The pages of this blog are full of travel tales from the lives we’ve lived on the road, at sea and abroad, but there are other kinds of journeys and adventures in life that don’t involve an RV, a sailboat or an airplane. This story is more profound than any we’ve shared with you in the past, and it has impacted our lives in the deepest ways imaginable.
Our neighborhood has been inundated with mice and pack rats, and every neighbor keeps the hoods of their vehicles wide open in hopes of deterring these rodents from setting up housekeeping in the engine compartment. Not one neighbor has been spared from repairing the wiring in their car, truck or RV engine. And now, neither have we.
Rumor has it that the wire shielding is made with peanut oil which rodents love. Whether or not that’s true, in the space of a month, part of our truck engine’s main wiring harness was gnawed right through on two separate occasions. Of course, they chewed the wire to the nub, so it was nearly impossible to make the repaired connections hold. To make matters worse, the damaged part of the wiring harness was located beneath the fuse box in a spot that is extremely difficult to reach. Installing a new wiring harness would cost somewhere around $2,000, but by sheer determination and tenacity, Mark was able to make a successful repair.
After all this, Mark was beside himself with frustration because the source of the problem was still out there. Over the course of a year he had purchased every rat deterrent and trap he could find, and in the process he’d disproven most of the old wives tales about the effectiveness of things like dryer sheets, Ivory soap and strobe lights that blink all night long. Each morning, many of his 20 or so peanut butter baited traps around the truck and the house would be tripped—and empty, licked clean and surrounded by fresh rodent droppings.
In a fit of pique, he bought some rat poison and put it under the truck. That would stop them, for sure!
The next day we took the truck to town and when we returned we parked it in different spot, our minds elsewhere. About 20 minutes later I noticed a green block on Buddy’s mat on the patio that looked like a dog treat. “What’s this?” I asked, holding it up for Mark to see. His eyes were saucers and his jaw dropped. “That’s the rat poison! What’s it doing there?!”
Buddy was bouncing around chasing lizards nearby.
The poison stick appeared uneaten and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then I caught sight of a second one. A quarter of it had been chewed. My heart stopped.
The chew marks looked rodent-like, but how had these things gotten on the back patio? Mark had put them under the truck on the other side of the house!
As we scrambled to try and piece together what might have happened in the last 30 minutes, Buddy continued trotting around, tail high and spirits higher.
I immediately called Tomcat, the manufacturer of the poison. Their poison hotline told me that if a 25 lb. dog ate just 1/4 of a brick of the poison — bromethalin — it wouldn’t be a lethal dose. Phew!!
At that moment Mark came barreling into the house, his eyes wild. “The kit came with 8 bricks and I can find only 7, including the one that was chewed. I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find that 8th brick”
As he ran outside again to continue searching for the missing brick, I called Tomcat back. The formerly calm and friendly gentleman at their poison info line had a sudden seriousness and urgency in his voice as he told me that a full brick and a quarter was a lethal dose and Buddy needed to go to the hospital immediately. He needed to be given activated charcoal to absorb as much of the poison as possible ASAP. He gave me a case number for the veterinarian to reference.
My world keeled over and crashed as I heard these words.
Buddy walked in and looked at me with a puzzled expression as if to say, “Why all the intense emotions around here all of a sudden?”
I called our veterinarian and his assistant urgently told us to get to the emergency animal hospital that’s nearly an hour away as fast as possible. “You need to go right now!” his assistant said, “but first induce vomiting by spraying hydrogen peroxide in his mouth.”
Mark did that and Buddy promptly threw up some very pale green phlegm. Our hearts sank. There was no doubt now that he had ingested the poison.
We grabbed Buddy and drove like wildfire to the emergency animal hospital.
Murphy, of Murphy’s Law, was working overtime, though, and we arrived at the hospital right in the middle of a huge rush. One dog had heart failure on both sides of his heart, and another dog had swallowed something he shouldn’t have, and other crisis cases kept pouring in. We got in line.
I was less than patient waiting there, and I complained bitterly to anyone who would listen. The wonderful receptionist, Anne, and the lead veterinary technician, Angela, kindly listened to my complaints and apologized for the delay.
After an hour or more, Buddy was finally taken into the triage room.
He was bright eyed and bushy tailed and looked at us pleadingly as the vet techs took him away. Unfortunately, the team of doctors and nurses on duty was so busy it took another hour or so before they could administer the activated charcoal. Another hour after that he was finally brought out to us.
We learned that he’d thrown most of the charcoal back up. He had charcoal on his paws and his hips even though he’d been cleaned up.
Worse, he was totally panic stricken and his eyes were wild.
We looked at each other in shock. This was not the same dog we had handed over to them two hours before.
We whisked him away from the stress and trauma of the animal hospital towards home, and then decided to stop at a park near the hospital so he could stretch his legs and relax and start to regain his good spirits.
I put him down on the ground next to the car and he promptly laid down and wouldn’t get up.
Hmmm. I carried him to a quieter shady spot under a tree nearby and set him down again. He collapsed and wouldn’t budge.
Something was very wrong. Was it the trauma in the hospital or the charcoal and its after effects? Or was the poison beginning to take effect?
The veterinarian had told us that this particular poison causes brain swelling and seizures and if a dog has a seizure there’s no hope. He’s done. She had seen dogs die on the operating table.
