country, attending a family wedding. The Cub is visiting my parents.  V the puppy and I are having a pretty good week. I am actually getting stuff crossed off the all-mighty list, I am getting work done. I am even hoping to get to blog (no, honest-- that too was on the list for the week, just never happened). And on Thursday night, V and I are off to puppy school. I'd never gone before-- the timing hadn't worked out, but I'd heard much about the characters from JD. So we manage a walk and a puppy dinner before getting into the car, and I am feeling mighty pleased with myself.

Half way to school I hear a funny sound, look and see a... um... pile of what was, going in, his dinner. While I pull over and call the school to see whether they think we should turn around and go straight to the vet (remember-- I'd never had a dog before), V thinks about it for a few, and-- look away if you are squeamish,-- eats the whole pile back up. Yum. And since the school is letting the answering machine pick up, I decide to keep going. When we get there, I ask about our little gross adventure, and the teacher tells me puppies do that kind of thing. Oh, ok then. I actually have a video from that night, of V being playfully chased by a much smaller, but very feisty French Bulldog. It was very, very cute. But knowing what must've been happening on the inside for V, I look at that video and wonder.

So the next day, after teaching my class and office hours, I still had a few things on tap-- namely submitting some stuff for work and, later, a haircut appointment. You know, because I actually had time to spend on myself. So I am working on the submission, minding my own business, when I see the puppy start to make the freakiest oval on the rug-- he'd throw up just a bit of the lunch he'd just consumed, then move over a bit and do it again. In the end, he'd made a shape'o'piles on the rug. Extremely appetizing. While I shoot an email to JD to say WTF? and also, do I take the puppy to the vet now?, and did I say WTF yet?, V starts to go around the piles and eating them back up. Capital W weird, no?  And then he goes to play outside.

Call the vet, who says we're open until 7-- go get your haircut if he's playing and call us if he's off when you are back. Sounds like a plan. Except as I am finishing the submission, the puppy walks into the house, lays down by the couch, and starts to whimper. For maybe 30 seconds. Then gets up and goes out to play again. But did I mention I'd never had a dog before? The whimpering? It freaks me out. So I call the stylist, who works out of her house and is a dog person, and tell her that I am worried about the puppy and could we push it because I will take him to the vet now. She's on board with it, and off to the vet we go.

Where, of course, V starts to act like his usual self. By which I mean wanting to play with every dog in the joint. Because? OMG!DIDYASEETHAT????IT'SAPUPPY,ANDSOAMI!!!!!!!LETME!!LETME!!LETME!!! It's crazy enough that I make a crack about how if my daughter paid the puppy off to pull this on me so that I miss my haircut, I will be very miffed (did I mention Monkey doesn't like me getting haircuts? She plays with my hair for fun, so if it gets too short for her after a haircut, she disapproves). Funny, no? Though I am fully aware, even in the moment, that the joke only works if it does, in fact, turn out to be nothing.

So finally we get to see the doctor. Who says the puppy's "acting appropriately." Though his belly is a bit tender, so maybe a bland diet for a few days. I must not look too relieved because then she says that the puppy doesn't need an X-ray, but that they can do one in abundance of caution. You know, to calm me down.

This is where we take a short diversion for a love letter/ode to Tash. Because way before we ever got the puppy, Tash had told me, early and often, to never ever get a pet without first getting pet insurance. I have ears (and eyes-- she's said it in chats too), and she has tales that demonstrate rather convincingly why that's the case, and so when we finally had the date for V's arrival, I got on JD's case to pretty please figure out the insurance thing but yesterday already. Turns out, things are a bit more complicated these days, since there is a whole new model of pet insurance out there, and we ended up going with that new model in the end-- it's cheaper out of pocket and covers all kinds of bad things. If you want to know more, I can explain in the comments-- I think the post is getting too long already. Short version is having pet insurance saved us thousands of dollars, literally. And I still owe Tash a beer or something stronger. Am daydreaming of when she will finally show up to collect.

Back to the story. I lurve the information age. Because see, while I was fairly sure our insurance was good to go by then, I wasn't sure sure. And the person who made it happen was not so very on the same continent at the time. But text messages, they cross oceans and all that. So I sent one, and JD called me a few minutes later. The reason I am telling you this long form is to underscore than the X-ray we got the puppy was universally believed to have been for the benefit of calming me down, since, as a first time dog owner (did I mention?) I seemed to have been a bit out of sorts still. That is, JD promptly told me that I didn't need our insurance's particulars, since it is a mail stuff in for reimbursement kind, but that since I still sounded nervous, he thought we should get the X-ray. So we did.

A sidenote-- they bring the image to show you on a freaking iPad. Which is both way cool and a bit crazy. But hey, it was fast and it was easily available for me to see, so I am not complaining. The thing on the image, though? Thin and bright. Metal. A needle? Really? Even the doc couldn't believe it, so she ordered a second X-ray at a different angle to make sure it wasn't a thin piece of something. It wasn't. Second X-ray, same result. The puppy ate a frigging needle!

