Last weekend, I was awakened in the dead of night by a sound that made me sit upright in bed…“Arrrrrrrr! Arrrrrrrr!”
It was so loud, I was afraid it also would wake up my nearest neighbor, who lives about a half-mile down the road.
I began to think my house was being invaded by a gang of cutthroat pirates…or someone had decided to make a sequel to the film, “The Exorcist,” out in my living room.
I frantically searched for a weapon and grabbed the manicure scissors from the drawer of my nightstand. Then cautiously, one step at a time, I tiptoed out of the bedroom to investigate. The scissors had rounded tips, so I figured I wouldn’t be able to stab anyone with them – but I probably could give the intruder’s fingernails a really nice trim.
The sound turned out to be coming from my dog, Eden, who looked as if she might be choking. Panicking, I rushed to her side. Then without thinking, I stuck my hand into her mouth, hoping I might be able to feel an old sock or a chunk of the sofa stuck in her throat and yank it out. I found nothing. Fortunately, my hand emerged with all of my fingers still attached. Unfortunately, Eden continued to make the sound.
I remembered someone once telling me that if a dog was choking, especially on something like a chicken bone, to feed it some bread to cushion the object and help make it move downward, out of the throat. I had no clue where Eden might have found a chicken bone while I was sleeping, especially since I buy only boneless breast of chicken, but just to be safe, I reached for the bread.
Eden ate two slices…and then started coughing again. By then, my other dog, Willow, had emerged from her dog bed in the laundry room and came out to stare at Eden’s neck as if to say, “What the heck have you got in there? A live goose?”
It’s a known fact that when something is going to break, flood or fail, or when a person is going to get a bad toothache, or a dog is going to be sick, it’s going to happen on a weekend – because that’s when the people who run businesses that take care of such problems cackle wickedly and say, “Ha! We’re going to quadruple our rates because we really hate being disturbed on weekends, and you’re so desperate, you’ll pay anything to get someone to help you!”
Past experience painfully had taught me that the difference between going to the after-hours emergency vet or waiting to see my dogs’ regular vet was about $100. So I decided that since Eden had swallowed the bread without any obvious difficulty, she wasn’t choking. Therefore, I probably could wait until morning and call her regular vet.
Neither the two dogs nor I, however, got a wink of sleep – not with the Pirates of the Caribbean “Arrrrrrrring!” in my living room all night.
Eden has an extreme fear of vets, which often results in her snapping at them if they try to touch her, so just to be safe, I always muzzle her whenever I take her for check-ups. As I searched for her muzzle, I thought, “How is the vet going to hear the noise Eden’s making if I muzzle her and she can’t open her mouth?”
So I grabbed my tiny cassette recorder and taped the chorus of sounds coming out of her for evidence.
When I called the vet for an appointment bright and early the next morning and described Eden’s symptoms, I was advised to enter through the back door of the clinic, away from any other dogs in the waiting room, just in case Eden was contagious.
Contagious? I hadn’t even considered the fact Eden might have something catchy! I wondered what the vet thought it might be. And even worse, if it was something I also could catch! Just the thought of having to live with myself while making such terrible sounds made me feel like swan-diving into a vat of Lysol.
The vet and the assistant walked into the examining room and asked me to explain in detail what was going on with Eden.
“I have a tape!” I said, pulling the recorder out of my purse. The minute I pushed the “play” button and the first “Arrrrrrrr!” filled the small room, both the vet and the assistant turned to look at each other and said in unison, “Kennel cough!”
I just stared blankly at them.
“But Eden hasn’t even been near a kennel!” I finally said.
“How about a dog park? Doggie daycare?” the vet asked. “Anywhere where there are groups of dogs together in one place?”
I shook my head. “She never even leaves the yard, other than when I walk her, leashed, around the block.”
“Are there other dogs on your block that greet Eden?” the vet asked. “Maybe they’ve been to a dog park, doggie daycare or a kennel, and they’re carriers.”
Eden did meet and greet several dogs per week during our walks, but it never concerned me because I’d faithfully paid good money every year to have both her and Willow vaccinated against kennel cough.
“The kennel cough vaccination is like the human flu shot,” the vet explained. “It’s not 100-percent effective because there are so many different strains. And I hate to say it, but because kennel cough is very contagious, Willow probably will get it now, too.”
I envisioned myself having to listen to endless choruses of “Arrrrrrrrs!” in stereo every night, and it made me suppress the urge to immediately go stock up on earplugs…and a bottle of strong whiskey.
I was given antibiotics and some cough-suppressant pills for Eden, which I had to sign for because they were considered a controlled substance. I figured they probably either would knock her out or make her too loopy to cough.
Which reminded me of an old joke I’d once heard about a man who had a terrible cough and went to the pharmacy to get something for it. The pharmacist handed him a strong laxative.
“A laxative?” the man snapped, puzzled. “A laxative won’t cure my cough!”
The pharmacist smiled and said, “No, but after you take it, you’ll be too afraid to cough!”
I’m happy to report that the medication ended Eden’s cough within two days, although she still has to continue to take the antibiotics, just to be safe. And Willow hasn’t caught anything from her – at least not yet, knock on wood.
But when Eden no longer is contagious and I can take her for walks again, I’ll be staring suspiciously at every dog that comes near us and thinking, “Is this one the canine version of Typhoid Mary – the clueless germ-carrier who gave the kennel cough to Eden?”
If Eden does end up coughing again and I find out where she caught it, I’m going to bring her, along with her overnight bag, over to that dog owner’s house and let her stay there, so she personally can serenade him with an entire night of “Arrrrrrrr! Arrrrrrrr!”
I’m sure he’ll appreciate it just as much as I do.
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