There’s no antidote for bromethalin.
I called the hospital, my voice shaking, and they said to return immediately.
As we drove, Buddy suddenly became a whole different animal in my arms. He was terrified. Not scared like I’ve seen him scared of things. He was constantly squirming in my arms now. His breath was shallow, his mouth agape, teeth showing, and his eyes were wide with terror.
He pinned his ears back and he strained to get out of my arms. His expression was like nothing I’ve ever seen. He wanted out of my arms and out of his body. Now!
His whole muzzle began shaking uncontrollably while I hugged him and consoled him and Mark drove 90 mph back to the hospital.
The vet techs ran to us as we walked in the door and they whisked Buddy away into the triage room.
For the next hour Mark and I alternated clinging to each other and pacing the floor. At one point we heard barks, howls and wails coming from the emergency room that sounded like Buddy’s voice.
We were both beside ourselves. Mark was in tears and I couldn’t stop pacing and incessantly drinking water from the waiting room fridge as I tried to get rid of my dry mouth and panic.
Just a few hours earlier we had gone for a short hike with Buddy on one of his favorite trails. He’d been as charming as ever, trotting along ahead of us with his dear puppy prance, his whole sweet little body overflowing with joy at being alive.
The lead daytime veterinarian, Dr. Frost, finally came out of the emergency room and took us into a quiet room for a consultation. Her face was ashen as she leaned towards us to speak. “Buddy just had a grand mal seizure.”
I gasped and couldn’t breathe.
“I hate to be blunt, but I have to be honest with you.” She went on. “His situation is very grave. And you are going to have to make some very difficult decisions. If you want to continue, he needs the highest level of care that we offer. It costs about $5,000 a day.”
Mark broke down and put his head in his hands. “I can’t live without Buddy. If something happens to him, I don’t want to live.”
Dr. Frost rushed over to him and put her hands on his shoulders and looked him deep in the eyes. “Don’t say that!”
We were all quiet for a moment and then someone appeared at my side while Dr. Frost slipped back into the triage room. The person was holding a formal quote for ICU care for the next 12 to 48 hours. The range was $6,000 to $18,000.
I glanced at the quote and the numbers didn’t even register in my mind. They didn’t matter. All that mattered right now was getting Buddy and our happy lives back to how they had been five hours before.
Images of Buddy flitted through my mind: our happy-go-lucky little friend trotting around with his tail held high, and our dear cuddly pup playing under the blankets in bed.
He was our sweet kindred spirit who loved adventure as much as we did. He would come alive when we were out exploring new trails.
I closed my eyes and vowed, “Buddy is fine. He’s fine.” He had to be. Come hell or high water, he had to make it. There was no other possible outcome, no other option. There was no other future for us except with Buddy living out his full life in our little family.
Mark sat on a bench with his head in his hands for a long time. The receptionist, Anne, came over to him and said quietly, “We can bring in a grief counselor for you…” He looked up, his face in agony, and said no, that wasn’t necessary.
I couldn’t stop pacing up and down the waiting room halls and drinking water.
People were waiting patiently on the benches around the room, dogs and cats in their laps or at their feet, but I barely saw them.
Someone suddenly appeared asking for a credit card so we could make a preliminary payment of $7,800. That would cover Buddy’s care until 6 pm the next day. We gave him the card without a moment’s hesitation. We could sell things once we got home, if it came to that.
I went outside and paced all over the parking lot, out across a grassy field and around a distant building. I was half out of my mind, like a maniac, but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t sit still.
With all my heart, I wanted to beg God for a miracle right now. With every fiber of my soul I wanted to plead with God to save our beloved little friend.
But I knew deep inside that that wasn’t the right approach.
I’ve done a lot of reading about divine healing over the past few years, and we experienced a miracle healing ourselves a while back.
I’d learned that healers who seek divine intervention don’t beg for assistance. They command that the healing take place and they believe deep in their hearts that the healing has been completed successfully already. They even speak of it that way, as a done deal.
I kept repeating to myself — silently and then out loud once I was out of earshot — that Buddy was healed, as if it had already happened. I thanked God profusely for Buddy’s full recovery and for gifting the doctors and nurses with healing hands.
I visualized the whole hospital staff being astonished and overjoyed by Buddy’s recovery.
I imagined the scene of the veterinarian and vet techs glowing with wonder and happiness that Buddy was fully healed.
As soon as I’d finish saying and visualizing those things, I’d do it again.
Sometimes I’d phrase it a different way, but each time was like a vivid, forceful statement that had the full impact of all my ragged, intense and frazzled emotions behind it.
I went back in the waiting room and Dr. Frost came out to speak to us again. “I know how much you love your dog,” she said. “I want to make sure that if Buddy needs CPR you want us to do it.”
She went on to explain that right now Buddy needed medication to reduce the brain swelling caused by the poison, but they couldn’t administer those meds until the seizures stopped.
So, they were putting him in a medically induced coma to force the seizures to stop.
Once the seizures ceased, they were planning to give him the anti-brain swelling medication. Eventually, if he survived, they could bring him out of the coma. It might take a few days or a week.
The big hope was that if he made it to the point of regaining consciousness, the seizures wouldn’t resume.
Dr. Frost sighed and looked me intently. “There’s not much you can do right now.” She said. “But you can pray.”
“Oh, we have been!” I said. “Nonstop!”