At this point they tell us we should go to the big veterinary hospital, and pronto. And I get that this is fairly urgent, but my brain is still protecting me-- I am not clear on either how urgent or how dangerous. The office gives us electronic copies of the X-rays and tells us to go straight to the hospital, but we stop by the house first to grab a few things. In my defense, the house is about a mile from the vet's and is almost on the way.

When we get to the hospital, things at first do not seem to be moving that fast. We check in, and we are supposed to wait in the special doggy ER waiting area. It is separated, you see, from the cat ER waiting area. No, not kidding. It is also to the other side of the big open central area from where non-emergency animals hang out. Which meant that V was being kept away from the dogs he knew were in the building by his mean owner. He barked early and often, presumably to explain to the dim-wit holding his leash that there were DOGS to sniff, and not more than a few seconds away. Eventually, he barfed a bit more, and shortly after an ER doc arrived. Who was funny and warm and clearly disappointed that the fresh haul didn't contain the needle from the X-ray. She then explained to me that they would try to get the darned thing by means of endoscopy, but she wanted me to know that if they fail, he'd have to have gastrotomy, which is a fancy term for opening the dog up and getting the thing straight out of his stomach.

So V got weighed and I had to sign off on being willing to spend many many dollars for the first procedure, and also that I am willing to spend more if that fails and they have to cut. A nice technician then led the puppy away, leaving me with his collar and leash. And I waited. Can't tell you how long-- I don't have a sense anymore. Finally the vet came out, sat at the table with me and told me that they'd tried to get the thing via endoscopy for good twenty minutes, but that there was so much grass and wood chips inside that they literally couldn't find the needle in that haystack.

This was the first time I sank. Not literally-- I was sitting after all. But you know what I mean-- my insides, all of me, just sank. Before this news I thought I was so fucking clever-- made sure to have insurance, made the catch on the behavior that neither my husband nor the vet made. I rocked, see? And suddenly I was the first time dog owner idiot who let her dog eat grass and gnaw on sticks (he was bringing those in over the last couple of days and making a thorough and quick job of them). The ER doc tried to talk me off of that particular ledge. She said that these things he was doing were his instinctual way of dealing with the foreign body. That's how he was trying to protect himself.

She told me to go home, since they would have to keep him at least overnight after the surgery. She promised to call as soon as they were done. I thought I'd calmed down by then. I drove home, I had dinner with my sister and her family. I waited for the call. But when three days later we still couldn't find the collar and leash that I was sure I remembered taking from the hospital to the car with me and then bringing into the house, and finally I'd called the hospital and they had it, well, that's when I knew I was not fine that Friday night. Managing to acquire tactile and visual memories of something that never happened? I was not fine.

Eventually the nice ER doc called. Surgery was a smashing success and the surgeon was happy they'd done it because, and I quote, he wasn't sure the grassy mess they took out would've made it out on its own. They weighed the mass-o-grass, and there was a full pound of it. They also found the needle, complete with a good length of black thread, yellowish and kinda rusting itself. I don't have any yellow needles. He did not eat OUR needle. He must've found it on a walk or, alternatively, under our deck, if the previous owners dropped it there accidentally however many moons ago. We were incredibly lucky-- he only had a small ulcer on the esophagus and he had no perforations of the stomach, and apparently no infection. He'd need to stay overnight, as promised, but we could get him the next day. We ended up leaving him an extra night and then having my sister and brother in law pick him up and take him to our house, since I had to fly to get the Cub back from my parents. The hospital they told me not to visit the day after the surgery-- V had already revealed his boisterous nature, and they were worried he'd need sedatives after if I come but then go and leave him there.

This is after. Sunday after the Friday. His tummy is shaven and he has scary looking staples in it. And his discharge instructions say, as point number one, to keep the puppy chilled and as inactive as possible for the next two weeks. Yup, a four and a half months old terrier puppy. That was going to be no problem. No problem at all.

It was relatively doable while he was taking drugs. It got a lot harder when he no longer was. It was particularly tough the night Monkey and JD got back from overseas. And he was not at all on board with the whole only going outside to do business and only on a leash plan. But in the end we managed, and all of us survived.

The next time I felt myself losing it was after everyone was back under the same roof, and things were on the mend. For some reason, driving back home one day I let myself really understand what the breeder told JD when he asked her how fast puppies recover from such surgeries, in her experience, that is. When he told me, days before, I didn't really process it. I mean I understood what the words were saying, but not what they meant. She'd said that most often needles are found on necropsies, but that if people know the needle is there, with no money for such surgeries and not many vets qualified to do them anyway, most often all an owner can do is feed the dog bread mixed with cotton balls, essentially to do what V did for himself by eating grass-- coat the foreign body and hope it comes out the other end. So driving home that day it suddenly hit me what it must feel like to be that human, sitting with your dog, knowing all you can do is feed the dog fucking cotton balls with bread. Knowing your dog would most likely die, and most likely from a raging infection. I thought I was going to throw up.

