Thursday, September 1, 2011

River's Medical Adventure


Last night after dinner, River took an unexpected turn.  He was sleeping a lot, which I attributed to him being kept active all day. And then, at one point, he raised his head and looked at me.  And I don’t know... I can’t explain how I knew, but he was trying to tell me he wasn’t doing well. 
He seemed very lethargic and borderline delirious and he started to convulse. I would call them convulsions, but Zeke was saying no, that it was more like shivering and not full on convulsions or seizures. 
But every few seconds, he would clench his whole body as if he were bracing against something. He did it most when he was laying down and relaxing.  If I put his leash on, he got up and stood at attention like he always does for his leash, although now a bit less enthusiastic.
When I took him for a short walk, he perked right up. Not to his usually bouncy excited self, but to a state seemingly without discomfort and fully present in the world.  So we went back in after doing some business and went back to chilling.  He laid at my feet while I tried to get back to my episode of Columbo. 
A bit later, as the ‘shivering’ seemed to be getting more and more intense, we thought, maybe this is a problem, and tried calling the vet.  The recording referred us to an all night clinic.  Upon calling them, I was told they couldn’t really evaluate the dog without seeing him, but that shivering and shaking could indicate a lot of different things, none of them good.
So, we deliberated for a while.  How bad is this? we wondered.  Are we being overprotective? Part of me wanted to say, ‘this will pass’ and another part wanted to jump in a cab and take him to the emergency room.  I was flashing on stories of people who did nothing and ended up with an undiagnosed problem than ultimately proved fatal, and I flashed on the story of my mother who rushed me, her first born son, to an emergency room when the little plastic lid to my in-sink baby bath accidentally closed and banged me on the head, and they basically told her to go home and relax.
Finally, when he was having trouble going downstairs, we decided to take him in.  We called a cab and started gathering all the items we’d need for the trip, including some towels and bags to wipe and pick up all of the mucus he was likely to cough up in the cab. 
When we got outside to wait for our ride, again River perked right up and you’d never know anything was wrong with him, unless you knew that he was usually running all over the place, and now he was standing still and looking around. We were perplexed.
Then the driver pulls up, rolls down his window and says, “Oh you have a dog!?”  Yes, I said. “Well I’m allergic, I can’t take him.  I’ll call you another driver.”  I believe very strongly that things happen for a reason.  So I took this as a sign that we didn’t need to go. I told him, never mind, I’ll call up and cancel the request, which I did.  I put him to sleep and he slept through the night, albeit with mild convulsions and vocal utterances of discomfort.
In the morning, he was basically the same.
I called our vet as soon as they were open and they were able to see us right away.
After an examination, she said that he basically has a bacterial infection, which is similar to a human cold.  His reaction is so physical because that’s how his breed handles everything; with full body involvement. She said he was basically bracing against the annoying persistent urge to cough because his throat and probably his whole body is simply fatigued from the coughing.
She gave me some antibiotics and some probiotics to give him, and gave him a prescription for opiated cough syrup so he can get some good rest.
She told me that the cold will run its course for a few more days.  In the meantime, he should be getting lots of sleep and water. She also told me to avoid using ‘soothing, calming’ tones which is interpreted as negative, and instead I should say positive encouraging things like “you’re so good!  Yes, resting and recovering, that’s a good boy!”  Makes sense to me.
She also congratulated us on not making the hasty decision to rush him to emergency for this kind of thing.
So now he’s resting.  I’m actually taking this opportunity to help him get over his separation anxiety.  By leaving him alone while he’s not in the mood to move, I can leave the house and come back, letting him get used to the idea that I always will come back, even if he doesn’t do anything while I’m gone.   Maybe I’m living in a fantasy, but I have hopes that this will impact on him and help balance that little behavioral issue.
Its so hard to watch him suffer.  Wow, I knew that dog ownership had its ups and downs. I’m no stranger to having dogs.  But I expected most of the downs at this point to be all about his struggles with his training.  I really wasn’t ready for this kind of medical situation for many more years. 
Well, as I’ve said, I always believe things happen for a reason.    And then, I knew it had to be this dog.  And I’m not sure what the lesson is here, but I’m ready to learn it. 
Of course, the thought that he’s not going to make it flashed through my mind more than once. I try not to linger on it, but I’m also prepared for that, should we find ourselves going down that road.
But my strongest, most prevailing thought is similar to what I was originally feeling last night, and which was supported by the lovely doctor at Broadway Veterinary Clinic; that he’s got a ‘little something’ that he’ll have to suffer through, but will come out the other end just like nothing ever happened. 
Right now, I have him in his crate, which is covered with a blanket to give him a ‘den’ feeling.  And I covered his body with the shirt I wore yesterday so he has my scent in there with him.  I go in and check on him every ten or fifteen minutes and tell him what a Good Boy he is.
Here’s to speedy, full recovery.
Cheers!  Salut! Sante! Prost!

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