I had asked our friends to pray for Buddy, and Mark’s daughter put out a request for prayers on Facebook. The response was overwhelming. Many shed tears when they heard what was going on and ardently prayed with us for a miracle.
We realized that this was all going to take a while, so we decided to go home and get our truck camper and stay in the hospital parking lot overnight.
We were silent on the drive home.
Mark wanted to apologize and felt the deepest guilt, but I wouldn’t hear it for a second. Our only way was forward.
Any second guessing, guilty feelings, or wishing we’d done things differently were useless at this point. Every ounce of our energy had to go towards manifesting a 100% recovery, with vehemence. With exuberance!
I don’t even remember the drive back to the hospital with the camper. By then it was dark. We parked right around the corner from the front door of the hospital and quickly went inside. For a split second I worried we’d be greeted with bad news, but I banished that thought as soon as it came.
As I fought all negativity out of my mind and opened the door, the evening receptionist looked up with a big smile and said, “He’s doing well!”
Owners aren’t usually allowed into the triage room, but she said we might be able to go in late at night if things got quiet. So, we went out to the camper to wait. A few hours later it was quiet again and we were allowed to see him.
I have never been in an ICU before. The scene was straight out of a TV show or movie.
Buddy was lying on his stomach, his front paws on either side of his head. He was intubated with a tube that went all the way down to his lungs. His long tongue was hanging out of his mouth on the table, totally limp.
He had a catheter for urine, an IV inserted into one leg, an automated blood pressure cuff on one paw and something inserted into his abdomen, and his fur had been shaved to accommodate all these things. Wires and tubes went from his tiny little body to display monitors next to the operating table, to an IV bag on a hook and to a urine bag on the floor.
His eyes were covered with a blindfold and ear buds had been placed deep in his ears to block out all the lights and noise of this busy room.
But his sweet little ears were still recognizable amid all that technology. I leaned over the back of his neck, nuzzled my face into his familiar warm fur and talked to him.
I told him how much we loved him and how God was bringing him a miracle. How he was going to be cured and made healthy again.
I couldn’t stop talking to him. It was a stream of consciousness of constant encouragement.
Two of the graphs on the monitors were going haywire the whole time. His heart rate and blood pressure were steady (and not far different than ours would have been), but his breathing and some other waveform were totally erratic. They spiked all over the place and then would stop.
“Is he flatlining?” I asked at one point in a panic. Then the graph started spiking again.
As I spoke to him, he suddenly made a gagging noise on the tube in his throat. It seemed that he was responding to what I was saying to him.
Then he let out a very familiar big sigh that always signals his total contentment. I think he was grateful we were with him.
Dr. Frost came around to talk to us. I straightened up from having my head buried in Buddy’s neck and without even thinking about what I was saying, I blurted out, “We’re expecting a miracle. We’ve seen miracles happen. And we’re going to witness a miracle here.”
She nodded and looked at me with the saddest expression in her eyes. Her heart was breaking for us.
“I think everything in life happens for a reason,” I went on. “And I think there’s a silver lining in every cloud. Sometimes it takes many years to see it, but when something terrible happens, it’s making way for something new and wonderful to happen later. Even a tragedy like this happens for a reason.”
I petted Buddy’s soft fur as I marveled at what I’d just said and wondered where it had come from.
“Not many people would feel that way, especially at a time like this,” she said quietly.
“I think talking to him helps,” I went on. “People have come out of surgery and they remember what the surgeons were saying.”
She nodded but looked so sad.
I finally stepped back and let Mark have a turn whispering in Buddy’s ear.
Mark talked to him about hiking and going on RZR rides and chomping on his bully stick, and suddenly his breathing increased and he gagged on the tube again.
Oh my! He was definitely responding and knew we were there.
In the ICU there was a vet tech stationed by his head every minute of every hour. They worked in shifts, and the first was Emma, a young woman with a warm smile.
She had a clipboard in her lap and was taking notes as she monitored the machines.
Occasionally, she swabbed his closed eyes with artificial tears and moistened his dry tongue.
He was on a dozen different medications, so she was continually swapping out the IV bag with different meds on a strict schedule. Electrolytes and fluids were added into the mix to keep him going.
I couldn’t believe what was happening. We each took turns talking to him some more, but we didn’t want to excite him or disturb him too much, so we gave him some gentle hugs and made our way out.
We went back to the truck camper and for two hours we lay side by side, wide awake in the dark, staring at the ceiling. Then we couldn’t wait any longer. We went back into the hospital to see if we could visit him again — and they let us right in. It was now after midnight.
This time we were prepared for seeing him wired up.
He was on his side now with a blanket over him. He looked much more comfortable.
All of his graphs had stabilized. The crazy spikes and flatlines were gone now, replaced by steady patterns up and down. Most important, he’d finally become stable enough to receive the anti-brain swelling medication too.
We were overcome with relief. We hugged him tight, closed our eyes and whispered thank you a dozen times into his thick, warm fur.
After straightening up and wiping our eyes, the overnight veterinarian came over to us and took us aside.
“This all looks good, but I have to be frank with you. His situation is very grave. I don’t mean to be harsh, but we don’t know what will happen when we bring him out of the coma. The seizures might resume. He might not be able to lift his head. He might not be able to stand up. He might be deaf, or he might be blind. We just don’t know. He may require intensive care for another few days or for a week or more.”