When JD called the insurance company to ask how to file the claim (they were wonderful, btw), he also asked about how frequent claims like this were. And the nice lady told him that usually these claims come with serious courses of antibiotics for a profoundly raging infection as well as with removing damaged sections of the intestine.

So yes, I probably saved V's life, or at least his quality of life. And likely because I was so inexperienced with puppies that I worried enough about the smallest changes from his usual to take him in right away, whereas an experienced dog owner might've written those off as the weird things puppies do. And after I'd exhaled, after rationally speaking everything seemed to be improving, I realized that I was still on edge. The blowback, something I should've expected, but didn't, had me in a crazy hypervigilant overdrive about the pregnancy. Because see, I saved the dog. I noticed something nobody else did. I, therefore, might have the power to notice something similarly obscure that would jeopardize my baby's life. And what's worse, I was the only one with that power. The only one.

The day of the surgery I was 26 weeks 1 day. I didn't have an appointment scheduled until 27w5ds, and it wasn't until right about 27-1 or 27-2 that I even realized why I was as on edge as I was. So when I showed up for that appointment, I couldn't hold it anymore. I told Nurse Kind that I was losing it, that I had the worst time trying to be vigilant. She wanted me to tell Dr. Best the same thing, and I did. I thought I had to wait until about 32 for the thorough monitoring. Turns out, NSTs are best done starting then, but BPPs can be started as soon as 28 weeks. Which was coming up rapidly. And Dr. Best was not in the mood to be shy about those. We started BPPs that very Friday, at 28w1d.

That? That was not only incredibly validating, but also calming. Not right away, mind you, but when Friday rolled around, when the ultrasound goop hit my belly? Yes, yes it was. Because suddenly I was no longer the only one with the power to help my baby-- the doctors, and ultrasound technicians, and big machines, they all had my back. They all had her back. I knew then and I know now that a BPP passed with flying colors is no guarantee of live birth or even of survival for the next week, until the next BPP. And hey, the very day of my first BPP I also got the first run of my first real contractions for this pregnancy. So it's not like the clouds parted and I became a blissful pregnant woman, far from it. But it made me feel better, not to mention valued and respected, and I will forever count that as one of Dr. Best's greatest hits.

Finally, and blessedly, the end. Oh, wait-- PSA: If you are contemplating getting a new pet, please, please, please do yourself a favor and get pet insurance. All set. Now it's really the end.


Mrs. Spit said...

Oh dear. As the 5 time owner of a dog requiring tummy surgery (why do they make their duodenum so much smaller than their mouth anyway?)

I will tell you that pet insurance will eventually cut you off, if you have a habitual chewer.

Hoping he's well.

G in Berlin said...

I'm glad all is well. And I have a new kitten and I would love to know more about the insurance and what you would recommend.

Julia said...

Mrs. Spit, FIVE times? I think around round 3, I'd be asking the damned dog if he's enjoying messing with me. Also, I might start coveting his drugs. :)

G, so the old insurance model is much like the human health insurance. But it's getting very expensive and is rarely efficient in terms of what you pay for what you get. That is, your premiums in that model these days make it so that something pretty bad needs to happen for you to get your money's worth.

The alternative model, the new one we went with, treats pets as property. So you are essentially insuring against property damage. Which means that, say, well visits are not covered. But on the other hand, whatever your vet says needs to be done because your pet is not well, gets covered (in our case at the 90-10 level after a modest deductible). So all the X-rays are always covered, and all the meds. JD found our company on the internet, and it was one of two he was seriously considering. Let me know if you want me to name (company) names.

Tash said...

I'm going to try for the THIRD time to leave a comment. Blogger keeps eating them, despite the fact that I am indeed signed in already, stupid internet. Sadly, I cannot extract my previous comments from the webz like mass from a dog, though it would probably look rather similar if I could.

I believe you buried the lede? Are you really well into your 37th week??!!! Wowza.

I feel horribly collecting my beer given the scary circumstances in this tale, but: Beer. mmmmmm.

Sometimes that mom intuition comes in handy with non speaking mammals of all sorts. As does insurance.

erica said...

This sounds like a nightmare, but I'm so glad it was covered by insurance. Also, he does look very cute in that cone, poor pup.

And thank goodness you have such a good doctor, that he listens to you and is able to lift a little of that burden of vigilance. Fingers crossed as you get through these (hopefully not too exciting) weeks.

Beruriah said...

Did I ever tell you the one about our cat eating dental floss? Fortunately our humane society had a sliding scale for care and we were still gard students.

Week 37! Yay for Dr. Best, again and always.

JustHeather said...

Definitely a scary puppy story, but so glad it was saved by a happy ending.

Here from the Lushary.