Saturday, January 26, 2008

I totally know what I'm doing

Um, well, that was going to be the title of this post. Before I wound up cleaning blood off my bathroom floor at 1:00 in the morning. I think now a better title is "I really need to cry."

Last night, Lisa called me to say a stray puppy had climbed up her front porch and was now huddled shivering in her planter. Lisa has two cats. And no car. She called various friends who all hashed things out, and we settled on the plan where I come to get the dog and take him to the nighttime doggie-drop off at the shelter.

Another friend called her back before I got there. She nixed that plan -- apparently, the shelter's survival rate is worse than Auschwitz. Our new improved plan was that the dog come stay at my house until we got him all hooked up with a rescue society.

So last night -- not tonight, understand -- I was all proud about how much I've learned about dogs. I successfully introduced myself and Sequoia, I brought treats and a real leash and blankets. I read dog body language. I (correctly, as it turned out) guessed his age and could even reconstruct part of his past. We knew he had an owner because he had a collar (just a chain, no tags). But I figured out, from his total technical prowess in dealing with the couch, that he must've been allowed inside. Sequoia, in contrast, fell off both the couch and the bed on his first night at my house, never having encountered furniture before.

Before Lisa had called me, she created a makeshift leash out of a phone cord. Which led her and her friends to christen the puppy "Sprint." Sprint, a white pit bull with brown eyebrows, looks a little like an unborn calf. But in a cute way.

I was disgusted with myself by how fast I fell in love with Sprint, but there's nothing like a puppy to take your mind off your troubles. And he had this way of snuggling up to both me and Sequoia (who seemed to know Sprint needed him) that melted my heart. He was super skinny and shaking with cold. When we got to my house, he had diarrhea in the front garden (another good sign: he made an attempt at house training even when sick; sort of the doggie equivalent of finding the toilet before throwing up). He wouldn't eat, and he vomited a couple of times.

So whatever. He's scared and cold and he's been eating weird and he probably has worms. I'd take him to the vet on Saturday. Lisa said she'd pay for it. Tonight, when I came home from work, I found him still shivering, and still lazing about like a cat. That's when I started to suspect that I actually have no idea what I'm doing.

I web searched and worried and paced the floor for a couple of hours. Then Sprint managed to rouse himself to go get a drink of water. He walked into the bathroom (he's so potty trained) and blood poured out of his colon.

Okay, then I really knew I didn't know what I was doing.

I phoned Lisa, I texted Lisa (texting is actually difficult -- the phone tries to spell your words for you; I hadn't counted on that. I abandoned a Quixotic attempt at "emergency," struggled with an ill-fated "SOS"-- it resolves to "POP" -- before telling myself to think like a phone. That's how I came up with "help"). When I couldn't get ahold of Lisa, I called the others in our ring of dog rescuers. In the meantime, Wendy (whom I'd called first) was talking to Berkeley Emergency Vet and finding out what the hell this is.

Parvovirus. Which has to be treated with IVs and antibiotics and a bunch of other molecular biology sounding stuff, or there's an 80% chance of death from dehydration. Sprint and I (and Sequoia, who insisted on coming) spent three hours at the emergency vet before he was checked into the vet hospital. He was so lethargic he slipped off a chair at one point without even catching himself.

I called the vet before I took him there to ask how much treatment would cost. She said hundreds of dollars. I once had a cat who had stayed the night there, and it cost $500. I estimated that a bunch of people could chip in and come up with $500 for Sprint. Erin had already offered to help.

Turns out that one night costs $800, and he needs three nights. Or some complicated home treatment, or some combination. I chose option B (0ne night of hospital stay, no extra diagnostic tests, and then maybe we'll do home treatment after that to save money).

The whole time my brain was yelling at me, "How could it not occur to you that a stray dog could be seriously ill?" Of course we should've talked about that possibility, of course we should've taken him to the vet right away, and of course we should've figured out how much it was okay to spend.

And what was I doing exposing him to my dog? (Who is vaccinated against Parvo, so it's okay. But still.) I felt so idiotic. Here I was, all proud about how much I'd learned since I first asked the home visit lady if my puppy were likely to leap out the second story window and how do you keep them from jumping up onto tables? (Seriously. I was used to cats.) But everything I've learned is about dogs who have owners. Owners who vaccinate them against freaking third-world country apocalyptic black plague illnesses. I mean, what am I, a flipping civil war nurse?

I said goodnight to Sprint and his cute little calf fetus face, and drove home to face the carnage that was now my house. A friend of mine recently told me that there is a litmus test to love. The test is: how much you mind dealing with their shit. He was speaking of his cat, and literal shit. But the way he said it implied the test could work for humans, too, on a more abstract level.

Driving home, I wondered what Sprint's litmus test would show, or if it was even a valid test after all. I was pretty sure that no matter how much I loved a dog, I wasn't going to be able to clean up intestinal linings (as my vet oh so helpfully explained) with any degree of equanimity.

Before I'd left home, I'd thrown down a couple of white men's t-shirts to soak up the blood (take that, ex-boyfriend!) This proved to be a tactical error. When I got home my bathroom floor looked like the site of a gang war and smelled even worse. Snow on Mt. Diablo or no, I threw open both the front and back doors. A half an hour later, everything bleached and disinfected to within an inch of its life, I decided that it doesn't matter whether or not I love Sprint. I just don't think a puppy should go out that way.


leesajay said...

omg, you get dinner cooked for you *so* many times for staying up all night and cleaning up parvo blood.


Wayfarer said...

what she said....except, I'm not such a productive cook, so I'll treat you to lunches instead. And thanks for not taking him to that awful shelter. I could tell stories...

Wayfarer said...

clarification: lunches out. and dinners.