Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tight Little Stitches in a Ghoulie's Head

This is our poor baby Ghoulie Bug, with the addition of 5 stitches in her head, various nicks and cuts, and 2 more stitches in her lower eyelid. Although Grimmy did this, the blame falls squarely on me. I knew he had food aggression since the first week I was home with him and he growled at me when I tried to add a forgotten pill to his bowl after he'd started to eat.  I've been working with him on this and have finally gotten him to where he will tolerate me petting his head after he has his food bowl without growling (a growling 160 lb dog is a scary thing, let me tell you). This does not, of course, extend to dogs, and I know that. It's not an issue, as by the time Ghoulie finishes her food, Grimmy is licking an empty bowl and no longer feels protective about it; Groot eats inside. 

Grimmy has been having some digestive issues, so the vet started him on meds; alas, they upset his stomach.  He yarked up his breakfast yesterday in 3 portions, but the heavy dose of meds had already been given so I figured he wouldn't throw up again but he would definitely be hungry at dinnertime.  He surprised me by picking at his food and finally trying to upend the bowl (like Goblin used to do when he wasn't hungry-- it's like an attempt to "bury" it).  What didn't register in my brain was that if he wasn't eating, this meant Ghoulie would finish first.

I went inside and checked on Groot; he's an anxiety-riddled pup, so with me on the patio, he stopped eating and came to the window.  With me inside, Grimmy started trying to bury his food instead of eat it.  I ran back out, then back in; Groot finally finished his food so I headed back outside. But I didn't make it in time.

Ghoulie is a good girl and she doesn't sniff up to another dog's bowl, but her path to head onto the rocks and go potty took her too close to Grimmy.  He perceived her as a threat to his food and attacked.  I didn't see the whole thing-- Wes started bellowing and grabbing at the doggy door (there isn't enough space between it and the patio door for him to get through) and I leaped through the space.  I caught a glimpse of Ghoulie crouching and heard the horrible snarling that any dog owner knows has gone way beyond the warning phase.  Then I was outside but Grimmy had, thank God, already stopped and was back over by his bowl.

My heart breaks for our blind Ghoulie baby when I think how terrified she must have been, trying to defend herself against a dog she'd thought was a housemate and not understanding the reason for the attack.  She's fine now, all stitched up and calm, with the All-Seeing Eye of Mommy firmly following her every move.  But my heart hurts for Grimmy, too.  I don't know what happened to him in the time before we got him to make him so afraid that someone will take his food away.  Was he underfed and hungry?  It's hard to imagine that, given his size, but it's a definite possibility.  Was there another dog in his original home or at some breeder's, one that chased him away at feeding time?  I read from his records that when he was turned over to a shelter in San Antonio, Texas at about seven months old, he had to immediately undergo surgery because he'd eaten a can of cat food.  You read that correctly-- a CAN of cat food, not just the food.  I think it's a valid speculation that whoever owned him didn't want to bother with the expense of the surgery.  He lucked out when San Antonio Great Dane Rescue stepped in.

Can a dog be sorry for something he did, immediately afterward?  It's interesting that after the chaos stopped-- we got Ghoulie inside, dosed her with hydrogen peroxide, and got the bleeding to stop-- I went back out on the patio to check on Grimmy.  He was like a different dog.  Wes's deep-toned shouting broke up the fight before I could get to it; although Grimmy is deaf, he feels sound vibrations and reacts to them-- shouting, barking, my overly loud sneezes.  He was contrite and submissive and kept running back and forth from his bowl to me.  This morning?  He still doesn't have his usual appetite, but after watching me carefully as I stirred his food to moisten it, he was totally okay with me being there... even to the point of not batting an eye when I repeatedly took his food bowl out from under him (as I kept hand-signaling that he was a good boy) and sprinkled little bits of Parmesan cheese on it to entice him to eat.

So here I sit, typing away while all three Danes-- the Beastie Boys and Ghoulie-- are sound asleep in my office.  They aren't cuddling, but they aren't avoiding each other either.  Ghoulie, bless her grumbling little soul, seems to hold no animosity toward Grimmy.

Maybe we should all be a little more like dogs.


(Inspiration for the title goes to Joe Lansdale, who wrote a terrific story called "Tight Little Stitches in a Dead Man's Back.")

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Missing my Babies...

Greetings from southern Arizona.

It's been awhile since I updated the personal stuff.  This has been a tough year for us.  If you read the April 16th post about Grendel, you've probably figured that he's gone.  He left us on May 16th.  We were out of town for the weekend and our pup sitter had been spending extra time with him.  The tumor inside his rib cage was just enormous and we had him on a blood pressure medication, pain medication, and a vasodilator med to help him breathe.  We'd planned on making the decision when we got home regarding whether to send him over The Rainbow Bridge; he was starting to not want to eat, which is the worst of signs.  Our sweet boy took that decision away from us.  Chris had left the house at 3 p.m., then came back at 6 p.m. and found his body.  She called us as our plane was landing in Phoenix, the last stopover on our way home.  He looked like he passed quietly in his sleep, stretched out with his back against the couch (which was one of his favorite places).  I was devastated not only that he was gone, but that he'd died alone, without me there.  As I was reminded, however, by the man who gave us our first rescue to adopt way back in 2004, "He passed in HIS home where he smelled HIS people and he knew he was safe and loved. Remember that, because it meant the world to him."  Thank you so much, Marc, and also to all the people who sent me good wishes on Facebook.

