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without one of my babies


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i noticed yesterday when i got home that willie or hank hadn't finished their breakfast. as a matter of fact, they hadn't touched it. one bowl was nearly empty and the other was as full as it had been when i set down the bowl yesterday morning for the dog's breakfast. it was unusual that one of my boys wouldn't have eaten, but for some reason it didn't strike me as something to think about for much longer, and i let the boys outside for their early evening wee and poo.
when the boys came in from outdoors, hank was as bouncy as always, but willie seemed a little more sedate than usual. i chalked it up to the heat, and we all went about our business. hank ran around and secured the perimeters of the house, drank his weight in water, which he always does, and played with a nylabone. willie came and laid beside me as i typed away on my laptop. again, i attributed it to the heat and just thought maybe he was tired.
this morning when i woke, i let the boys outside as always, and went to fix my first cup of coffee. something didn't smell right in the hallway near the kitchen door. something smelled awful, like something had died. rats. it must be a dead rat in the attic. the hatch to the attic was right above my head when i realized that; i had to have been smelling a dead rat. it was horrible. acrid and bilious, i can still sort of smell it, actually, in the back of my throat. it's a nauseating odor. i kept trying to recall what a dead rat smelled like; i had smelled one in my hotwater heater closet several months ago after the dogs alerted me to something in there. they were picking up the scent of something dead even before it began to smell bad. by the time i smelled it, it had been dead for several days. i couldn't remember what that rat smelled like, so i figured it must have smelled like what i was smelling now.
when i let hank and willie inside after my shower this morning (which is part of our every morning routine ) hank ran inside for his cookie as they do every morning of every day, but willie walked in the house as if he'd had the air let out of him; he was so slow and sluggish and seemed so lethargic. it still hadn't hit me that there might be something wrong.
while hank headed right for the water bowl, willie wouldn't drink at all. when hank stood on his hind legs to be fed while i was filling the bowls, willie just stood there with his eyes half open. he didn't want the food or the water, and he hadn't wanted his cookie this morning.
setting down the food bowls, something in the dining room caught my eye; something shiny on the floor. one of the boys must have had an accident. it was a long puddle. the closer i walked towards it, the worse the odor was. it was the smell i had thought had been a dead rat. i turned on the dining room light and found the puddle to be about two and a half feet long, and reddish brown. it wasn't urine. it wasn't vomit. the odor was coming from blood. it wasn't even the smell of dog poop. i wondered while i was cleaning it and scrubbing the floor if it even was poop. it was horrible. i found another long, huge puddle of it in the spare bedroom. it wasn't visible from the bedroom door, but around the corner on the other side of the bed. that's what i had been smelling in the hallway. the spare bedroom door is directly across from the kitchen door in the hallway.
i was trying not to cry as i called the vet's office, but it was no use. i was so worried about willie while i was on the phone i started crying so hard i could hardly breathe. the poor girl on the phone with me sounded like she was talking someone off of a ledge. she kept trying to get me to breathe, telling me it was alright as i apologized over and over and tried to collect myself. i described to her the symptoms willie was displaying: the lethargy and listlessness, the aversion to food and water and the diarrhea with all the blood in it. she put the doctor on the phone and asked me to tell him about the symptoms, which i did. he said he didn't want to scare me, but i needed to get him in as soon as possible, because i had just described a dog with parvo. parvo. that word terrified me. and worse, he explained, was that parvo is extremely contagious, and if it was parvo, my other dog already had it and would be showing the syptoms within several hours.
i was beside myself with horror. i kept imagining what my life would be without hank and willie. i kept hearing the doctor's words over and over: "most dogs can't survive it, and we have to put down most of the parvo dogs that come in."
i got willie to the vet as soon as i could. when he didn't protest to my putting on his collar and leash, i nearly panicked. willie doens't do collars or leashes at all. he flipped me once when i put a collar and leash on him; that was our last attempt of taking a walk outside. flipped me, right in my living room. he's definitely not a leash dog, but today he didn't fight me at all. even though he had the leash on, i carried him to the car. he seemed too frail to walk any farther than he already had. it was nearly too much for me.
when i took him to the vet and the two veterinary techs escorted him back behind the door where only staff are allowed, he turned around and tried to walk back to me. the look in his eyes broke my heart in a way it's never been broken before; he looked at me as if he knew i was leaving him when there was something wrong with him. i burst into tears and ran over to him, kneeled down and talked to him and stroked him and told him how much i love him and that i would see him tomorrow and that he was going to feel better, but my heart just kept breaking. boxers have very expressive eyes, and their eyebrows furrow like a human's.
they were going to administer the parvo test right away and call me with the results. they said the tests are refrigerated and have to sit out until they reach room temperature, about fifteen minutes, then the test takes approximately eight minutes. they'd call me in about thrity minutes with the results, and willie had to be quarantined in a "parvo room" all by himself until the test results came back, so as to avoid any potential contamination of any of the other dogs in the clinic.
when i hadn't heard from them in nearly two hours, i realized how sore my jaw was from grinding my teeth and clenching my jaw with anxiety, so i called the doctor's office. the tech who answered said "oh, wait a minute. the doctor wants to talk to you.", and my heart sank. then the doctor came on the phone and said the parvo test had been negative.
willie had something called "HGE", or hemmorhagic gastric enteritis. poor willie had been hemmorhaging. the doctor said he had ingested something that had caused him to contract botulism which had caused the HGE. he had either ingested a long dead animal like a squirrel or a bird or a rat, or he had ingested some sort of poison. i did a little quick math and told him that i had had the exterminator at my house to get rid of the rats, and i hadn't seen but one rat since, and it had been dead. i told him the dogs had carried it to the deck, but it was for all intents and purposes still all intact, and he stopped me and told me that a dog has to eat twice it's body weight in poisoned rats to contract secondary poisoning, so that couldn't possibly be it. he said that if willie had been poisoned it was a possibility that it had been an intentional poisoning. no matter what caused it, he was on aggressive antibiotics and an i.v. for fluids because he had become dangerously dehydrated due to the lack of water ingestion and the diarrhea, and would have to take a course of antibiotics for 14 days.
the most important part, and the only part that mattered to me was that willie would be coming home. he'll either be home tomorrow or monday, depending on his condition tomorrow and how he does overnight tonight.
hank is lost without him; when i got home from work, i let hank out of his kennel and he ran around the house looking for willie, and whined when he got back to the bedroom after not having found him. he's about six months old now, and has never spent a day without willie since he came to live here, about five months ago. willie is his big brother, figuratively and literally; they're from the same parents, born in different litters. hank was born in the litter after willie's. i imagine hank will sleep in the bed with me tonight, instead of curled up on willie, as he usually does.
i'm a little lost, too. willie has lived here with me since the fourth day i've lived in this house. willie and hank are what i have instead of a husband and children; they're my family. we're a little family, the three of us.
i miss my little white boy. i hope he's not too terribly lonely and scared.
i'm just glad he's going to be alright, and i can't wait until he comes back home to his family.


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  • I'm melissa mcgee
  • From Temple, Texas, United States
  • photographer. singer. soapcrafter. herbalist. dogmom. godmother. fantastic cook. i kiss better than i cook. [all photographs on this blog copyright melissa mcgee unless otherwise noted.]
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