Our dog, Jake likes to eat. Not surprising – what dog doesn’t? – but our dog’s penchant for food makes it more, I suspect, than the usual expected doggie interest. Not many dogs that I know – not our other dog, that’s for sure – will go to the extremes that he will in order to steal a smackerel of whatever he can get his lips around. He isn’t fat (in fact, he seems to have lost too much weight with age, and I worry that he should weigh a big more), but he is large. Intimidatingly so, even. He has mastered the art of lightning-fast, soundless thieving. I have seen him place his large mutt mitts on the kitchen counter, and with a mixture of delicate precision and pure doggy gluttony, inhale an entire dinner for four. In seconds. Without knocking anything over – no tell-tale broken casserole dish on the floor, no displaced utensils, nothing. No evidence save the missing food. Had I not seen him in action myself – and he is so sneaky, that seeing it once or twice in the last few years is akin to a fairy sighting in a forest glen – I would never have believed the extent of his skill.
And yet, I am making light of a serious problem. Laughing because the alternative is to howl in frustration. Jake’s foodie antics are funny in retrospect, but at the time? Not so funny. This is a picture I took of him the day after Christmas.
Doesn’t look very happy, does he? Here’s why: his food craving reached a new level of nutters when he went into stealth mode in the middle of the night and ate all of my husband’s Christmas cookies and fudge, made every year by his grandmother. We had just picked them up that night from my mother-in-law’s house, and my husband had yet to eat a single crumb. It’s a lot of stuff – usually at least ten different varieties of sugary treats. They were on the counter, all carefully wrapped in Ziploc baggies, and all, we thought, beyond the scope of Jake’s desires. He goes for meat, not sugar, and, until now, we have never had to think twice about leaving sweets out. He left the baggies and a lot of empty space in his wake.
It was probably an hour or two later when we all began paying for Jake’s crime. I heard it first, awakened by the telltale sounds of retching and vomiting. My husband got up to inspect the damage and discovered a trail of vomit and diarrhea leading down the hallway (thank God for Pergo flooring!) and into the kitchen, where he found the detritus on the floor. This time, the dog was unable to hide the evidence, since he’d had to tear open the bags and preferred to do so on all fours. The way my husband carried on had my hair standing on end – I thought the dog could only have eaten something very expensive or worse, one of the children. When he raged that “that stupid dog” had eaten all of his grandmother’s Christmas cookies, I couldn’t help but laugh and had to swallow the “Oh, is that all?” that kept tickling the back of my throat, trying to get out. How could I not giggle even a little bit when he comes skidding back into the bedroom hollering, “He ate all my grandma’s Christmas cookies! All of them! There’s nothing left!”
Suffice it to say, my laughter did nothing for his mood. Nor did the hour’s worth of work ahead of both of us at o’dark thirty in the morning, sopping up puke and wiping up poo soup. To be fair, my husband did the lion’s share of the work. I am so squeamish that I picked up a tiny poop ball with three layers of wadded paper towel, and I was done. I informed my husband that I am happy to hold the plastic bag (with gloves on) while he puts things into it, but if I actually have to pick the stuff up, I will just add to the mess by vomiting myself. If the tables were turned, I would have been beyond pissed, so it was really nice of him to not sling some yuck at me and to do the dirty work without complaint (aside from the constant muttering about his grandmother’s cookies).
Since Jake was obviously going to be paying for his sins for the next few hours or so, we left him outside. He continued to puke off and on throughout the day, but I noticed that he was straining to try to relieve his bowels. Hmmmm. Finally, at about 1:30 in the afternoon, he came to the back door in absolute misery, and I saw that he looked like he’d gained about ten pounds in a matter of hours. Shit. The bloat was back.
So, the above picture? That was one of several I took trying to get one last good photo of my dog before we took him off to the vet, where it was likely he would have to be put to sleep. See, he’s had bloat once before, and it cost us $2k. Over the course of Jake’s nearly nine years, we’ve dropped about $10k on his various ailments and injuries, the vast majority of them self-inflicted (yes, I realize that most people would call us crazy for having spent that amount. Aside from the facts that he is neurotic and a big pain in the ass, he really is a sweet, lovable, wonderful, oaf of a dog. There’s not another like him – which is both good and bad. Heh.)
At the vet we agonized for a time about what to do – we didn’t want to put him down, but we really did not have the money this time. We’re still paying the bill from the surgery he had to have to deflate his ears, which filled up with water and swelled to the size of golf balls when he injured them trying to squeeze his big head under the fence (I should have taken pictures – that looked ri-di-cu-lous. Again, funny in retrospect.). I tried to say that we needed to let him go, but choked on tears instead. So in the end, I gave the vet tech the okay to do the surgery, to hell with the credit card bill. Not ten minutes later… completely unexpected good news! The vet was able to deflate him with a tube (I’m not sure which end the tube goes in, and I wasn’t going to ask). After looking at an xray earlier, he had told us that Jake was too inflated for it to be likely that he would be helped with a tube – meaning that his stomach had probably already torsioned, so it would be impossible to get a tube in there. Nevertheless, he said that he would try the tube first on the off chance that it would work, and it did. Bottom line was $215 instead of the estimated $1,900, no surgery to recover from, no giant credit card crisis to make me want to hurl myself into the nearest dark abyss. Yessss. I cried in a mixture of relief that for once, we got off easy, and guilt that after all we’ve been through with this dog, we almost had him put down over something that was cured by a relatively minor procedure.
But – we’re talking about Jake, here. This can’t be the happy end with a serious crisis averted. Not yet…
This dog. This crazy dog is trying to make me insane. Two nights ago, he snuck into the kitchen again. This time, he ate a three-pound bag of milk chocolates and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Foil wrappers and all. We don’t even know how he got the bag, because neither one of us had been eating it and we both swear it had last been seen on top of the refrigerator. WHAT. THE. EF. I swear, this dog is the best diet plan I’ve ever had. I wasn’t too worried about the chocolate, because at least none of it was dark, which is the worst kind for dogs, but the foil? That’s a problem. A potentially serious one.
Since then: more diarrhea. More vomiting. Some of which, early this morning, was filled with little red and green foil wrappers. My husband went to pick up the mess so the dog wouldn’t eat the chocolate again (because yes, he was caught trying), and saw that there was at least one Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup intact. Ew. But, aside from the obvious digestive issues, nothing has changed with Jake’s behavior. He is still acting like he is two, chasing anything that moves and trying to scale the fence undetected, just because, you know, he can. It remains to be seen whether any serious internal damage will be done by the second bout of Christmas candy binging, but so far, it is looking like he has once again been mostly unscathed by his terribly bad behavior. And my husband has managed, after the inital bout of ranting, to keep the urge to have a meltdown in check, so that’s good, too (he did grumble once about Jake eating $10 worth of chocolate. I kept my snickering to myself in the bathroom this time. I mean, come on – $10, in comparison to what we’ve spent on this dog, not to mention what we might have to spend yet? The ridiculousness of the complaint tickles my perverse little funny bone. I have to have something to laugh at here, right?).
I wish I could bottle this dog’s luck and sell it. I would be oh-so-rich.