When Your Dog Gets Sick on Christmas

Every two hours, Kuzo walked over the door and rang the bell to go out. We were in the middle of a winter storm. Large flakes tumbled down out of the sky. Poor little Kuzo kept squatting down with no results.

I shouldn’t say “little.” Kuzo is 80 pounds now. He’s grown a lot in the year since we brought him home as a bouncing, energetic puppy. At times he got so excited that he looked like a blur of paws and teeth and flopping ears. His enormous paws were too big for his body. They more or less fit him now.

The first few times he rang, I became annoyed. “Why are you ringing to go out if you don’t have to go?”

I was trying to sleep. I wasn’t thinking clearly.

When realization dawned upon me, it was sobering.

He was trying to go to the bathroom and he couldn’t.

Suddenly, I was wide awake.

Kuzo loves to chew on things. He chews on everything. The house is constantly filled with the sound of my girls shrieking, “Kuzo!” Then they laugh and hold up the shoe or the sock or the pair of underwear he destroyed.

Kuzo just looks at us with an expression that says, “Could you give me my toy back please?”

He’s a very polite boy. He won’t take something out of your hand. You can actually take food out of his mouth and he doesn’t growl.

He’s more than a tail wagger, he’s a body wagger. When the girls come home from school, the wag starts at his nose and goes all the way to the tip of his tail. He looks like somebody is shaking a pool noodle.

Now the poor boy couldn’t poop.

He came back in from outside and I brushed the snow off his back and led him to the sofa. He curled up and tried to sleep, but two hours later he was ringing the bell again.

Squat. Strain. Nothing.

I checked the web pages of the local veterinarians. The first opened at 8AM. My wife had given him some pumpkin the day before. That’s what everybody said to do. Give him pumpkin for constipation. Give him pumpkin for diarrhea.

But pumpkin wouldn’t help if his bowels were blocked.

Is that what had happened? Had he swallowed a piece of plastic that had gotten lodged in his intestines? Would they have to cut him open?

These are the thoughts that plague you when you’re sleep deprived.

And what about my girls? All those months of planning for the holidays. They’d been delighted on Christmas morning. Santa had nailed it. We’d made it, we could relax and celebrate and simply enjoy each other.

A sick dog would put an end to all that.

I hunkered down to watch the clock and wait for it to be 8AM.

When the morning came, I told my family that I had to take Kuzo to the doctor. The roads were clear, the snow had stopped just before dawn. Still, the drive seemed to take forever.

“Can I help you?” the receptionist asked.

“My poor boy can’t poop,” I said.

“Oh, so you don’t have an appointment?”

They were looking at me like I was crazy for showing up with a sick dog. Was this an animal hospital or was it not?

“Could I get some direction on this?” I asked.

Was I the first person who had ever shown up at a vet clinic worried about the health of his pet? Was I out of line somehow? Really?

The receptionist was looking at her schedule. “We’re all full today…”

Crushing sense of defeat.

“But you can take him to the urgent care vet clinic on the other side of town.”

That sounded better.

She gave me the address and I was off. Poor Kuzo had a hard time climbing into the car.

Another parking lot. Another door. Another receptionist saying, “Can I help you.”

“He can’t poop.”

This receptionist was more helpful. I went through the symptoms. She asked me if he’d been eating. Due to the holidays, we’re not on our normal schedule so Kuzo’s eating and pooping habits are a bit foggy, but I remembered there was food in his bowl. That meant he hadn’t eaten last night. If he hadn’t eaten, then there wouldn’t be poop.

“It sounds to me like he’s got diarrhea and he thinks he has to go, but he can’t produce anything.”

I hadn’t even considered that! I’d gone straight to bowel blockage. Your mind grabs panic like a squirrel clutching a nut. I was sleep deprived too. Not good for thinking.

“We can get him in at 7:30.”

Well, that was something.

I got home to a message from the first clinic. They’d had a cancellation and could see Kuzo at 3. Relief!

I brought him in and they decided to take an X-ray. It required a mild sedative. A few minutes later, Kuzo came stumbling into the room like a drunk.

The vet looked at the image. “There’s no blockage, basically, he just has the flu. He’ll be fine.”

She gave us some pills. I had to help Kuzo get back in the car. On the steps up to the house he almost fell over, it was the sedative. He needed to sleep.
“Poor little guy.” It’s hard to see your energetic puppy have a hard time walking.

My girls hugged him. They gave him his medicine. They wrapped him up in a blanket and said, “Our sweet boy!”

Kuzo glanced up at them with his soulful eyes and wagged his tail.

Right now he’s just a tail wagger.

Soon, he’ll be back to normal wagging with his whole body just like always.

He’s going to be just fine.

This post was previously published on medium.com.


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Photo credit: Walter Rhein

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