I heard her words but couldn’t let them sink in. For a few seconds I pondered how I would help him learn to walk again if need be, but I rejected that thought too before it could take root. I was certain we were going to see a 100% recovery and nothing less.
Yet deep inside I knew exactly what the veterinarian was saying.
Years ago, a special friend had developed a malignant brain tumor, and its rapid development and treatment left her changed forever. Her once beautifully athletic body couldn’t move fluidly any more and her once robust and expansive personality became more withdrawn, quirky and detached.
For all of us, good health is not only precious but it is often fleeting as well.
We returned to the camper and lay wide awake staring at the ceiling for a few more hours.
When we spoke, it was only to talk about how much we loved Buddy, reminding each other of his many special little traits that we cherish.
He is a unique dog, incredibly smart and surprisingly fastidious, and he has a gentle, respectful temperament.
We nodded off for a short spell to internal lullabies of nonstop prayers.
Around 5 a.m. we ventured back into the hospital and were invited into the triage room again.
This time Buddy was lying under a thick pile of blankets. The vet tech at his bedside explained that his temperature had dropped to 98 (normal is 101 to 102.5) and that they had heated up the table he was on and added blankets to keep him warm.
We each talked to him again, and as we nuzzled him we thanked God over and over for giving Buddy a total 100% recovery, cementing our own certainty that he would indeed recover as we gave thanks.
We were calmer now and the air in the room was calmer too, although his temperature drop was unnerving.
He was now the only urgent care animal lying on an operating table in the center of the room.
The walls of the room were lined with kennels that were full of dogs and cats resting, and they each had a front row seat to all the action. Some were snoozing, but some were awake and taking it all in. One puppy kept crying.
By the time we came out of the hospital, morning was dawning.
The evening before we had rushed home and grabbed the camper in a hurry, thinking no further than sleeping in it for the night. We had no food or anything else with us!
So, we drove back home to get some food, fill the camper with water for showers, and get set up to stay next to the hospital for as long as necessary.
When we got home, a flood of emotions hit us.
The footprints of Buddy’s spirit were all over the house and in every corner of the yard.
He is as important in our little family of three as the two of us are, and the thought that we might lose him forever suddenly hit us full force.
I thought about the sad couple we had seen leaving the animal hospital the previous morning when we’d first pulled up. They were carrying a collar and a leash but no dog, and they were crying.
I kept trying to push those kinds of thoughts out of my mind as best I could so I could keep functioning and gather what we needed from the fridge and pantry, but Mark was overcome.
Buddy has a favorite place to rest in each room and all the blankets and cuddly spots were still just as he’d left them.
His favorite toys were in the living room, and his water bowl was on the floor where it had been since before this nightmare struck.
His favorite kibble was in the pantry, his jackets and dog brush were in their drawer, and his favorite homemade chicken soup that I’d just cooked the day before disaster struck was still in the fridge, untouched.
There was no way we could come home from the hospital after this with just his leash and harness.
We finally got back to the hospital with the fully stocked camper, including the fresh chicken soup, around 9 in the morning and when we went in the hospital door we were greeted with wonderful smiles.
“He’s doing well!”
We breathed a massive sigh of relief.
We went in to see him and were astonished that his eyes were open.
The team had begun reducing the coma-inducing meds (a 12 hour process), and he was out of the deepest stages of unconsciousness, although he was not fully conscious yet.
To everyone’s astonishment, the seizures hadn’t resumed.
We hugged him and felt a huge wave of happiness wash the stress away as we excitedly talked to him and fought back tears.
Thankfully, the tube going to his lungs had been removed, so his tongue was now back in his mouth.
But a tiny pair of oxygen tubes now went around his head to his nostrils and he was still wired up with the automated blood pressure cuff, the IV, the urine catheter and other plugins.
The lead vet tech, Angela, was at his side now, and it turned out she was the mother of the young vet tech Emma who’d cared for him the previous afternoon.
Angela was overjoyed to see Buddy’s incredible recovery so far, but I noticed her eyes were red-rimmed and she looked tired. She said she hadn’t slept much the night before because she had been worrying about Buddy. She’d stayed on duty at the hospital for 4 extra hours the previous evening to make sure Buddy was receiving the best care possible before she went home.
She had just lost her own beloved, healthy six year old dog a month earlier to an unexpected and sudden 48 hour battle with meningitis. She knew our pain and fear too well.
She said when she woke up this morning, the first thing she did was get online to check on Buddy’s condition. She was so relieved that he was still alive.
As we chatted, things began to get busy in the ER again. More sick and injured animals began to arrive.
When two vet techs ran past us pushing a gurney at full speed into the waiting room discussing lacerations and leg injuries as they ran, we knew it was time for us to go back to the camper.
We’d only been in the camper for an hour or so when we heard a knock on the door. It was the early shift veterinarian, Dr. Jackson, and she had the biggest grin on her face. “He’s fully awake!”
We lept out of the camper and ran into the triage room, and there was Buddy relaxing on the operating table looking at us.
His eyes were fully open, his head was erect, and his ears were as perky and as expressive as ever.
We melted on the spot and wrapped our arms around him in huge hugs and kisses.
“It’s so wonderful to have you back,” we kept saying into his fur as we hugged him. “Thank you, God!”
