The turkey, skin aglow, registered a perfect 165 degrees. The pumpkin, apple and pecan cake was glazed, all the trimmings were plated on the sideboard and Thanksgiving dinner got off to a beautiful start. There was even a guest dog, Rachel, to liven up the atmosphere. The only one who wasn’t feeling too peachy was Portia, whose right hind leg had been hurting for a few days and was giving her trouble going up and down the stairs.
Once the dishes were washed and put away, I shredded some turkey meat and handed it to Ottie and Portia – that is when I noticed that there was blood on Portia’s tongue. Odd, I thought, she must have bitten it. About an hour later, her expression had changed, her eyes seemed glazed, which is when I decided to rush her to the emergency room, where she entered still walking and completely aware, if in distress, and where, the morning after, she left semi-comatose, unable to stand and unaware of her surroundings.
During the long hours I spent on the uncomfortable plastic bench, waiting for blood test results (the same bench I had sat on waiting for Ottie’s results from the rattlesnake bite) I tried to wrap my head around what I had been told – that Portia’s blood wasn’t clotting and she was bleeding internally.
Is it possible that she ingested rat poison?, the vet asked me. Not at my house, but she tends to wander, although I can’t imagine any of the neighbours, all animals’ owners, putting rat baits around their homes.I was told that Portia might have a tumor or a liver disease and I started researching on-line all the complicated names the doctor had rattled off, not finding any symptoms that Portia could have displayed prior to this episode.
On Friday morning, she was transferred from the emergency room to a specialized veterinary clinic, a state of the art facility where I wouldn’t mind being admitted if I found myself on death’s door. At that point, I wasn’t even concerned anymore about the costs – I quickly applied for credit in order to pay the final bill in monthly installments. I just wanted Portia saved which, judging from her state, seemed like a long shot. If she had indeed ingested rat poison, it had happened days ago as I had kept her confined to the house for the last few days. I later found out that clinical symptoms don’t show up for close to a week or longer. Rat poison is tricky and acts slowly. It depletes the body of vitamin K and causes internal bleeding until the rat, or any other living creature, eventually bleeds to death.
For three, very long days, the veterinary staff left me and Ottie visit with Portia, giving us a private room where I could lie on the floor with her, hold her, surround her with her favourite toys and reassure her she would get better. Not that I felt so sure myself. The poor dog couldn’t even get up, her eyes were glazed and uncomprehending. The bleeding had occurred in her brain, oral cavity, behind her eyes and in her joints. It was agonizing to see a beautiful, vital three-year old dog reduced to that state.
Finally, after an ultra-sound, more blood tests, plasma and vitamin K injected into her body, she was released to come home, wobbly legs, sore neck, bloodshot eyes and all.
She has suffered some neurological damage that I hope, in time and with some persistence and patience on both sides, she will overcome. Right now, I have to carry her down the stairs, keep her leashed for our brief walks, watch that she doesn’t fall or cut herself. She tries to do what she remembers (her mental faculties are clearly intact) and she gets frustrated when she realizes that she can’t run, or tumble down the stairs, four steps at a time, and even climbing on the couch requires more dexterity than what she now possesses. I can see the frustration on her pretty face but I can also see her courage and determination. Today I can’t but I will be damned if I won’t try it again tomorrow.
I am left with exhaustion, a string of sleepless nights and a vet bill from here to Timbuktu. My Christmas gift list has dramatically been cut. But I got the best Christmas gift of all – Portia is home and safe. And a tight chicken wire is going up around the fence.