Repetition, repetition, repetition. After four weeks of wrestling his blue "Future Leader Dog" bandana around his neck, FLD Gus is finally resignd that I WILL get it past his open mouth and he WILL wear it whenever we are in public. Time to go to work, I say.
Gus. Heel. FLD Gus heels comfortably at my side on a loose leash across the busy parking lot at Nino Salvaggio's. We've stopped to pick up a bottle of wine to bring to our friend's house for dinner. Their daughter and son-in-law are visiting from Oregon and they want to meet FLD Gus.
I've been diligent with our "Leave It" homework from last week's puppy-class at Leader Dogs for the Blind, but I know that the loose chaff strewn about the vegetable bins as we enter will be a challenge. It's no use for me to tell FLD Gus LEAVE IT every two seconds so I keep the leash short in hope that it keeps his head from grazing.
Gus, come on, let's go! I encourage as he struggles to reach the floor and forgets about heeling. I bend to tap my calf to gain his attention and notice that he is lapping his tongue as if a glob of peanut butter is stuck to the roof of his mouth.
What have you got now? I ask and reach to sweep his mouth clear. But Gus turns away and licks more vigorously.
Oh my gosh! Gus, what's wrong?!
The tip of his tongue is bright red and he's really licking now, frantically. Andy, I call--he's ahead of us at the wine display and turns with a bottle of "Winter White" in his hand. "What is it?"
Something is wrong with his tongue! I pull Gus out of the middle of the aisle, cradle him in a crouch, and try to get a look-see. My heart is racing; I never heard as much as a "yip." In the van Gus had been chewing away at a Nylabone that was left over from FLD Mike. Could he have bitten his tongue by mistake?
When I grasp Gus's jaw to open it, I catch a glimpse of the underside of his tongue. Oh man, it looks like he's ripped off a flap of skin! Gus twists free of my grip and keeps licking.
Now my mind is racing. I'm thinking an emergency run to the vet at Leader Dogs. But what can they do for this? A memory flash--eons ago a youngster I was baby-sitting for fell off the backyard swing, landed on his chin, and bit a hole clear through his tongue. His doctor said there was nothing to be done except let it heal; back then stitches weren't used on tongues.
FLD Gus is still licking, but not a peep out of him. What kind of pain tolerance does this little guy have?! I get his mouth open again, grab his tongue, and touch the flap of skin.
It comes off on my finger.
I almost fall on my backside. "What?" Andy asks. He's been standing by unable to help.
It's a piece of red onion peel! The bloodiest red of a red onion peel I have ever seen.*
FLD Gus stops licking and turns back to scour the floor. My heart slows. Disaster averted. Now I must work on getting Gus to "leave it" wherever we are, not just at home or in class!
*note: FLD Gus did not ingest any part of any onion--he merely picked up a small bit of peel and it stuck on the end of his tongue. Onions are very poisonous to puppies...please be careful!