We’ve all wished our pets could talk to us. Well, sometimes they can. I became convinced of that last week after an incident involving my dad’s recently adopted Jack Russell terrier, Otto.
I talked Dad into adopting Otto, an adorable 10-year-old, from the Muskegon Humane Society. Dad already has a 12-year-old JRT, so he knows the breed. He wouldn’t have to go through usual trials and tribulations of raising a puppy: biting, chewing, “accidents.”
And Otto needed saving. He had been pulled from one of the few shelters in Michigan that still uses a gas chamber to euthanize dogs. He was rescued the day before he was scheduled to meet this horrible fate.
Otto also needed extensive dental work. We knew that going into the adoption, so I scheduled an appointment with Dr. James Moore at Harborfront Hospital for Animals in Spring Lake, who specializes in oral procedures for pets.
Otto’s surgery went well. Dr. Moore’s work included extracting several bad teeth, saving Otto’s one remaining canine tooth, reparation to areas of his gums and roots and, well, too much more to go into detail (since I can’t pronounce half of the words anyway). Dr. Moore himself was amazed that little Otto lived in such pain for so long.
We said our thank-yous and goodbyes, and Dad brought Otto home. All was well in Otto’s (and Dad’s world) until last week, when Dad left for his annual 10-day “trout camp.” No one brings rods, and no one fishes, but the trip is a good excuse for Dad and his friends to get together and camp up north. I had agreed to watch Otto at our home, since adopting him was my idea. Pup, his other JRT, was headed to my cousin’s house.
The morning after Dad left, Otto appeared quite sad and a bit nervous. I was sure he was just missing Dad, who is retired and spends almost every second with his dogs.
Otto told me differently. He had an “accident” on our hardwood floors, just seconds after coming in from outside to do his business. When I went to clean it up, I noticed blood in the stool. I called Dr. Moore’s office, since it was nearby and they knew Otto’s brief medical history (there were no previous records, since Otto had been picked up as a stray).
They got me in within an hour and ran the stool sample to start eliminating what it might be. No intestinal parasites or typical problems related to blood in the stool appeared. Temperature was normal, heart and lungs sounded fine. But when Dr. Moore examined him further, pressing gently on areas of his body, it was clear Otto was in pain in the lower areas of his belly.
Dr. Moore instructed me to leave Otto … this would take X-rays and time. When he called an hour later, he said X-rays revealed a mass, likely on the spleen. He hoped it was the spleen, he said, because it’s an organ dogs really don’t need. If it was the liver or kidneys, we’d be in bigger trouble. Either way, surgery was required.
Dad couldn’t be reached. He’s 75 years old, doesn’t have — or want — a cell phone, and doesn’t know how to use a computer. He trusts me to make the right decisions whenever I’m watching his dog or home. I, of course, told Dr. Moore to do whatever was necessary.
Otto, it turns out, had all sorts of issues. He was anemic. His red blood cell count was very low, his gums were beyond pale. He needed blood, pronto. Without it, he wouldn’t survive.
As fate would have it, Dr. Moore and his wife, Patti Eddington, happen to own a rescued greyhound, Gabbana Huffington, who hangs out at Harborfront every day. Greyhounds, I learned, are universal blood donors. That’s not why Dr. Moore and his wife got her, but I’m incredibly thankful they did.
Gabbi gave her blood, and Otto stabilized. Dr. Moore was able to remove the spleen, which was twice its normal size because of the massive tumor on it. I still don’t know whether the tumor is cancerous or benign, but I’m not concerned with that right now. The spleen, and the tumor, are gone.
Had he not been brought in that morning, Otto’s spleen would have ruptured by the end of the day and he would have died from internal bleeding, Dr. Moore said. Had Gabbi not donated her blood, Otto wouldn’t have made it through surgery.
Otto is recovering at our home now, three days removed from surgery, and doing incredibly well. He clearly is in some pain from the surgery and whines a bit, but his color is great (his gums are nice and pink) and he prances around the yard as if nothing happened.
Dad will be shocked and amazed at the ordeal his little dog went through. By the time he returns from camp, Otto should be mostly recovered and have his stitches removed. Finally, little Otto can live out his years (hopefully he has a lot left) the way he should — in a loving home on 10 acres of woods, running and exploring things like a true terrier.
And, in my book, Dr. Moore and his beautiful greyhound Gabbi are heroes. I’m convinced that had they not done what they did, little Otto wouldn’t be sitting on the couch next to me right now. I am forever indebted to them.
And had Otto not “spoken” to me by doing his business in our dining room instead of outside, Thursday surely would have been a very dark day. Sometimes, instead of scolding, we just need to listen and pay attention.