Years of fear and obsession welled up in me. How do I tell if she’s bloating? What were the signs? My mind raced. I jumped out of bed and felt her belly. It was large and seemed hard. I seemed to remember that one of the signs of bloat was supposed to be a belly that thumped like a ripe melon. Hers didn’t seem to do that, but then I’d never felt a bloating dog’s belly before, either.
I had read that bloat could be fatal in as little as an hour. How much time had I already wasted? Twenty minutes? A Half hour? I had to get her to a vet! Cozy seemed mobile enough, but I was worried that she’d become unwilling to move at any time. I tried to wake Lauren up, but she’s a very sound sleeper. I even tried shaking her to no avail but she had taken Benadryl before bed and I knew from experience that she would not be easily roused. I was on my own. It was 3:30am.
I grabbed the bloat kit, got Cozy into the Outback and called the closest emergency vet clinic. They told me that they didn’t feel comfortable taking her since they didn’t have a surgeon on site and that I should go to the emergency vet hospital instead. I was floored. What is the purpose of an emergency clinic if they can’t handle an emergency? Still, I had no time for arguments, so we set off to Fairfield NJ which was an hour away. If Cozy had an hour to live, and I’d already wasted half of that time, there wasn’t much hope.
I was tired, worried sick about my Cozy, and very flustered that my emergency plan had broken down at the first step. I pride myself on being cool in an emergency, and I could feel that cool slipping. My Cozy needed my help and I felt like I was failing her. As I sped off into the night, I realized that not only did I not know where the Fairfield emergency vet hospital was, I didn’t even have their phone number. In a world before smart phones, I had few options.
I called information six times because it took six tries to get the right number. Each failed try resulted in more frustration and anger, with more than a few profanities directed at the idiotic information operators thrown in. In the meantime, I had driven past Fairfield and was now heading for the George Washington Bridge on Route 80 at 4:30am. More than an hour had transpired and I was starting to worry that my Cozy was going to die in the back of the car while I drove around lost in northeastern New Jersey. I felt like an idiot, and felt certain that my Cozy was going to die an agonizing death because of my stupidity.
I called information again. The operator got me through to the hospital the first time, and they told me where I needed to go. I still didn’t have their number because I couldn’t find a pen in Lauren’s car while driving.
I called information again and got connected to, in succession, the wrong emergency vet clinic (twice), a different information operator, and a 900 number porn hotline. I called home – at 4:30am remember – and Lauren answered the phone. She was tired and confused, and I was getting more and more pissed. Finally the stress was too much and I broke down sobbing on the phone, stopped on some back road in the middle of industrial NJ. I was lost, and my Cozy was going to pay for my stupidity with her life. Lauren, sensing my desperation asked simply “what do you want me to do?”
I screamed back into the phone “I don’t want my Cozy to DIE!” I am generally a very calm individual, so for me to yell in the phone like that, Lauren knew that I was pretty wound up. After calming me down, Lauren worked with me to find out where I was, and to get me the phone number of the vet hospital.
I finally got through to the hospital, and the kind person who answered walked me through getting there turn by turn. As I walked in with my Cozy, I noticed that it was almost 5:00 A.M. They took her in and examined her, leaving me to my emotional turmoil in the hauntingly quiet and totally empty waiting room.
The emergency vet clinic was like a mini-hospital built entirely for animals. It was staffed 24 hours a day for emergencies, though during the days they operated as a normal clinic. At five o’clock in the morning the lobby was empty except for the receptionist and me, sitting alone, overcome with the stress of the morning’s ordeal. I sat in the large well-lit room and tried to regain my composure. I just hoped that I had made it in time to save my Cozy.
A short while later a wonderfully patient young vet came out and gave me the news: Cozy wasn’t bloating. She also told me that two hours is more realistic for a bloat emergency. It would seem that I was an idiot in more ways than one that morning.
The vet went on to explain that Cozy had a temperature of 104 – with normal being about 101 – but they couldn’t figure out why. The vet asked if I could leave her overnight and I readily agreed.
I asked if I could see her. The vet led me into the back where Cozy was laying on a blanket on the floor surrounded by crates that were too small for her. A strip of her front paw was shaved and had an I.V. in it. She looked tired, but she looked at me as if to say Thank you. I knelt down in front of her and gave her a kiss on her nose . I told her that she was in good hands, and that I would be back soon. As I left I could hear her barking for me, which brought back memories of leaving her to be spayed. I felt even worse than I had before, but this time she was too weak to fight to get back to me. Difficult as it was to leave, I knew that she was where she needed to be. I drove the hour home and at 7:00 A.M. went straight to bed.
The next day I called to check on her. I talked to a new vet who told me that they had run all sorts of tests and had even X-rayed her stomach. She was dehydrated and had a fever, and was in obvious distress, but there was no infection that they could find. She ran down a list of tests that they had run; CBC, blood work, urine tests, upper GI tests – all inconclusive. She wasn’t bloating, but they also didn’t know what was wrong. She had a fever as well as some pain in her hips. so he advised that we give her some Rymadil while they put her on broad-spectrum antibiotics to help fight off the infection that they couldn’t find. They hadn’t solved the case, but they were out of ideas. He told me that we could pick her up later that evening.
We all went to get her around 7:00 P.M. that night, and had to wait a bit because there were a couple of emergencies that took precedence. Given the events of the previous night, I had a newfound appreciation for letting emergencies take precedence.
As the tech led my Cozy out, she tried to bolt for the door. She didn’t even see us until I whistled for her and then she came over and smothered us all with kisses. It was a wonderful reunion, but she was obviously ready to go home. She was so eager in fact, that she jumped into the back of the car which, because of her hips, she hadn’t done in quite some time.
As I wrote my updates to Newf Net, Cozy stayed curled up by my side in the office which is all she had ever wanted in life. One scary night and $700 later my Cozy was back home and feeling better, but the fact remained that we had no idea why.