The phone rings; my heart leaps.
It's Monday evening, just before nine. Normally I am with my nieces while my sister Anne is in class, but this week the girls are on their own. They know I'm only a phone call away.
"Something's wrong." I hear the catch in her voice. "Rosie's stomach is swollen. It's huge and hard like a drum. She's panting a little and keeps wanting to go out, but nothing happens."
I question Anne. "No, she doesn't think Rosie ate anything unusual, she doesn't ever do that." "No, she hasn't thrown up, but she keeps swallowing like she's going to." "Her gums? Hmmmmm, I guess...I guess they look dark." "No, they aren't pale." "I'm not sure when it started, I just got home from class; the girls said she's been like this all evening." "She just keeps pacing; she won't lie down."
I know that Rosie is an enthusiastic eater (and drinker). I know she gets fed once per day. I know that we recently switched her food to help control her weight. I also know that Rosie hasn't been under any stress lately, and that she doesn't get vigorous exercise after eating, but it sure seems the signs are there. I hate to tell Anne this, but...
It sounds like she might have "bloat." Yes, it's very serious. You'll need to take her to a 24-hour vet. Call your vet's office, they should have an emergency number for you on their recording.
Of course I feel responsible. Rosie was my first Future Leader Dog puppy. She was career-changed after nine months at the Leader Dog School because a suitable match could not be found. (For more about Rosie, click on the "Rosie Road" or "Rosie" label.) I took Rosie back, knowing I couldn't keep her myself, and "kinda-sorta" talked Anne into taking her for the girls. My nieces were thrilled when Rosie became their forever-dog, but now, they are scared.
Anne and Natalie gather Rosie and head off to the emergency vet. I give Andy a kiss, and with a quick pet of FLD Gus and Gypsy, I head over to be with Elaina and Sofia. I hope that these young girls will not get an early "life-lesson" tonight.
It seems like forever before my phone rings.
"Well, they don't think it's bloat," Anne reports. Her voice is still worried. "They're not sure, but in the ex-rays it looks like her stomach is full of food or something. They're going to make her throw up and see if they can tell more."
We don't have to wait as long before my phone rings again.
"Aunt patti." It's Natalie and I hear laughter in her voice. What's going on? I ask.
"Rosie threw up five pounds of food." I hear something in the background. "Oh wait! She threw up some more." There is a long pause. I hear what sounds like nails clicking on tile. "Rosie's fine now!" It's Natalie again. "She just ate too much food." Now I am sure I hear Rosie dancing and snorting, pushing Natalie around. Can she come home? I ask. "Yes, Mom's paying and then we'll be home."
Elaina and Sofia can hear my conversation with Natalie (old ears need cell phones volumes on high). A collective sigh escapes. Sofia asks me, "Who is that saint that's for the animals?" St. Francis of Assisi? Why? "When Mom left with Rosie, I went into my room and prayed to him for Rosie."
No one knows how Rosie got into her food bag that is stored in the basement stairs landing, but it is obvious that she did. One side is open just enough to fit a lab-sized head and there is a significant indentation visible in the once-35-pounds of kibble.
Rosie barges into the house when Anne and Natalie arrive and nearly knocks me over with her squirming, tail-wagging gusto.
"What a relief!" Anne says. "For us and for Rosie. Everyone at the vet's office had a good laugh at our expense. They said, 'we actually weighed it; we couldn't believe how much food came up! We're sorry, but we'll be telling EVERYONE about this case for a long time.'"
"Guess how much, aunt patti?" Natalie doesn't wait for me to respond. "SEVEN POUNDS!"
Rosie ducks her head and body-blocks the half-wall in the kitchen, her nails scrabbling in vain on the slick floor and she slips onto her side, only to scuffle back up, turn around, and barge against the wall from the opposite direction. "She's wall-wrestling!" the girls squeal.
Now that's a HAPPY (and in a much lighter weight-class) dog!
Rosie was very fortunate that her only problem was gluttony. Bloat is a life-threatening condition in a dog. Dog owners should be well-versed in recognizing the symptoms of bloat (much of what was evident in Rosie) because death can occur very quickly. For more information about bloat, check out this website: http://www.globalspan.net/bloat.htm.