Let’s start with his pills. Guinness had a patch on his side that delivered narcotics into his system. This was a wonderful thing to have since he refused to eat his pills. Actually refused doesn’t adequately describe his reaction.
Guinness is a proper passive-aggresive Newf. When I’d walk in with the peanut butter, he’d just clench is teeth shut. Big dogs have been measured to have over 300 pounds of force when they bite. Mr. Grumpy easily tripled that when it was pill time. I’d probably clench my teeth too if someone walked up to me with a known history of forcibly jamming stuff down my throat. I was starting to think that the narcotics were really prescribed for me.
Monday I felt like the smartest guy on Earth because I got two pills into him by concealing them in a wad of peanut butter, forcing his mouth open, pulling his head back and smearing the pill-laden wad onto the roof of his mouth. It was like wrestling an alligator, only I was trying to get my hands in his mouth. He sat there and licked the peanut butter, swallowing the pills, all the while looking at me with his I hate you and I will never eat again face.
He had three large, stinky antibiotics that he was supposed to take twice a day, and two smaller narcotic pills as needed. The peanut butter worked precisely once. In fact anything that worked, only worked once. As soon as he was onto us, the jaws clenched tight. We tried, in no particular order; peanut butter, tripe, cat food, a pill gun, home made Newfie cookies, cream cheese, Swiss cheese, American cheese, hamburger, eggs (scrambled, easy over, and sunny side up), bacon, Taylor ham, salami, liverwurst, butter, and just shoving them in his throat with our fingers.
When we would tell people that our dog wouldn’t take pills, they would invariably reply, “Have you tried peanut butter?”, as if they knew some magical secret that dogs simply could not resist. After the 93rd person said, “just stick them in some peanut butter and he’ll eat them right up!”, I felt like carrying a megaphone with me so I could scream “PEANUT BUTTER DOESN’T FREAKING WORK!” Like I said, it’s been a stressful couple of weeks.
The next day I discovered that his narcotic patch was gone. It had always bugged him, but he was probably so high that he couldn’t be bothered with it. This time though, he had mustered up the energy and ripped it off, leaving torn skin behind. I called the Vet hospital and asked about it. Since it was due to come off the next day anyway, they weren’t to concerned about him, but they were concerned about us. Since the patch was transparent, someone might step on it in their bare feet and get a nice dose of tasty opioids through their skin. This would be especially troublesome for one of the kids, since they hadn’t yet been to college where they would learn about having a full stomach first. Luckily I found it right away and properly disposed of it.
Guinness barely ate for almost a week. He got some peanut butter here and there, but that was only a side effect of the pill struggle. The amount of peanut butter that he’d actually consume paled in comparison to the amount on the floor, wall, ceiling and my pants. His “damn you and your filthy pills” head shake was impressive, surpassed only by his ability to spit out pills after pretending to swallow them. He would take a cookie crumb, but when we’d offer him more he would just turn away. For Lauren, this was especially hard to handle.
Guinness suddenly started giving me what I call “The Cozy Look”. Our first Newf, Cozy, had trained me so that I could do her bidding. When she wanted something, she would stare at me. I would then ask questions. When I got to the right question, she would tilt her head. Having never done this in the year he’d been with us, I was shocked when he started staring at me with new-found intensity.
“Are you thirsty?” Nothing.
“Are you hungry?” More staring.
“Do you want to go out?” His ears would pop up and his head would tilt dramatically. I have no idea how he learned this behavior. Maybe Cozy came to him in a drug-induced dream. At any rate, it worked, and when he had to go out, he would let me—and only me—know.
The problem, which should be obvious by now, is that the big oaf couldn’t walk. As the days progressed he got more and more mobile, but for the most part he would drag his useless rear legs behind him when he wanted to move. After about five days, I gave up with the sling I had made. I discovered that if I could lift his rear-end up, he could walk. It was getting up off of the floor that was giving him trouble, not that actual walking. A bigger problem we discovered, was squatting.
About eight days after surgery, we completely abandoned the medication/torture ritual. Since he was no longer getting his meds, his appetite returned with gusto. Eating means pooping, and we were relive to see that Guinness had managed to relieve himself. This was nice and all, but immediately thereafter his legs gave out and he collapsed. We cleaned him up as best we could, and got him back inside. Why is this disgusting bit of information relevant? Because as with everything these past few weeks, the situation went from bad to worse.
On New Year’s Eve, Lauren and I had what I’ll call a disagreement. We worked it out, but at 12:30am on New Year’s day, Guinness gave me the Cozy Look, so I took him out into the cold where he could do his business. He had the same leg weakness issues, and collapsed, but this time it was, shall we say, messier. As the rest of the east coast rang in the new year with reckless abandon, I sat on the cold ground with my embarrassed dog while Lauren held his leash and I trimmed away all the fur from his butt. For the sake of clarity, I don’t mean his hips, or his thighs, or even his tail. With two pairs of rubber gloves, a now discarded grooming trimmer, and a powerful urge to vomit, I cleaned my dog’s most private of areas while my wife watched. When I asked if she’d made a deal with God to enact unusual punishment for our earlier disagreement, she simply smiled and said “maybe”.
A couple of days after New Years, I had an appointment to see the doctor. My shoulder had been bothering me for months, and lifting Guinness three times a day wasn’t making it any better. After some x-rays the Doctor decided that I needed to have long needles injected deep into my shoulder. For all you needles fans out there, yes, that’s needles, plural, as in more than one. My arm did feel better, and I had a new-found appreciation for poor Guinness. When I came home I sat with him and he looked at me as if to say, I had needles too, but at least they didn’t stick their fingers down your throat. Or shave your butt. Or cut open your leg. I swear he said all of those things, if only with his eyes.
A couple of days after the pooping incident, when we got near Guinness, his teeth would start to chatter. It seemed like he was cold, but he wasn’t. The Vet again wasn’t concerned, so I did what any nerd who reads too much would do; I came up with my own diagnosis. I think that Guinness had clenched his teeth so hard, and for so long, that the jaw muscles in his head were just exhausted. When we’d walk up, he figured it was pill-jamming time, so his muscles tightened, and which point they just started to twitch from over-use and exhaustion. Worked for me.
He’s supposed to have this surgery on his other leg too. At $4,500 a leg, I think we’ll wait a while. Perhaps the pain of the experience (and the bill) will fade with time. Had I known that his other leg would be so useless, I would have had them do both at once, since I can’t imagine his recovery would have been any worse.
If you’re wondering where Annie has been through all of this, she’s been separated from the patient, and for good reason. Yesterday Lauren reported that during an altercation regarding food, Annie jumped on him. Luckily he was on the ground at the time, but the damage she could have caused is mind boggling. Seeing as how she hurt his leg in the first place, I think I just might stick her with the bill.