Zinnia is improving; she gobbled up a hamburger/rice meal I cooked this morning. She’ll be okay by tomorrow if I know my dog. We are seeing the vet at noon.
She isn’t quite herself but is getting peppier. I’ve had Labs for much of my life, several since moving to the country. Every December, when deer season ends, the Labs come across some dead deer body parts in the woods and eat them. It’s like dark chocolate to them.
Then they get sick. (Zinnia never misses this Christmas rite, not once in her young life). If I rushed them to the vet every time one of my Labs threw up for a day or so, I’d be stone broke. To me, a Lab that eats something gross is not a drama or a crisis; I call it Living With Labs In The Country.
There are no signs of anything being caught in her stomach ( some Labs love to eat rocks, rubber balls, socks, and wood) – tenderness, blood in the stool, blood in the vomit, loss of appetite. Things are often getting stuck in a dog’s belly, but there are almost always visible symptoms from continuous vomiting to crouching over to tenderness in the stomach and abdomen.
At some point, the vet asks to see the dog. I’m waiting for the call.
A few days ago, Zinnia joined Maria and Fate for a walk in the woods. Zinnia rounded a bend, and when Maria caught up, Zinnia was chowing down on a deer carcass that was rotting away. Lab owners know that there are few things Labs won’t eat if they smell bad.
Zinnia ate quite a bit of the decaying leg before Maria stopped her and threw much of it up immediately; the rest came out of my study and once more in the bedroom.
This isn’t my first time at the circus. I called the vet, and we both agreed to see what happens. Vets are insanely busy these days, but they will almost always make time if there’s trouble.
What happened today was some more slight vomiting, which seems to have stopped, and her appetite is undiminished. She inhaled breakfast. She does look a bit funky to me. I’m concerned, as I always am, when my dogs don’t feel good. I’m sorry, but we are not yet in a crisis in my mind.
This is a familiar ritual in my life. I always call the vet immediately when my Labs do something stupid like this, which they always do, and go over the details and the dog’s behavior, eating and otherwise. I capture stool and urine samples. I scrutinize the vomit for clues and use up another can of odor off. One of my Labs – I think it was Lenore – loved to drink engine oil.
A visit to the vet usually costs hundreds of dollars these days, and I have three dogs and no more royalty checks, and lots of dead deer in the woods after hunting season. There is not nearly enough money in my bank account to rush a Lab to the emergency clinic every time they at something awful.
I always try to deal with it myself and always have if I can. If the vet wants to see the dog, we go right in. From that point, I do exactly what she tells me to do and come home with medicine, two or three bags of antibiotics, stomach-settling pills, and a hefty bill. My guess is that will be the story this time.
Isn’t it always the story for you too?
I love my vet and trust her. She has always come through for us, and we have been through enough dog dramas, even for Oprah.
Last night, I got four or five messages from alarmed dog lovers demanding that I rush Zinnia to the emergency room; they said her life might be in danger. I am allergic to drama at this point in my life, and as I have said a thousand times, there’s more drama on social media with dogs at any given moment than in all the plays on Broadway.
My policy is simple: I get dog medical advice from professionals, not strangers, on social media.
The latest alarm came in this morning on my blog posts: “Jon, I realize you hate getting advice from strangers online but look at Zinnias face from today’s post compared to your post of 12/22. Her face was so full just two weeks ago, and today it is thin, gaunt, wayworn. Unfortunately that you are waiting until Thursday to seek help. Just my opinion. Sorry if it angers you.”
Part of the sick animal ritual is that people who know me know I don’t like unwanted advice, and so they can’t wait to give it. They will confidently diagnose my dogs online without ever laying eyes on them and, without the slightest doubt or hesitation, tell me what is wrong with the dog and what I should do as if I could not possibly know.
I told Sheila that I was not in the least angry with her; I have given up on the battle over unwanted advice, nobody cares what I think or pays much attention to it. Time to let it go.
Thank you, Sheila, for caring, I appreciate your concern, honestly, you seem like a sweet person, but I’m afraid your assumptions are inaccurate, which is the problem with taking advice from strangers online. It is so often bad advice, but how can I know?
Isn’t it better for a trained professional to look at the dog and make a sound, reasoned judgment right in front of me? Vets are accountable for their diagnoses, are people on social media?
And do you believe that looking at two photographs on my blog gives you a greater understanding of my dog than I have? What kind of a clod do you think I am?
Not only was I not angry at Sheila, but I loved her message. I smiled more than once. According to Merriam-Webster, “wayworn” was first recorded in 1758 but is rarely used today. It means “wearied by traveling.” It’s the first time I ever heard it.
Zinnia is, as we speak, snoring with her head on my food; she just had a good chew on an old marrow bone. I don’t see a dog that is “thin, gaunt, wayworn, and very sad.” Before coming into my office, she dragged Bud all over the yard and pulled his collar right off of his neck.
Like me, she could lose a few pounds without worry.
Sheila might think of writing a dog story for a soap opera.
As the vet suggested, Zinnia has lost some weight, perhaps two or three pounds. We cut back a bit on her kibble. Her face is not gaunt in any way thin or gaunt, and happily, she’s lost some weight around her neck, as we wanted her to do. We weigh her at the vet regularly, even when we don’t have an appointment. She’s due for another weigh-in soon.
I told Sheila the truth.
I am not in any way angry with her for caring about Zinnia. I know some people think I’m a nasty raging bull when it comes to advice, but honestly, I rarely get angry, and never for long. It’s folly to diagnose me online, also.
Sheila’s assumption saddens me in that she thinks I needed her prompting to notice that my dog is falling apart or to take good care of her. It’s evident to most people, including my wife, that I’m over the moon about Zinna. I don’t deserve that.
I’m always concerned when my dogs get sick in any way. Still, I have also learned not to panic or jump on the drama train or declare an emergency over something that does not appear to me (or so far, our vet) to be severe or life-threatening, given the symptoms, eating habits, and behavior.
I know my dog a lot better than Sheila or the other people messaging me do, and I don’t need anyone to get me moving if that’s necessary.
And here’s the ironic part of the story. As I started writing this paragraph, my phone rang, and it was the competent and experienced Cassandra calling from the vet’s office. This morning, she read my blog and saw that Zinnia wasn’t 100 percent and asked me to bring her in at 12:30. I’m going and will return with my plastic bag full of pills and a receipt and an ever-smaller bank account.
It was a command, not a request. Cassandra misses nothing and it is very foolish to disregard her opinions, as I’ve learned more than one. My vet’s office is thorough and vigilant.
I know the rest of the script.
The pills will settle Zinnia’s stomach, and I’ll do my part by cooking up more rice and perhaps chicken this time. By tomorrow, she will be racing around the pasture, chasing balls and lying on my feet while I write.
Next January, we’ll do it all again unless Zinnia encounters some other gross carcass in the meantime. The odds are good.
Sheila, it is never wrong to love a dog. I’ll keep you posted.