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:
crying in pain.
end is weak.
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
In front of me is a
Highway Dept. of Transportation car, in front of him are two Highway Patrol
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
With tears running down my face
I tell him that my dog is dying in the back and isn’t there some way around
He tells me, with an
exaggerated shrug, “No, I can’t go anywhere either!”
Because, you know, he has such an emergency
So, yeah—here’s a public BOO, CRAPPY
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
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.
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
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.