And to those same people who realized how we were already reeling from letting Goblin go on April 22nd.

My grand old man was one day short of 11 years and 8 months old.  As I said on Facebook, I so wanted to see him make 12, but he made the decision for us when he stopped eating and drinking.  He'd been okay for awhile, toughing out the nausea from the arthritis meds, but eventually even those couldn't help his lower spine.  Even now I tear up when I think of him, and I look at some of the pictures and can still feel his soft fur under my hands.

But we go on, because we must.  Ghoulie is dealing with it, but she's changed a bit-- less confident without her siblings.  Eventually we'll find her company, when the right time comes.

So that's what's gone on in our lives as far as fur babies.  The Husband and I are still writing, of course, and although there's plenty of news on that front I think I'll save it for another blog post.  This one's making me all teary, especially since yesterday marked a year (already!) since Ghost left us.  Time passes, and it heals, but it's a slow, slow process.

'Til next time...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Would you like to be part of a miracle?  Then check this out: Waters Edge Great Dane Rescue has just four more days to raise $1,675.00. If they can do that, a miracle happens-- BISSELL Pet Foundation WILL MATCH IT. 

For a small Great Dane rescue, this is, indeed, a miracle.  The scoop is that they are treating terrible medical issues and neglect for 10, yes, TEN, Great Danes sent to them from a hoarding situation in August, where 66 Great Danes were pulled from one house in Arcadia, Florida. Some were starving, others were sick, overbred, full of parasites.  The gorgeous, sweet-souled boy you see below is called Pawley, and he's scheduled for eye surgery on September 17th. He loves everyone and everything, and has been known to kiss horses (I am not kidding).

If everyone who reads this sends just $5.00 and SHARES it-- on their blog, Twitter, Facebook everywhere-- Waters Edge might get that wonderful miracle! Wouldn't it be awesome to be able to say you helped make that happen?  Thank you!

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Phoenix ComiCon 2015!

Yes, it was fun.  It was noisy.  It was freaking chaos.  Costumes, food, costumes, readers, costumes, games, and did I mention costumes?  Oh, yeah.  I could post pictures but most folks with see stuff like that on my Facebook page.  Instead, I thought I'd go live with NerdwithBalls, who stopped by the booth and interviewed me.  Thanks, guys!  And... voila!

(Link is

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Grendel: My Bittersweet Boy

I would say that it's funny that I seem to post on this blog only when something unpleasant happens.  Unpleasant-- there's a word for you.  A way too gentle word for what I'm about to convey.

I am, admittedly, sitting here and drinking, too much, too fast.  I will say right now that I have no intention of editing whatever words happen to find their way into this post, so please forgive spelling errors, grammar screw-ups, perhaps even sentences that make no sense.  I'm not going to screw around with fancy photo-positioning.  That's just the way it's going to be.

The last time I wrote a blog post, despite my best intentions, was when I lost Dad in November, just two days before his 84th birthday.  But already I see I have to revise what I've said here, because the blog post before that, on July 15, 2014, was pretty cheerful.  It even included a picture of me and Grendel, the beautiful Great Dane-- our fourth-- that we drove all the way to North Carolina to pick up in March of 2014. Here's his "official" adoption photograph, showing The Husband, Weston Ochse, Grendel, and me.

Photo by Amy Breckenridge Smith (c) 2013

Yes, that's a long time ago.  I have been meaning to post about my sweet, sweet Ghost, who died in my arms last October 19th.  Really, I meant to.  I even have a list of things on my computer that I want to include.  But every time I think about doing that post, I sort of... shut down.   It hurts too much when I think of my sweet Cuddlebug and how she left me that night.

Well, baby, the pain ain't over yet.  In fact, it's probably just getting a good grip before it really rips in with big, sharp teeth.

How's Goblin? you ask.  You did, right?  He's... old.  Especially for a Great Dane.  Last August he turned eleven, and the year before that, a few days before his birthday, he bloated and went through surgery and recovery.

Now he's a tottering, white-faced old man (not doddering-- there's nothing wrong with his mental faculties); the arthritis in his spine makes him barely able to walk, the medicine that gives him that limited ability and deadens the pain just a bit makes him nauseous, and the nausea medicine screws up his stomach.  In the meantime, believe it or not, he still seems happy.  That quality of life thing: he eats heartily, he's happy to see me, he wants to be petted, he'll drag himself up to greet me (or anyone) at the door, he barks when the doorbell rings, he'll chew on a Nylabone or nibble on a stuffed toy.  So far so good, despite everything else.  So we hang on.  For now.

But Grendel.  Ah... my sweet little Street Thug.

My Bittersweet Boy.

We adopted him a year ago March, in 2014.  Not long after, I began to question the way he panted, and suspected he had hyperthyroidism (the opposite of hypothyroidism). The vet thought I was wrong... until the tests, three times repeated, came back.  Yes, he had it.  And yes, it was caused by the only thing that would do it: Thyroid cancer.