His eyes moved slowly around the room as he watched the action going on and we realized he hadn’t lost his vision.
Suddenly, there was a loud bang at the other end of the room and he turned his head to look in that direction. Oh my, he could hear!
I closed my eyes and kept repeating, “thank you thank you thank you” deep in my heart.
Dr. Frost was on duty again and she came over with a radiant smile on her face. Then I realized that everyone in the ER was grinning from ear to ear and was over-the-top happy for us.
After this first rush of joy I looked down on the ground and noticed that Buddy’s urine bag was a dark shade of brown, almost black.
I didn’t want to think about what that might mean, but Angela explained it was probably due to dead muscle cells being flushed out of his body. Apparently, when you have violent seizures it is extremely hard on the body and your muscle tissue breaks down rapidly.
Not only had he had the grand mal seizure — where his entire body was convulsing — but the seizures had gone on for a long time. They had started when we were in the car at the park and his muzzle had started shaking uncontrollably.
Angela also explained that Buddy had developed pneumonia in his lungs and they were monitoring that.
We went back to the camper for another hour or so and then returned for another visit. Activity in the triage room had surged again, so we couldn’t see Buddy that time, but a few hours later we were allowed in.
He looked up at us from the operating table with the sweetest expression on his face.
We brought him a small bowl of my fresh chicken soup, and once we got the okay, we held it out and he lapped it up with gusto. He was hungry!
We were thrilled to see that he could now push himself up on his front legs but we noticed that his back legs weren’t working at all.
We were also disturbed that his urine bag was still the color of espresso, so we refocused our prayers on restoring all the strength and agility he’d always had in his hind legs and healing all of his organs inside.
A few hours later we went in for another visit and before we entered the triage room, the receptionist, Anne, greeted us saying, “Did you know that an anonymous person paid $100 towards your bill?”
We were shocked.
It turned out that a woman had seen us at our lowest moments the day before, and she’d asked if she could contribute towards our vet bill anonymously. We were blown away by her unexpected kindness.
Then she told us that Buddy had graduated from being on the operating table to resting in a kennel on the floor.
When he saw us come around the corner to his kennel, he gave the tiniest thump of the tip of his tail on the floor.
He still couldn’t get up on his hind legs, but we hung onto the hope that his mini tail wag meant his hind end was healing and he would soon be able to stand up on all fours once again.
After nuzzling and talking to him for a while and giving him a few more slurps of chicken soup, we each stripped off a piece of clothing that had our scent on it and left it in his kennel with him and then we ran out to the camper and got a squeaky toy he’d had since he was a puppy.
He snuggled up in the shirts and put a paw over his lamb chop toy and closed his eyes as we tip-toed out of the room to let him sleep.
Out in the parking lot we noticed a mobile food van had parked next to our camper.
The owners of the hospital had hired the food truck to provide a free lunch and dinner to the hospital staff in appreciation of all their hard work over the last few months.
People in scrubs lined up at the food truck window all afternoon.
During a lull at the window, we started chatting with the husband and wife team that run the truck. Their little dog was lying patiently under a tree nearby.
In a back corner of the truck we’d noticed the words “We believe” painted next to a small cross.
We told them Buddy’s story, of the prayers, the visualizations and the stunningly deep conviction we’d both had that he would recover.
After exchanging some emotional hugs, they told us how their little pup had barely survived a pit bull attack a few months earlier. The good hospital staff at this very same hospital had patched him back together again.
They insisted on giving us a free meal, and we felt truly jubilant as we sat down to eat. It was as if the world around us were glowing.
Late that afternoon we came in to find Buddy happily sitting up and looking around the room from inside his kennel.
After another small serving of my chicken soup, we picked him up and cuddled him for a while and then set him down on the floor to see if he could stand.
He stood stock still on all four paws, without collapsing, and a collective sigh of relief and excitement swept the room. He took a few steps and cautiously wagged his tail. Hallelujah!
Several people stopped what they were doing to come over and talk to him, scratch his ears and kiss his forehead and congratulate him.
After holding him and talking to him for a while, we put him back in the kennel and closed the wire door.
He put his paw up on the grate in the door and looked at us pleadingly as we left the room. Our hearts melted as we promised him we’d be back soon.
After the evening shift change of doctors and nurses was completed, we went into the hospital again and asked if we could take Buddy for a short walk. It felt so good to put his little harness on him and get him set for a brief outing.
We walked with him into the waiting room and then he led us outside.
He made his way behind a small bush to do his business. This was the first time he’d gone in two days. His poop was rock sold black charcoal. Literally, it was rock.
He sniffed around for a few minutes but then turned around and headed right back to the hospital door and waited for us to open it.
Then he led us over to the door of the triage room, and once inside the room, he led us over to his kennel.
He was ready for a nap, and this was where he planned to take it.
If that isn’t a testament to he quality of care he was receiving, I don’t know what could be. I’ve never known an animal that wanted to go into the vet’s office and that tugged on his leash to pull you in that direction!
But he was happy in his kennel and it was home to him for now and we knew he was in great hands.
We took off his harness and watched him get wired back up to the IV and catheters for another dose of meds.
Only days later did we realize that by visiting him and feeding him our own homemade soup, we were throwing their carefully timed medication and feeding schedule for a loop!
As we settled into bed in the camper that night, we felt awestruck and overwhelmed by the day’s events.
