This post probably won't have my usual verve … I had a bit of a distressing weekend – one of my sweet little dogs had to be admitted to the animal hospital because of severe stomach problems that escalated to the point of uncontrollable vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
I have written in this space before how abnormally attached I am to both my dogs, so when Sammi Sue got so sick so fast in the space of two days, I was beside myself. And of course, children and dogs only need to go to the emergency room in the middle of the night, so I was awake for almost 48 hours straight. Stressed and emotionally raw much?
I’m still recovering.
With my empathetic and surprisingly willing teenage son in tow, I had to take sweet Sammi Sue, my two-year-old Shih Tzu mix, to an unfamiliar vet because mine is not open 24 hours.
So I was immediately apprehensive when I walked in the door at 1 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning. Add to that the exorbitant cost of emergency care (they charge whatever the hell they want simply because they CAN), and I was reluctant to leave her overnight.
When we first brought her in, I knew she was not doing well. But there had been no blood yet, and she was still mostly acting like herself. They gave her a round of IV fluids for dehydration and a shot of some medication to stop the nausea, and we went home.
But by 5 a.m., she had completely lost bodily control, and I flipped the hell out. I flew back to the hospital and all but begged them to make her better. My son had gone to bed by that point, and I didn’t think we both needed to be sleep deprived, so I was solo for the second trip.
Let me just say that I was not at my best, and it did not help that the vet’s beside manner was abominable. I really needed her to tell me that she was going to make my fur baby better, that she saw stuff like this all the time, and most dogs recover just fine.
She did not. No, she rattled off a huge litany of off-the-wall things it could be. Despite the fact that Sam’s blood work looked normal, she had no fever and her tummy was not sore to the touch, this vet wanted to do $400 worth of X-rays AND an ultrasound, plus she acted like my dog needed to be hospitalized indefinitely at $1,000 PER NIGHT. I was scared before, but by the time she got done with me, I was a terrified wreck.
And I was fucking pissed off.
Something snapped in me, and I started to question this woman relentlessly. I wanted to know why she hadn’t done some of the treatments she was only then suggesting during our first visit. Why didn’t she give a round of injectable antibiotics instead of sending us home with oral medicine … for a dog who had been throwing up?
Her response: Sure, we could have done that. Well, why the hell didn’t you? I did not cuss her out like a trailer park redneck, but I REALLY wanted to. I did, however, ask a barrage of other detailed questions until I got at least halfway satisfactory answers. She rolled her eyes at me at one point, and I nearly smacked them out of her head.
I started to wonder if she had set me up to fail, so I would have to bring Sammi back for in-patient care. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but my radar told me that I was getting snowed, or at the very least, upsold on treatment.
Long story short, I agreed to one X-ray, which showed no obstruction (i.e., she hadn’t swallowed anything funny) and a 24-hour hospital stay. I figured I would pick Sammi up on Monday morning and trot her over to my own vet, who I knew would only do what was necessary, at probably half the cost.
So I kissed Sam goodbye, and I cried all the way home.
As soon as she got on the IV, all her symptoms stopped. She responded very well all day and the following night, and she even ate something. (I called every four hours to check on her, and I just do not give a shit if that annoyed the receptionists.) We still don’t know the cause of her belly woes, but the best guess is that she got into something in the yard or caught a nasty virus. So far, my older dog, Charlie, has stayed healthy. ThankyoubabyJesus.
I picked Sam up at 8 a.m. Monday morning with a pretty darn clean bill of health, all things considered. We both could not have been more thrilled to see each other. She wagged, I squealed.
She’s still weak, but it's obvious how much better she feels just by looking in her eyes. We have been attached at the hip since she came home. If she is not following me in the house, then I am following her around in the yard, keeping her from eating something she shouldn’t.
I am also trolling for a stool sample, so I can take it to my regular vet for testing, just to make sure she doesn’t have a parasite.
Anyhoo, I am still a little hazy from stress and lack of sleep, but I am so grateful for the many positive things that came out of this experience, not the least of which is that my little dog is on the mend.
I learned a few lessons, as is my common practice these days. In my world, life is just one opportunity to learn after another. That can be a pain in the ass sometimes, to tell you the truth. But what the hell.
The first thing I got out of my weekend trauma is a strong reminder that I should always trust my instincts. Sam had the beginnings of her symptoms late last week, but I did not want to overreact and take her to the doctor just for a random bout of runny poo.
I was the queen of taking my son to the pediatrician for the slightest sniffle when he was small, only to be told there was nothing they could do for him. But something in my gut was pulling me to make an appointment for Sam on Friday.
She didn’t act very sick, and she was still eating. But she does this thing when she gets a rock between her paw pads or has something stuck to her fur…she hangs her head and crawls in my lap as if to say, “Mama, fix it.” When she wanted to be next to me every time I sat or laid down for about a day and a half, I should have known she was trying to tell me something.
I really wish I had heeded her pleas this time, though they were not quite as obvious as usual. Yes, I should have followed my gut, but not just because ER care cost a grand total of $1,100. Although I can’t say that I would have objected to a little bit lower bill. No, I was upset with myself because I might have been able to stave off the worst of her illness if I had taken her to the doctor sooner. *SIGH*
Anyhoo, speaking of the bill, I am SO grateful that my business and financial health are in good enough shape that I could toss out that kind of money without blinking an eye, AND without having to go hungry for a month. I would have found a way to pay for Sam’s care no matter what financial straits I happened to be in, but I am thankful that I didn’t have to sell myself on the street corner to do it.
I also was gently reminded that I don’t have to do anything alone. I heard from several people Sunday who told me they would have gladly accompanied me to the doggie hospital in the middle of the night if I had just called and asked. My newest, wonderful girlfriend also let me blubber on the phone to her for more than an hour.
And tons of other friends called, texted and Facebooked (that’s officially a verb now, right?) to check on Sammi (and me) throughout the day… I felt so blessed. Suffice to say, I have A LOT of animal lovers in my life.
And that brings me to the most important thing I learned during the past 48 hours or so – the impact and importance of unconditional love. It is truly a gift no matter what side you are on – whether you give it or accept it freely.
There was a time in my life when I couldn’t do either one because I simply didn’t know how. It may sound crazy, but in the past few years, my two dogs have taught me a lot about loving myself and other people.
So, yeah… Mama "fixed it" for you, Sammi. And you fix me, too, furry girl. Every day.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.