So, surgery.  His entire thyroid was removed, and he made it.  It wasn't easy, and it wasn't a quick recovery.  The perithyroid glands that control the body's calcium level ended up being taken out with the thyroid.  Two pieces of tissue that looked like perithyroid material were re-seeded in the muscle, and eventually at least one of them took-- but not before a major fight with his calcium levels.  At one point, he was literally unable to walk and we feared he had Wobbler's Disease.  Then we finally got him straightened out on prescription calcium, with rechecks every so often.

Then came today.

I've been noticing his energy level drop and his panting increase.  There was a hint of worry in the back of my mind that the Big C had returned in his throat-- I was told that could happen, but if it did, it would be a slow growing thing.  He hasn't been doing much beyond eating and sleeping, not even getting up when my faux daughter, Clara, visited last Tuesday.  I've never seen a dog that didn't so much as rouse when a person he or she liked came around.  One night after feeding him, he went out to potty and I found him a few minutes later, lying on the landscaping rocks just short of the patio.  He seemed just too tired to go those last few feet.

Maybe his calcium level had dropped too low, like it had awhile back when it made him too weak to walk.  Still, he has a good (okay, voracious is a better word) appetite and he certainly hasn't lost any weight. So this morning I called and scheduled a calcium check, sticking the appointment in where I could between other annoying and disastrous crap that has been happening in our lives.  I did some other stuff on the computer upstairs, then headed back down to the first floor at about three-thirty.

And I saw this:


I called the vet and asked "Do you have any appointments open this afternoon?  With anyone?"

I got him in at 5:30.  The vet tried to take a fluid sample and got almost nothing-- the mass on Grendel's side was rock hard.  So they took him back and fired up the x-ray machine.  He was so cooperative that he didn't even need anesthesia for the three shots.  When the tech came to get me, she asked, "Do you want to come back and see?"  I wanted to say no, because I could tell by the look on her face that it wasn't good.  But I went, and four of us-- the doctor, me, and two techs-- stood next to Grendel and stared at the x-rays.  It didn't take a veterinary degree to recognize what was on the display.

The mass (bottom center, pushing outward) is hard and enormous.  This afternoon I guessed it to be about the size of a baseball, at the vet's, about the size of a softball.  As I write this tonight, it seems, incredibly, the size of a cantaloupe-- or perhaps that's just my terror.  It's growing rapidly and the vet said it probably wasn't noticeable until I saw it today because it's been growing into his body cavity, where one lung is wrapped around it and it's pressing on his heart.  Grendel is sort of "left-sided," which is to say that he tends to lie on his left side rather than right, another thing that aided in disguising it.  Even so, make no mistake about it-- I smooch, hug, rub, and love on these dogs constantly.  Just last night I wrapped Grendel in a bear hug as I fed him, and I felt absolutely nothing wrong with his chest.

The thing inside his chest is an alien, and it's a killer.  The vet doesn't think it's operable because of its size and position, but even so, she's going to ask two more doctors tomorrow, including Grendel's main vet.  I am normally an optimistic person, but even I have to be realistic sometimes.  I have to think about how he doesn't get up except to eat and potty (and sometimes he misses the mark on that), and how he has so much trouble breathing.  How he won't play anymore, won't even chew on a bacon-flavored Nylabone.  He sleeps, and he eats, and that's about it.

He doesn't seem to be uncomfortable, but he's a street dog.  Found as a stray, chest peppered with birdshot (you can see the metal dots on the x-rays).  Dogs normally hide pain as a matter of instinct, so who can say for sure that he doesn't hurt?  That this alien mass that's pushing outward on his ribs isn't making him ache?  We know for sure that he struggles to breathe, sometimes even while lying down.  The biggest indicator?  He no longer lies on his left side, and it's obvious that's because it pushes the mass harder against his lungs.

We're going to lose him.  

I haven't cried yet (okay, as of 10:44 p.m. that's become a fib).  Right now I'm full of anger at the unfairness of it.  Anger because when Grendel was found, he was full of birdshot, he had parasites and heartworms and overgrown lumps, he was a blind stray, his eyes and ears were infected, and he had open wounds.  He was underweight and scarred.  And still... he had love, for anyone who petted him and offered him the tiniest bit of affection.

Still he had that sweet, sweet soul.

He was rescued, I think, around the end of October or so in 2013.  We've had him since March, 2014.  This lovely little Street Thug, whose teeth are prematurely broken and worn away and who melts at the slightest kind touch, will have had less than a year and a half with us.  We pulled him through one type of cancer only to lose him to another, more aggressive kind.  And I am filled with impotent rage because the universe will not let me give him enough years to make up for the mess his life was before we became blessed with his presence.

We love you, sweet Grendel.  We will hang on as best we can, for as long as you can.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dear Dad...

There are many things I've said thank you for in my life, and I want to say them again here, because I believe that you can still hear me.