Without a doubt, we had just witnessed a miracle.
I had prayed that God’s hand would reach down and cradle Buddy to give him strength and help him recover, and it had happened.
However, there was still a long way to go.
The veterinary staff was worried about the condition of his liver and the coffee color of his urine, not to mention the pneumonia that still infected his lungs.
But he had come out of the coma without any visible brain damage and he was still the same sweet little personality he had always been.
We visited again briefly around around midnight. We had to ring the doorbell to get in, but patients are admitted all night long and the nighttime staff was wide awake and ready for action. At the moment, though, things were quiet, and we had a chance to talk to the crew a little. What a dedicated group they are!
We also noticed the sign on Buddy’s kennel: “Severe toxicity (bromethalin).”
Next to that, the pre-printed letters CPR were circled and the letters DNR were crossed out.
A shudder went down my spine as I thought, “DNR – Do Not Resuscitate.” I remembered answering Dr. Frost’s question about whether they should administer CPR if Buddy needed it. It hadn’t dawned on me, though, that it was an either/or question and that the alternative to CPR was DNR.
We managed to sleep deeply for a few hours for the first time in two days, and at the crack of dawn we lept out of bed to see Buddy. He was in fine spirits.
“We’ve all been taking turns cuddling him,” one of the nurses told me. It showed.
He was as happy and well adjusted as is possible for being sick in a kennel in the middle of an emergency room, attached to a urine bag and an IV bag, and surrounded by antiseptic smells and a menagerie of dogs and cats in various stages of recovery.
A few hours later we took Buddy outside for a longer walk.
We meandered down sidewalks and he sniffed the bushes and left messages for other dogs.
We realized it was such a privilege to be able to do this simple activity with our beloved pup.
He acted as though nothing had ever happened, yet we’d just had our lives turned upside down!
He was tired after about 20 minutes of walking and was happy to get back to his kennel for some rest.
By noontime, his urine bag began to be more yellow and less brown. Dr. Jackson was on duty, and she suddenly announced that he could be released from the hospital later that afternoon. We wanted to leap for joy!
But we weren’t about to rush home. We planned to stay in the parking lot for an extra 24 hours so we could monitor him and be right at the hospital if he suddenly took a turn for the worse.
Later that morning we took him into the truck camper for an hour of quiet togetherness.
He was excited to be in the camper and he made himself at home on the bed as he always does, master and commander of our tiny rolling home from his perch among the pillows in the middle of the bed.
We all took a nap together, utterly elated to be able to do that as a little family once again.
At long last the hour came that Buddy’s catheter and other plugins were removed and he was completely disconnected from everything. He was a free dog now and was ready to go home.
Out in the waiting room I held him in my lap as a vet tech reviewed the four pages of single spaced typed documents that outlined the various treatments he had received.
He’d been administered well over a dozen different medications in varying doses throughout the day and night for three days.
I gulped when I realized he was being discharged into our care while still on 10 different medications!
The vet tech explained each medication, what it was for, how much to give, the frequency, the duration, and whether it went with food or not.
I was dizzy listening and had her repeat several things that mystified me the first time around.
“And make sure he gets lots of rest,” she said. “He needs to be a Couch Potato,” she said firmly.
His total bill came to $12,643.
Mark’s very kind and loving sister who couldn’t afford to do so had secretly called the hospital and paid $1,000 of our bill.
We hadn’t even talked to her or cried with her, but she had been riding the terrifying roller coaster ride with us in spirit throughout the ordeal as Mark’s daughter shared Buddy’s updates on Facebook.
The kindness from everyone was overwhelming, and we pondered it all as we quietly took walks together, read and rested together in and out of the truck camper next to the hospital over the next 24 hours.
At last, we felt confident that Buddy was going to be okay and we went into the hospital one final time to say goodbye.
We were astonished when we went inside to see the whole staff casually chatting with each other. For the first time in three days there were no crisis cases on the operating table or lines of animals and people out in the waiting room.
Every member of the staff took a moment to say goodbye to Buddy and to reiterate to us how surprised and happy they were that he’d survived.
The only person busy with a patient was Dr. Frost, so we wandered outside to wait until she was free.
Suddenly she came running out of the hospital, arms flung wide for hugs, a huge smile on her face.
“In 31 years of practice, I never thought I would learn anything new,” she said to us. “But I learned a few things from Buddy. His case was the most rewarding case of my career.”
We were speechless. We had all learned a few things!
When we first met Dr. Frost at the beginning, she’d told us she’d just finished a segment of Continuing Education on toxicology, “So I’m up to date on all the latest toxins.”
Throughout the ordeal she’d been consulting with toxicology experts that were advising her on strategies and treatments. I had assumed the experts were located downtown, but as we stood outside under the trees she told us she’d been speaking with the nation’s top toxicologists in two distant states!
She bent down to talk to Buddy and he looked up at her intently. “Now, I want you live to be 20, Buddy, and I don’t I want to see you in the ER again!”
She wiped away tears as she hugged him and said goodbye.
When we got home we felt like we were floating on clouds.
Everything was exactly as we’d left it, but we’d made a huge turn in our lives.
“Now, where was I?” I joked when I finally sat down. Who knows what we had been doing or what had been the pressing issues of the day before all this. Our lives had been transformed.
