Roo is really not feeling good

Roo was sicker than I’ve ever seen her last night. Gushers of acid reflux started torturing her around dusk and kept attacking her until about three in the morning. Her five-day course of metronidazole had ended the day before and I didn’t give her a Nexium, and whatever it is that’s making her sick came barreling back.

To make matters worse for her, this nightmare set in after dark, which created a lot more anxiety for her. The acid was hitting her with incredible violence. When that happens, the first thing she does is start gasping with her eyes wide, as if something is catching in her throat, then licking her nose, then jumping up and frantically wanting to go outside. As I mentioned in the last post about this, she has always had something of a sensitive stomach, and so I know that I can usually talk her down. But, not at with this level of intensity. Something was really going wrong. Without any niceties I grabbed her and held the back of her tongue down and got a couple of Pepto tablets and a Nexium down her gullet. The Pepto kicked in a little after ten minutes, but only for a short time and not enough to let her rest. 

Her main problem was wanting to go outside but then being confronted with the darkness out there. When I opened the door, she stopped dead every time as if the night surprised her. Naturally, I wouldn’t care if Roo vomited inside, but she’s a clean freak and won’t do that (in the morning, she won’t even poop until she is a minimum of 250 meters from her residence). So, when the acid hits, she is jacked to high levels of worry and anxiety. She wants to go out, I open the door, and she stops dead. We went through this a minimum of 50 times. Normally, she knows it’s nighttime and doesn’t even entertain suggestions about going outside, but in her panic over feeling so sick, she seems to forget that it’s dark outside. Torrents of acid slam up her throat, hurting her, upsetting her, but, for the moments when she is faced with the go/no-go decision, though, her reflux seems to back off significantly.

In the same way, talking her down can help, too. No one knows this better than Roo. She remembered that this technique might help and lay on the floor in front of me and forcefully nosed my hand to scratch her head. That calmed her, and any time I stopped to try to straighten my back out, she would frantically nose my hand again until I continued. This she has never done anywhere but in the car. In the hope of getting her stomach to calm down, to stop the convulsing that seemed to have bene happening, I continued with this for a couple of hours. Eventually, the attack subsided. Roo looked like she had been spending the day in trench warfare delivering messages to troops under fire. She was desperate for sleep. She went to her bed.

Around two in the morning, unsure whether a persistent headache or freezing cold had woken me, I found myself lying there trying to talk myself out of getting out from under the covers. The temperature had unexpectedly dropped to about 20 degrees and I’d left a window open. I checked the weather on my phone to verify that no major freak warm fronts blowing up from Mexico would save me from having to get up, but no luck. I got up to close the window and then leaned over the side of the bed to check in on Roo in her bed. 

She looked up at me a little more groggily than usual, glassy-eyed. I touched her on her chest and was shocked by how hot she was. Roo couldn’t have been hotter if you had slid her in the broiler and forgotten her until you saw the reflection of orange flames on the wall outside the kitchen. Her nose—and it was around 50 degrees in the camper—was hot to the touch. She wasn’t panting, she was just on fire.

She was groaning lightly, just enough for me to hear. It was a terrible, sad little groan, not something she was doing for my benefit, just something that was happening because she was feeling so bad. Still, the thing to do seemed to be to leave her alone to try to rest. 

I left a light on just in case, the way you do when something is going wrong, and had the covers up over my head to stave off the hypothermia while the camper warmed up, but I couldn’t sleep. About a half hour later, there was the noise of Roo bolting out of bed. I put the covers down and looked up. Roo was in the tiny open space at the foot of the bed, looking at me. The strange thing was that she had a big smile and was wagging her tail the way she does sometimes just before she gets something she really needs—a bowl of water when she’s thirsty or being let out the door when she suspects the presence of a cat. But not this time. She was just standing there, wagging her tail and smiling at me. I got up and went to her. You could have used her nose to cool a gin and tonic on a hot day, it was that cold. She seemed to have been sleepwagging, though, and snapped out of it and slithered back through the crack she has to get through to go back to her bed. I never saw anything like it: I could see her transitioning to deep sleep in the middle of flopping back down.

In the morning, the monumental headache that has been bothering me woke me up. I rolled over to check on Roo, who sleeping comfortably. I got up, made some coffee and waited for the vet’s office to open. On the phone, they told me the doctor was in surgery all morning. There would be no chance of his seeing Roo before two. Roo seemed to be doing more or less okay. She was tired, and like all recent mornings she didn’t want to go for a walk, just a brief and basic sortie, which, once accomplished, she terminated by coming to take her Flexi from me as her way of saying that she wanted to go back now.

Being so sick overnight had exhausted her, and she went right back to bed. When she got up I microwaved some chicken for her and gave her that. She ate it and tolerated it with no more than a few little hits of reflux (I was going to say a couple of hits of acid, but I wouldn’t want you to think Roo is too much of a Dead Head). In another few minutes she was back asleep.