Dad on his birthday in 2011.
Thank you for taking care of me for so many years, for taking me shopping, and taking me to dinner at places that expanded my tastes and palate, and for hanging in there with me in the meantime (like switching dinners with me at Las Briskas the night I ordered Chile Rellenos and they were too spicy for me to eat). Thank you for Mexican food, Spanish food, Italian food, Transylvania food, Persian food, Swedish food, German food, and all kinds of other food, too.  Thank you for buying me an awesome bicycle and then sponsoring me year after year in the American Cancer Society Bike-A-Thon.

Thank you for your service to this country, for putting your life on the front lines for fourteen months during the Korean war.  Thank you for changing flats for me on cars and SUVs, and for scooping out sludgy oil by the handful and fixing engines and changing taillights when I brought you the latest in a long line of crappy "new" used cars during the entirety of the 1980s.  Thank you for teaching me what you were doing and why you were doing it and how it worked when you were fixing it-- it being car parts, light fixtures, pipes, and even engineering parts.  Thank you for putting in floors and cabinets and sinks, and for buying me my first shotgun because that's what I wanted for my birthday.

Zach, Dad, Alex, Yvonne
Thank you for saving my life by guilting me into quitting smoking in 1984.  Thank you for your sense of humor, for your love of puns and ridiculous T-shirts and Bah-Humbug Christmas sweatshirts.  Thank you for being proud of me and believing I could do anything in the world.  Thank you for being on the other end of those heavy pieces of furniture I always had to move, and for loving my writing and my artwork and for bragging about me to people.  Thank you for buying me my very first tiny computer, and for hanging pictures, and for carrying heavy stuff of every shape and size.

Thank you for eating anything I cooked and telling me it was great (and probably fibbing a few times).  Thank you for genuinely loving the homemade mole sauce I made you for Father's Day one year, and for sharing microwaved dinners with me and for cooking me the most perfect grilled steaks on the planet.  Thank you for taking me to and from doctors, hospitals, and all manner of strange and not-so-fun appointments.  Thank you for suffering through The Sound of Music with me, and a million horror and action movies.  Thank you for enduring boyfriends and late convention hours and rides to and from the airport and for taking care of Chanci when I worked so much overtime to save for a house of my own.  Thank you for opening your home to me at one of the lowest times in my life and therefore giving me the chance to save for that same home.

Thank you for steer skulls and a Colorado River rafting trip and an auto-start on my car so I could endure driving to the commuter train during hellish Chicago winter mornings.  Thank you for hacking all the ice off my truck after a winter ice storm one weekday, so that when I got to it in the parking lot I literally looked up at the sky in bewilderment (while everyone else glared at me).  Thank you for shoveling snow and for cutting grass and for drilling holes in concrete where I needed them.  Thank you for oil changes and brake jobs and new car radios, and for marching down to that car detailer and telling them their employee had intentionally opened a window in my truck so they could break into it later.  Thank you for standing up for me.  Thank you for opening doors for me.

Thank you for moving to Arizona with me, and then for loving it after you did.  Thank you for hanging towel racks and introducing me to Kahlua and Amaretto on the rocks, and for laughing when I couldn't find third gear in that darned Puma of yours and had to coast to the side of the road as the police car went past in the other direction and the officer looked at me like I was insane.  Thank you for trying the lavender piece of candy I offered you in Nebraska, then telling me "It fell out the window." when I asked how you liked it.

Dad and Lily.
Thank you for lending me tools and then giving them to me.  Thank you for a beautiful black velvet jacket that went with my Christmas party outfit but that I couldn't afford.  Thank you for making me always feel smart, intelligent, competent and beautiful.  Thank you for going to my booksignings when no one showed up and for keeping all the newspaper clippings about me.  Thank you for all the photos you took.  Thank you for your understanding, and for your patience and acceptance when you didn't understand at all.  

Thank you for loving all my dogs and worrying about them, and for showing up at the vet's office the day Lily died-- even though no one had told you about it, somehow you knew to drive by and see our car.  Thank you for taking care of them when we were out of town for as long as you were able.  Thank you for liking our birds, and for appreciating that even though you couldn't see the potential in our newly bought house, I could.  Thank you for telling the Sierra Vista Police Officer who came looking for that house's previous owner "I didn't do it, I wasn't there, and it wasn't my job anyway." to make him laugh.

Dad's beloved Porsche.
Thank you for the endless cups of coffee and Belgium pecan waffles and Dunkin' Donuts.  Thank you for introducing me to The Kingston Trio and Nanci Griffith, and for going to see Waylon Jennings with me.  Thank you for cheering for me in martial arts and Escrima matches.  Thank you for putting up with me when I was grumpy and for sharing an office with me in your house.  Thank you for driving an hour to pick me up at some far-flung northern suburb when I got on the wrong train after work one night and fell asleep, and for laughing about it when you got there.

Thank you for worrying about me and for thinking about me and for loving me and for being there for me, and for the billion other things I know I'm missing here.  I believe that somewhere you can read this, and that you can smile about it, and that you'll know how much you meant to me.
I love you, and I will see you again someday where your speech is returned and you can talk my ear off about the latest and greatest in Porsche and motorcycles.

Thank you for being my Dad.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Excuse Me, Who Are You Again?

Whoa -- October 25, 2013 was the last time I posted something?  You're kidding?  You're not kidding.