As we lay in bed in the dark that first night home, we talked about the inner changes we had both decided to make. Neither of us had known that the other had made new plans with new intentions, but as we lay cloaked in darkness, we poured our hearts out to each other.
At the height of the drama, when I was praying for, commanding and visualizing Buddy’s miraculous recovery, I realized that I knew almost nothing about the Bible…or Jesus, for that matter.
I didn’t know Moses from Abraham or Isaiah, and the closest I’d gotten to the New Testament was, well, maybe, some music group called Peter, Paul and Mary.
However, as Buddy lay comatose in the ICU and I rode those powerful surges of emotion, I realized it was high time for me to find out what lay in the pages of that book.
It was also time for me to accept Jesus, something I’d never been interested in before.
Since those dark days last October, my thirst for knowledge and understanding of the Bible and divine healing has been unstoppable, and I keep coming back for more and more and more.
We knew that Buddy’s sight and hearing had escaped unscathed, but it was our nightly game of hide-and-seek that confirmed his sense of smell was still 100% too.
Every night after dinner I grab a handful of treats, let Buddy sniff them, and then ask him to stay in the kitchen while I hide them all around the house.
Once they’re all hidden I tell him to Come, and he starts sniffing high and low to find each treat.
He absolutely loves this game, and if I forget it’s time to play it, he’ll start sniffing along the baseboards and in the corners as a pantomime to show me that it’s time for our game.
Our first night home we started playing and I was really relieved that he remembered how to Stay and how to Come (as well as to Shake, do Other Paw, go Down and Crawl). Better still, even with the lights off, he found every treat in every room, his little nose twitching excitedly the whole time.
As I mentioned, Buddy was on 10 different medications when he got home, each with its own schedule and dosing, some requiring an empty stomach and some taken only with food.
It took me almost an hour to sort them all out and come up with a schedule that would work for us all. From 5:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. he got either a drug or a meal every hour for the first week.
The hospital sent us home with two cans of wet dog food that was ideal for hiding pills. Buddy loved that food, and Mark was very good at getting the pills-wrapped-in-food to the back of his throat so they’d go down.
One of the meds was administered by spraying something in his throat that made Buddy sneeze, and the liver support pill was huge and required an empty stomach — no food for an hour before or after.
Mark had to shove that thing way way back behind Buddy’s teeth to get it to go down.
Buddy became adept at making it look like he’d swallowed the pill and then quietly spitting it out.
Soon, Liver Pill Time became a game between Buddy and Mark as the pill invariably wound up in his fur or on the floor.
But all the pills eventually went down and Mark got some belly laughs in the process and I suspect Buddy got some sly chuckles out of it too.
About 10 days after he came home, we took Buddy to his regular veterinarian as requested by the hospital.
The kindly country doctor walked into the exam room holding a thick stack of doctor-to-doctor documents he’d received from the hospital about Buddy’s case. It looked like a book.
“This is incredible!” he said, waving the papers.
“We witnessed a true miracle from God,” I smiled.
“Yes, you did!”
He checked Buddy’s vitals and everything looked good. Most important, his lungs sounded clear. They hadn’t been clear when he left the hospital, but by now he’d finished the course of antibiotics for pneumonia and his lungs were well on the way back to full health.
The veterinarian told us that his liver recovery was the final hurdle.
His liver had processed not only a lethal dose of poison but a boatload of medications round the clock for 10 days.
He held up the papers from the hospital and showed us that when he was discharged, the key indicator for his liver health was a number that should be under 100. It had been 1,500 at the hospital.
After drawing some blood, he called us the next day to let us know that the number was now down to 350. Phew!
He felt Buddy’s liver would be 100% healthy within a few months.
Four months have now passed since all that drama, and we have cherished every minute we have with Buddy.
He was a well cared for dog before, but now we value his presence in our lives infinitely more.
It took him a while to get his stamina back. Even though he was perky and ready to run and chase right away, he would tire quickly and slink off to take a nap.
The first time we walked one of his favorite 1.5 mile loops, he faded in the last half mile, tongue lolling and head and tail down, so we carried him the rest of the way.
Two weeks later we did the same trail and he leaped and sprinted right to the end.
A few weeks after that he was able to trot a more challenging 4 mile hike, and a month later, after finishing that 4 mile hike, he wanted to do a little bit more before going home.
Looking at him now, you’d never guess what he went through.
I used to say thank you every night for Buddy coming into our lives. Now I give additional thanks for our lives being transformed and for us each being given a second chance and a new beginning.
A WORD ABOUT RAT POISON
We learned some scary things about common rat poisons in all this that might be helpful to you if you own a pet or live with toddlers.
In the old days, rodent control manufacturers used a poison that had an antidote. It was an anticoagulant that made the rodent bleed to death. So, if a dog or cat ate the poison, a simple injection of high dose Vitamin K would thicken their blood and they would recover.
The poison used nowadays, bromethalin, has no antidote. It causes a horrifying death by brain swelling and seizure that occurs anywhere from 4 and 48 hours after ingestion. All the veterinary staff at the hospital and at our local veterinary office agreed that it should never have been allowed to be on the market.
But it’s there on store shelves everywhere.
The insidious thing about rat poison is that it is designed to smell delicious and taste truly yummy.
It is bait, after all.