When we got to the vet, half a dozen dogs were waiting to get in ahead of us. One was a little Chihuahua who was back for a return visit after getting one of his rear paws caught in some kind of string on a sofa bed. He was alone when this happened. The cord tightened and he lost all but one toe on that paw. His owner, a woman of about 80, was holding him in her lap, wrapped up in a Pampers. She could have torn it in half and still had him wrapped up. She told me what happened and then told me that her daughter, at whose house she lives, had decreed that this tiny dog could no longer enter the house, “Because that dog is crazy.”

“Well, you obviously aren’t going to do that.”

“No, I ain’t,” she said. “It’s filled with fleas out there.” But the idea of having to live him out there was upsetting her beyond the question of the fleas.

While she told me his story, the little Chihuahua was looking steadily at me, his head upside down as he lay on his back in her lap. Then he looked at Roo. After he got through looking at her he looked back at me and began to let out the saddest little howl I ever heard, quiet and lower than you might expect from a little nine-year-old Chihuahua. He sounded like the littlest coyote out alone on the biggest prairie.

Roo made a little bit of a scene refusing to go into the vet’s office. Once, years ago, she wouldn’t go into a vet’s office when we were just going in to buy some flea meds and that time I pulled her through the door. As soon as I did that, I regretted being such a brute. So, I let her take all the time she wanted, which turned out to be about ten minutes. Then she came in. Same thing an hour later when it was time to go in the examining room. She lay down with her chin flattened and with her paws spread out to get a good purchase on the waiting room floor to emphasize how much she didn’t want to go into the examining room. Her argument was that she had endured more misery in the past 20 hours than any dog should be expected to and had had it. I reeled the length of the Flexi leash out and went around the corner into the room. She preferred not to lose sight of me and followed. I sat on a little bench and Roo pushed through my legs so she could lie beneath me.

The vet examined Roo and said that she was indeed a little tender in the abdomen. Only mildly so—she didn’t recoil or arch away from his hand when he palpated her—but, he explained, he could feel her tense her belly a tiny bit. This didn’t happen on her last visit a week ago. The doc pulled blood. The results of the basic tests he ran on his machines all checked out okay. Hemoglobin was a hair on the high side, but he said that was nothing to worry about. The rest of the tests won’t be back until Monday morning. He prescribed Cerenia, an anti-vomiting medication, and said that the next step would depend on the blood tests. If a result points to a cause of what’s making Roo sick, then we’ll know what to do. A comment on facebook alerted me to a newly-appearing disease called Pythiosis, and I asked him about it and he said he really doubted she had that, because he had treated it, studied it and said that dogs with that don’t look as healthy as Roo and present with weight loss (Roo has somehow put on a pound in the last couple of weeks; this has to be from not exercising as much). But that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of catching a case of Pythiosis in an unusually early stage. If the blood tests don’t supply an answer, the next step will be x-rays, maybe a CAT scan or endoscopy, and, if necessary, a referral to one of the internal medicine hospitals, which would be in Dallas or Oklahoma City. If there’s the possibility of there being something seriously wrong with Roo and an extra day or two of driving might get us to whichever hospital would be the best for her, that’s what we’ll do. In the meantime, she’ll be on the Cerenia for four days and continuing with the omeprazole. Unless she happens to shake it off over the weekend, Roo will have to go back in on Monday. Poor Little Bear indeed.

Even though nothing happened to her at the vet’s office this time or on her last two visits, today was seriously stressful for Roo. By the time we got back to the camper, she was looking raggedy and sad. She always enjoys a good brushing, so I did that and then cooked some dinner for her—a little ground hamburger cooked to well done and half a can of creamed pumpkin, all mushed up with the juice from cooking it—and took her for a walk while it cooled off. The thought of hunting a mouse down before dinner had sounded good to her, but when it came down to it her heart wasn’t in it. After five minutes she looked at me. She was tired. She just wanted me to give her the Flexi and head back to the camper. Inside, she spread herself out in the middle of the floor, making any movement impossible. I put her stainless bowl down in front of her, but she wasn’t touch it. I hoped it wasn’t that she was too sick to eat—because that would be a worsening of her conditions and I would have taken it as a discouraging sign. As it turned out, she was just suspicious of this new pumpkin mixture and a little offended by having a day like the one she had been having capped off by having experimental cuisine foisted on her. But eventually she put a tongue to it and was surprised to find that it was pretty good, after all. 

After she ate it, she lay there and started to close her eyes. I moved the bowl away so she could put her head down. She was crashing fast. Maybe the anti-nausea med was finally relieving her. I don’t know. Half an hour later, she got up and came to stand beside me where I sat in a folding camp chair. She just wanted to say hi and be sure that I still understood that she was a Poor Little Bear and to be assured that she’s going to be fine. Then she threaded her way back to the little den I had built for her beside the bed and where I’ll be checking on her every one of the twenty times I wake up tonight.

And that’s where she is now, snoring. 

I love that sound.

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