I blame The Husband.  Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket!

Honestly, I have to admit that I'm not that great at keeping this blog up to date, but you all knew that.  I really want to, but on the list of writing things to do, something has to give and all along, this has been it.  Still, never give up, right?

Lots has happened since that long-ago update, including Wes coming back from Afghanistan, spinal fusion surgery, even a new rescued Great Dane-- yes, our fourth.  And in keeping with our theme, we named him Grendel (yes, from Beowulf), which means we now have our own personal 4-G Network.  Ha!

Grendel and Yvonne - © Amy Breckenridge Smith 2014

Grendel, who's blind and has had a really rough life that includes being shot, attacked, and who knows what else, settled right in with Goblin, Ghost and Ghoulie.  Now that it's monsoon season in Arizona, however, the poor boy is having a pretty hard time with thunder and lightning. It's not surprising that booming noises terrify him, considering he's blind, he bumbled his way around the streets, and he's been shot. A bad storm is about the only thing that will distract him from eating his meals.  Oh, and spadefoot frogs.  They terrify him.  I am not kidding.

Our sweet, deaf Ghostie is in the end stages of renal failure, but we are fighting it with everything we have and are happy to say she's hanging in there.  Yes, she's thin, but she's happy, perky, eats (most of the time, anyway), plays, wags her tail, and generally still seems to enjoy life.  As long as the quality is there for her, we'll hang on.

Goblin is also still gracing us with his big-boy presence.  If you recall, we almost lost him three days before his tenth birthday last year (read below, if you haven't already).  Since then he's doing great, and this August 23 he will be a proud eleven years old.

Front-Back: Ghoulie, Ghostie, Goblin
Ghoulie, of course, remains our little Terrorist.  Now that she's comfortable with Grendel, she's decided that he, too, is fair game for her Troll at the Top of the Stairs Game.  She is always a Daddy's girl.

Although I haven't been updating here, I have been writing.  I've done some work for IDW in their V-Wars and Zombies vs. Robots universes, and also penned a long tale for the Rocketeer anthology.  A few other tales, too, here and there.

Where am I now, you ask?  (Of course you did.)  Why, I'm in Harrington, Maine, at the Golden Apple Studio.  Fate smiled on me and I ended up one of two writers-in-residence for their first session.  I've been hammering away at the universe and structure for a new series (nope, keeping it all a secret right now!).  Lots of writing and planning, lots of photo-taking.  I left The Husband with all the worldly chores and responsibilities, so he's getting a taste of what it's like to be me (bwahahahahhaha!).  I'll head back to Arizona this weekend, just in time to probably drive home through a monsoon downpour, collapse in the house and get lots of smooches from The Husband and pups alike, then fall into bed... so I can get up bright and early on Monday and head to work.

Don't want to think about that right now.

It's raining here, although I can see Harrington Bay from the window of the studio where I go to write every day.  The cottage where I sleep is even closer.  I arrived just after Tropical Storm Arthur hit the Maine coast pretty hard, but it hasn't done much more than drizzle and get breezy.  I was kind of hoping for a good thunderstorm or two, but who knows if that'll happen.  I'm enjoying my time here and the ability to focus on the new series, but I'm missing my home, S/O and puppy lovelies more than I had any idea I would.

Back to work with me!  

::sound of whip cracking in the background::

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween Haunts: Welcome to the Neighborhood

Wrote a little Halloween post for the Horror Writers Association.  Check it out here, because you just have to see the picture of Goblin in his upcoming Halloween costume. 

By the way, The Husband comes home today after a half year in Afghanistan.  So much for my good intentions about posting more often, huh?  In a way those six months dragged, in a way they sped past with the speed of Superman.

Gotta go.  I'm going to put on makeup for the first time since April.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

T4: Trip of Terror, Traffic, Torsion and Tears

No, not talking about a fourth Terminator movie here.  As those who hang out on my Facebook page now and then know, I’m talking about a fight against traffic and time (another “T” word) to keep my big Great Dane boy, Goblin, from dying.

Let me backtrack, just enough to set the stage:

On Monday afternoon, Dad had a doctor’s appointment in Tucson; he can’t drive all the way up there by himself and since his stroke he doesn’t communicate well, so I needed to take him.  We’d been trying for quite some time to get him this appointment.  Ghost, my middle Dane girl, had to go to the vet because her stem cell incision was swollen again, something that keeps happening because she’s feeling great and jumps around too much.  But when I go home to pick them up, I find Goblin’s back leg is bleeding, a lot, and blood is all over the couch.  

After a convoluted series of phone calls, I drop him at our usual vet in Sierra Vista and head up to Tucson.  I’m a little frazzled and running late, but I make everything on time, except I don’t get back in time to pick up Goblin before our local vet closes so he stays overnight.