I’d always naively assumed that “poison” is something distasteful with a nasty chemical odor that you would recognize as poisonous and not want to eat. But it sure smelled good to me when I sniffed the piece Buddy had left intact on the patio.
After we got home from the hospital, Buddy went out to the patio and began sniffing around where he’d left the poison bricks. You could almost see him thinking, “Where did my tasty dog treats go?”
The packaging touts that the product is “kid resistant” and says to use it only indoors.
Ironically, we saw identical rat poison boxes in the bushes next to several buildings in the huge medical complex around the animal hospital.
In addition to being aromatic and flavorful, the poison bricks aren’t biodegradable. Once the poison is out there on the ground somewhere, it will be just as lethal 10 years from now as it is today.
I shudder to think how many toddlers, pets and wild animals have died from this stuff.
Even worse, the veterinarian said sometimes angry people put it out deliberately to kill their neighbor’s annoying animals.
A WORD ABOUT OTHER POISONS
As we chatted with the hospital staff about all the different ways dogs can be poisoned, they told us one shocking story after another of unexpected poisonings they have treated.
They’ve seen dogs die of poisoning from grapes, from chocolate, from the fake sweetener Xylitol (some people cook with it and then share the dessert with their pup) and from lapping up antifreeze that dripped on the ground (it tastes sweet).
The heartbreak these hardworking doctors and nurses have seen in their careers is mind-boggling. I don’t know how they keep going, but they said a case like Buddy’s will keep them floating on Cloud 9 for a long time.
As for unusual pet poisons, there are plenty of lists available of things that are poisonous to our pets that are not poisonous to us, and some things, like those above, are very surprising.
DIVINE GUIDANCE and NOT SO COINCIDENTAL COINCIDENCES
In my mind, this whole event unfolded in a very unusual way, as if the stage were being set deliberately.
- I am still astonished that I saw the uneaten brick on Buddy’s mat. I have no idea why I went out on the patio at that moment. I wouldn’t have normally been out there at that time of day and I had no reason that I can remember for going out there just then. If I hadn’t realized that Buddy had eaten the poison when I did, we never would have made it to the hospital in time.
- Equally surprising is that the poison had been placed 20 yards away on the other side of the house, yet for some reason, Buddy decided to carry three bricks around to the back patio rather than eating them where he found them. After moving them, he ate one in its entirety, ate a quarter of another and left the third one fully intact. He couldn’t have carried all three of them in his mouth at once, however. He must have gone back for each one individually which is highly unusual behavior and shows just how enticing he found them to be.
- If we had driven all the way home instead of taking a 15 minute break at the park near the hospital where we were able to observe his increasingly weird behavior up close, we wouldn’t have noticed the beginning of his seizures until we got home and, when every second counted, we would have had a full hour’s drive to get back to the hospital.
- By calling our local veterinarian first rather than doing as the Tomcat poison center had recommended and taking him straight to the animal hospital, and by having a very knowledgeable person answer the phone there, we were given important instructions for how to induce vomiting as well as getting another round of urgent advice to go to the animal hospital ASAP so he would be in the care of the right people with all the necessary equipment.
- I had no idea that spraying hydrogen peroxide in the mouth would induce vomiting. How fortunate that we had some on hand! Even though only some phlegm came up, it was better than nothing, and the green tinge to it told us he’d definitely ingested the missing green poison block, something we weren’t 100% sure of until we saw the phlegm.
- If we hadn’t recently bought a truck camper, we couldn’t have stayed right around the corner from the hospital door for easy midnight visits for three nights. Sure, there are motels in the area, but it was so convenient to be able to walk in at any time of day or night without driving anywhere. The fifth wheel might have worked, but we would have had to park in a distant parking lot where it would fit, and we might not have gotten permission to do so.
- Likewise, what a blessing it was that the hospital staff allowed us to stay in the parking lot and also allowed us into the emergency room to see and encourage Buddy (and even feed him our chicken soup) so many times.
- I bake a chicken about once a week and make broth from the bones. Buddy gets most of it throughout the week with chicken meat scraps thrown in. Ironically, I had just made a fresh batch the night before all this happened. The hospital has top quality commercial pet foods, of course, and they give recovering animals real meats too, but how wonderful it was to be able to feed him something we knew he loved to eat, that was nutritious, and that was a reminder of our simple home life. It was as therapeutic for us to feed him as it was for him to eat.
- We pay off our credit card each month and the payment had just cleared the day we went to the hospital. What good fortune that we could put such an enormous bill on the card in one fell swoop without exceeding our credit limit and scrambling for another solution. Dr. Frost told us that nine out of ten pet owners would have put their pet down — an expensive procedure in itself — because they couldn’t justify or afford the cost given a zero percent chance of recovery.
In many ways, as tragic as this event could have been, the way it unfolded included many extraoridinary blessings that nudged us towards a most beautiful outcome.
A friend of mine suggested these not-so-coincidental coincidences were the “synchronicity of divine intervention” and I added that they constituted “guided movement towards a more fulfilling end.” Whatever name we give it, there’s no doubt in my mind that we were the recipients of divine intervention.
If you have a loved one who is in need of healing, wether a pet or a person, I hope that you carry our miracle with you and feel encouraged to pray for them, not by begging or pleading or bargaining with God, but by commanding it is done, visualizing the recovery with conviction and believing in your soul that it is being accomplished as a demonstration of a deeper truth.
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