As I was sitting down to write a post on some tips and shortcuts for booking a trip to Italy, saving money on unexpected items, Ottie started behaving oddly, frantically pacing around the table, stretching his hind legs, forcing himself to vomit and not succeeding. I didn’t worry about it at first, dogs do get stomach aches, but something in the urgency of his behaviour made me pay closer attention.
Unlike humans, dogs are adept at forcing themselves to throw up if they want to – no fingers down the throat needed – so the fact he wasn’t able to was the first clue that something was terribly wrong. I lost a dog to bloat once: it happened at night, while I was asleep and when I found him completely blown up in the morning, he was barely breathing and died on the way to the emergency.
This time I was not taking any chances. I threw Ottie in the car and flew to the ritzy clinic that saved Portia’s life a few months ago. By the time we got there, I could see his stomach was starting to swell. Good call. Coincidentally, the same surgeon who saved Portia was on duty that night too and, after quick x-rays, confirmed my diagnosis. “How did you know?” she asked me. A lot of dogs under my belt at this point. And Carl’s death which, it turns out, saved the life of his old buddy, as my friend Sue pointed out.
Emergency surgery was performed immediately. Two hours later, Ottie was breathing on his own, stomach stapled into place and spleen removed. Bloating happens suddenly and can kill in a matter of less than two hours. The stomach turns on itself, air accumulates causing the dog to bloat and cutting off the blood flow. It’s a painful death.
While all of this was going on, I wasn’t thinking of another horrendous vet bill that would take months to pay off, nor of my imminent trip, the one I have been planning for months, to celebrate an important birthday. Then reality sank in – my plans would have to change.
I have always been a very blase traveller. I make my plans, don’t think about them that much prior to my departure, professionally pack a bag a couple of hours before leaving and off I go. This time, I had been planning for a long time, meticulously carving the guest list to my party, renting flats in Venice and Rome, enlisting the help of my best friend to hunt down the perfect cake…a madness not usually associated to anything I would normally organize for myself.
Now it looks like I will spend the first week of my vacation at home, taking care of a recovering puppy. I convinced Alitalia to waive the penalty for changing flights by telling them a family member was sick (total truth as far as I am concerned) and my Venice landlord has accommodated my change of dates. I will be cutting my time in Italy down to two weeks and it looks like my birthday party will have to be scrapped. After the initial sadness, I have been trying to find the silver lining – if this had happened while I was gone, Ottie would have died. And who am I kidding? I never was a party girl anyway. I organize parties for other people.
Change never comes when conveniently planned, that I learnt a long time ago. Adapting to it is a skill one acquires over time, and sooner is better than later. Next week, I will treasure my time with the dogs and spend some time writing. The week after, I will still be with the people I love most in the world, shepherding my entrance into a new decade. If all goes according to plan, that is.