The next morning, I go to work, and then at 11:00ish head back to the vet.  Dr. Bone (yes, that’s his real name) has told me over the phone that Goblin’s leg has another one of the skin tags he’s always growing, and he’s scraped it open, which will result it in it eventually having to be removed.  We’ve done this so often that around our house we call this the $900.00 skin tag.  At the vet’s office, the office girl brings him out, and I see immediately that something’s not right.  She thinks he doesn’t feel well because he’s had a lot of medication and it’s making him sick to his stomach.  I’m not convinced, but decide to take him home; we have to lift him into the truck because he can’t jump in himself.  Mind you, the day before he was hopping around and happy, didn’t even notice or care that the back of his leg was bleeding.  Now he’s weak in the back end, panting constantly, with his ears pinned back against his head.

At home Goblin  goes out the back and drinks a little water, then wants back inside.  There he can’t seem to get comfortable on the floor; he’s up and down, up and down.  He won’t stop panting and he’s drooling non-stop.  He finally settles on one end of the couch, where of course he scrapes the back of his leg and starts bleeding again.  At this point, a little blood is not my highest priority.  I’m reluctant to leave him and go back to work, so I sit with him for awhile.

Then he starts crying.

Goblin has NEVER cried, or whined, not in eight and a half years.  If he’s in pain, he toughs it out until it escales to yelping mode, period.  I call the vet’s office and tell the girl that he isn’t any better.  I add, “He’s showing symptoms of torsion.”  She puts me on hold and within seconds Dr. Bone is on the other end.  I tell him the symptoms:

               He’s hyper-salivating.
               He’s crying in pain.
               He can’t get comfortable.
               He’s dry retching.
               His back end is weak.
               He’s listless and clearly sick.

I know these symptoms because I’ve read about them, over and over through the years.  Bloat and torsion are terrible killers of large dogs, particularly Great Danes, so I’ve stayed familiar with them.  Dr. Bone says bring him back and we’ll do some tests.  I dig out a couple of Beano pills (anti-gas tablets) and stuff them down his throat.  At this point he’s so weak he can’t even put his front paws on the back of the truck a second time.  The first time he managed, but was too heavy for me to lift his back end up and in.  So I do what any rational person would—I wave down a passing concrete truck (we have construction going on at the other end of the street).  After a bit of hesitation and instructions to ignore the fact that Goblin’s leg is dripping blood onto the driveway, I convince the driver and his buddy to lift Goblin into the back of the Montero for me.  In the course of the five-minute drive to the vet’s office, Goblin dry retches a couple of times, then throws up all the water he drank, plus the two Beano tablets.

At the vet’s office and in between Goblin vomiting white foam (which is now happening at one to two minute intervals), Dr. Bone does  a blood test but the results don’t show anything conclusive. Goblin’s leg is wrapped with bandages, then wrapped more when he bleeds through.  Dr. Bone gives him a pain shot, which helps a little.  Questions fly fast and furious about the morning’s events.  Bottom line: I truly believe they did absolutely nothing wrong or out of the ordinary.  They’ve fed him twice, 1 ½ cups last night and this morning, of sensitive-stomach food.  Everything was good until this morning.  The tech watching him this morning took the bandage off Goblin’s leg because his foot was swelling, and also noted that he had vomited.  He went to check on another dog, intending to come back to check on him, and to rebandage Goblin’s leg.  In the way of Murphy’s Law, I arrived at that precise time, and the girl in the front, who knew only that the bandage had been taken off because of the swelling, sent him home with me.

Now they wrap more bandages around his leg.  Dr. Bone takes x-rays of Goblin’s abdomen.  I know things aren’t good when instead of bringing Goblin back to me, a tech comes to get me and take me to talk to Dr. Bone in the x-ray room.  The films are on the screen, and it’s obvious, even to my untrained eye, that my boy has bloated.  His stomach is big enough to fill his body cavity.  Dr. Bone doesn’t believe the stomach has flipped yet—torsioned—but things are not looking good.  For those who aren’t familiar with what “torsion” is, there’s a link you can visit after you’re through reading here.

The vet and I talk this over, discussing pros and cons, whether the stomach has or will twist (go from bloat to torsion), and future possibilities.  He admits he hasn’t done very many of the repair surgery necessary, and says that as far as he knows, only 85% of dogs survive surgery to fix a torsion (the odds are better than that, but they’re still not great).  He recommends I take Goblin to the Veterinary Specialty Center Tucson, where he can get 24-hour monitoring and immediate help if the stomach does flip.  My response: “I’m ready to go.”   They give me directions, they call ahead; Dr. Bone recommends I stop and get Gas-X and give Goblin a couple of tablets because it might help him get rid of the gas build-up.  A final layer of leg bandages, they help me get him back into the Montero (during the x-rays I ran out and cleaned where Goblin vomited earlier but we’re stuck with the bloodstains), and we’re off.

I stop at Circle K; they don’t  have Gas-X.  Keep in mind that it’s in the 90s, so I can’t cut the engine and leave Goblin in the car, even with the windows rolled down—here in Arizona, the temperature inside a car with open windows will rise to 140 degrees in ten minutes.  I don’t have an extra key to the Montero, so if I leave it running, I can’t lock it.  I go to Fry’s but there’s no way to watch the car and get the medicine at the same time.  I ask an older man in an SUV if he’s in a hurry and he looks at me and says yes—this after he’s been sitting in his car for at least a couple of minutes paging through some kind of coupon flyer.  I hope he breaks his toe the next time he gets out of his car.  I see the cart girl gathering carts and flat out INSIST that she watch the SUV for five minutes.  She’s not happy to be standing in the hot sun but she’s young and easily intimidated by my rushed and I-will-not-take-no voice.  I’m in and out of the store in three minutes, yell “Thank you!” to  her, then stuff two little orange capsules down Goblin’s throat.

We head toward Tucson.  I have a half tank of gas, plenty to get me there even if the Montero is a gas hog.   I’m driving in a zippy manner (a technical term for speeding, a LOT, most of the way).  31 miles later I get to the entrance to I-10 and stop in disbelief:

Wait—the INTERSTATE is closed?  I follow the Detour sign (I have no choice), which puts me on I-10 going in the wrong direction.  No way; I get off at Benson, turn around, get back on I-10 going in the right direction… and promptly get trapped in bumper to bumper traffic.  By now I am bawling out loud and literally pounding on the steering wheel because I can’t believe that this is happening just when I need to get my baby boy to Tucson for emergency treatment.  In front of me is a Highway Dept. of Transportation car, in front of him are two Highway Patrol cars. 
Screw it—I pull onto the shoulder, pass the DOT car, and pull up to the first HP car.  I roll down the window.  The patrolman tells me to “Keep it moving.”  With tears running down my face I tell him that my dog is dying in the back and isn’t there some way around this traffic?  He tells me, with an exaggerated shrug, “No, I can’t go anywhere either!”  Because, you know, he has such an emergency right now.  So, yeah—here’s a public BOO, CRAPPY JOB! for the Arizona Highway Patrol for not even caring enough to go a little further into why a driver is obviously in distress.

I continue in the traffic because I have no choice, until I am forced to follow it off the Interstate… at the SAME EXIT I originally tried to get on.  I pull off and head toward the two patrolmen directing traffic at the bottom of the exit; they ignore me, but a highway construction worker heads me off.  He explains there has been a wreck involving a tractor-trailer, which then spilled burning carpet all over the highway, and there’s no way around it, even with an escort.  The only way to Tucson is to backtrack to Route 82, 19 miles back in the direction of home, and take that to Route 83, and that to I-10.  I have now wasted 45 minutes going nowhere, and have to retrace my steps by 20-some miles.

Goblin is crying in the back.  He’s not vomiting anymore because Dr. Bone gave him a shot to help empty his stomach and hopefully help with the gas.  I’ve heard him making little burbling noses from his mouth, but it’s obviously not enough and his pain meds have worn off.  In a far-fetched hope, I crawl in the back and stuff two more Gas-X capsules down his throat.  Then I head back in the direction of Route 82.

Because I will NOT give up, and I will NOT lose my beloved Goblin because of this damned farce of traffic.

It begins to rain as I drive, off and on, going from a light patter to full-on monsoon, then stopping and starting again, several times.  When I get to Route 82 and turn right, it’s pouring so hard I can barely see the driver in front of me, who’s doing 35 mph.  In front of him/her is a long line of diverted traffic.  19 more miles through the monsoon storm and I’m in Sonoita, where I’m forced to stop for gas because all the extra driving and speeding and stop and go has drained me down to 1/8th of a tank and I’ll never make it.  I have to go to the restroom but I’ve been at this location in the past and I know it’s the same situation—too far from the truck, unguarded, and it will just take too long.  I skip it and head up Route 83.

More rain, this time on curves and mountain roads, but at least it’s not as bad as back on 82.  25 rain-soaked miles later, I’m finally on I-10.  To get on I-10, I have now driven 85 miles, yes, EIGHTY-FIVE, just to get to the interstate.  Eighty-five, by the way, is about the total mileage the entire one-way trip should have been.   We cruise down I-10 at a nice, stressful 95 mph.  (See, Wes?  I told you the old Montero ran just fine!)  Now I’m following the printed MapQuest directions to the Specialty Center.  I get off at Miracle Mile, where I’m supposed to merge into the Frontage Road and then Flowing Wells Drive.  Except after a not very long time at all, the Frontage Road ends with:

I am not kidding.  The road is buried in construction and loops me into my choice of two business parking lots, neither of which have an exit out a back side (I tried).  I retrace and end up looping around to the same place.  I get back on I-10 and go up, through a maze of construction, and get off at the first available exit, Ruthrauff Road.  On the way I commit the cardinal sin of typing the Center’s address into the maps app on the phone while I’m not just driving, but speeding.  Someone Up There is looking out for me on this part of the trip.  I follow the pulsing blue dot, which unerringly takes me where I need to be.  34 miles after getting on I-10, I finally turn into the Center’s lot, park, and coax Goblin out of the vehicle.  He comes down, but now he can barely stand up; his back end is only six inches from the ground but he is such a good boy that he still tries his best to come when I keep calling him, and he crab-walks like this all the way through the Emergency Entrance.  We take three steps into the lobby and the young lady behind the counter holds up her hand and orders, “Stop right there.  I have two techs and a stretcher coming out.”

They clearly know exactly what to do, and everything happens pretty smoothly from then on out—I fill out forms, use the rest room, get talked to by the doctor, get talked to by another tech, sign more forms, then…


It feels like forever, but in reality it’s not too long before the doctor comes and gets me to pet on Goblin before he goes into surgery.  She explains everything, including her belief that his stomach had already flipped way back in Sierra Vista, that if his spleen is involved, they will have to remove it, and that if 50% or more of Goblin’s stomach is dead (from lack of blood flow), I will have to euthanize him.  I can’t think about that, I can’t even consider it.  He’s three days short of his tenth birthday, he’s in fabulous shape except for all the silly skin tags he keeps growing and the one that’s bleeding and caused all this mess to begin with.  I see him and he’s much better—stable, hydrated, been given pain meds that have helped him immensely.  He’s even alert enough to pick up his ears elephant-style at odd little noises from the other cages. 

Speaking of which, I have to stop and talk about that for a moment-- not the sound in the room, but the LACK of it.  There were perhaps thirty or forty cages and runs, ranging from small cages for a normal-sized cat to full-sized (floor to ceiling) ones for dogs like Goblin, or lanky-legged Greyhounds (there were three or four of those), or the big and stocky American Bulldog in the run next to Goblin.  All those dogs, with a few cats thrown into the mix and separated only by the opaque walls of their cages, and guess what?

It was quiet.

No barking, no howling, no growls of frustration or hisses of unhappiness.  This truly was the pet equivalent of an intensive care ward.  IVs, heart and blood pressure monitors, wires, tubes, you name it.  Not what I expected, and both comforting and... unnerving.  It never occurred t me that you could put this many dogs and cats in the same room and have them pay almost no attention to each other.  That such a place existed where they could be so cared for was wonderful but saddening at the same time.  That my Goblin was in the midst of it was terrifying.

So I pet Goblin, and I smooch on him, and I tell him in no uncertain terms “Goblin, you STAY.”  Not as in don’t get up and try to follow me-- he doesn’t-- but to stay in this world, right here, with Mommy for several more years.  It’s the same thing I’d been telling him, in between “Hang on, Gobbies,” the entire way from Sierra Vista to Tucson. 

I go back out to the waiting room for what I’m told is an hour-long surgery.  A little bit later, after sending her a text message about where I am, my Most Awesome Mom-In-Law shows up with my nephew Ty’s iPhone charger, her Kindle, and her great self.  I have always adored my in-laws, and this is just another example as to why.  Before plugging it in to recharge, I used the last battery bits to call the lady who takes care of the dogs for us when we travel and ask her to make an emergency trip to the house to walk and feed Ghost and Ghoulie; this is just such the unforeseen emergency that made me tell her to keep our extra key after my last trip-- for once, I’ve done something right.  She says absolutely, and I know the homebound pups are in great hands.

As one hour turns into two, two into three, and three crawls into three and a half, Mom-in-Law doggedly sticks it out, making conversation and engaging me in a freebie Kindle game of Wheel of Fortune.  Without knowing it-- or maybe she knew exactly what she was doing-- she keeps me from going insane until the doctor finally calls me into an exam room.

Bottom Line:

Goblin did fantastic.  His stomach looks good, his spleen looks good-- nothing had to be removed.  They got rid of the gas, turned his tummy back to where it should be, and performed a gastroplexy, fixing the stomach in place so that it can never twist again (because dogs that bloat have a nasty tendency to go for repeat performances).  As soon as he wakes up a bit more from the anesthesia, I can see him.

I am so relieved I could melt.  After a few minutes in the lobby, they fetch me again.  Goblin’s in the same run, and the truth is, he doesn’t look a lot different from what he was like earlier.  I’m sure there’s a huge, stitched-up incision on his underside, but his eyes are open when I come in, he lets me pet and smooch him, and even picks his head up a couple of times.  Right now, all is good, in this eerily quiet dog realm.

As I’m writing this, it’s Wednesday evening.  I’ve talked to the doctor twice today, and a technician once.  Each report is better than the last-- Goblin is the perfect post-op patient.  No heart arrhythmias, no blood pressure issues, no reactions.  He’s quiet and alert and finally tonight they got him to eat a little canned chicken, meeting their goal of making sure he would eat before releasing him.  Tomorrow night after work I’ll head up there to pick him up and bring him home.  He’ll be sleeping downstairs for two weeks-- no stairs until the stitches heal-- and this Friday and Saturday the girls and I will probably bunk down there with him provided the doctor says he has permission to climb on the couch.  If not, we’ll probably all sleep on the floor.  I’ll keep that leg clean and bandaged, give him meds for it and his incision recovery, and see if I can get the leg to heal enough so that we don’t have to put him through another surgery for a decent amount of time after his tummy is well.

Our boy Goblin will see his tenth birthday on Friday, and he’s going to be around for several more.  I think he realized how good he has it here, and how loved he is.  And when I told him to “Stay!” he decided that despite how rotten the first sixteen months of his life had been, now he has a good life here on Earth that is worth fighting to keep.  Besides, he still has to supervise the girls, the cricket-brained pest, Ghost, and the Little Terrorist who’s always bugging him to play tug-of-war, Ghoulie. 

And, of course, he has to rule Mommy’s world and wait for Daddy to come back from Afghanistan.
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