I’m sitting on the floor next to Oliver, watching him drift in and out of a drug-induced haze. I just brought him home from the vet’s, where he spent the morning in surgery after injuring himself on our walk this morning.
We were making our merry way around the reservoir on our typical weekday morning loop. I was sticking to the trail, silly human, while Oliver explored in the woods. Suddenly he spooked a turkey that presumably was still roosting in a tree. At least, I think it was a turkey. I never saw it but I heard a lot of heavy and panicked flapping, the way flying turkeys often sound in the woods, in my experience. Oliver must have been thrilled. He loves bashing through the woods running after birds. But then I heard a strange bark. He rarely barks, and never when he’s chasing. So I thought something might be wrong.
A few seconds later, he bounded out of the woods and came right over, looking a little out of sorts. I crouched down to give him the once-over and when I got to his chest there was a big gaping wound. He had caught the broadest part of his ribcage, square in the center, on something and torn it open. Skin was hanging down and so was something else, muscle or fat, I couldn’t tell.
I tried coaxing him forward. We were a good half mile or more from the car. But he wouldn’t walk. So I picked him up, trying carefully to avoid his wound but not entirely succeeding. Now, I probably couldn’t carry his 80 pound frame very far in such an awkward position in the best of times. But six and a half months pregnant it wasn’t going to work.
Luckily, Ollie managed to make it out of the woods on his own four feet. Adrian, who was already at work an hour away, called the vet to say we were coming.
It was an excruciating drive–25 minutes has never felt so long. Ollie was clearly uncomfortable, in pain and scared. And he kept wanting to crawl into my lap, so I spent the ride alternately soothing and yelling, trying to keep him relaxed and in his seat.
The vet checked him out as soon as we got there and clarified that it was actually a puncture wound. He’d impaled himself on a stick or something and then ripped through his chest when he broke away. She listened to his heart and said it didn’t sound like he’d punctured a lung, but she’d get him into surgery and make sure before she sewed him up.
I signed the consent forms for him to be anesthetized and they told me they’d call in a few hours to let me know how he was doing.
It was hard to go to work (and with no time to change out of my grubby walking clothes, I must have looked charming, though at least I did manage to stop along the way for deodorant and a few sundry items). But just before I had to go on air I got word that he had made it through surgery and was sleeping off the drugs. What a relief.
So now he’s home, still totally out of it but resting comfortably in his bed. I know people say he’s just a dog, but he really is family and it’s so hard to see him in pain. When I got a little emotional leaving the vet’s, I called Adrian and he reminded me that this is the kind of injury we know to expect. Oliver loves running free in the woods and we have to accept some level of risk in order for him to be happy. We both acknowledge that he could one day have an even worse accident, one that doesn’t have a good outcome, but it’s still better than keeping him miserable but safer on a leash for the rest of his life. Nonetheless, well, it’s still hard when he gets hurt.
So we’ll baby him for the next few days, keep an eye on his wound as it drains and heals, and try to distract him from any mischief when he starts to go stir crazy. And before we know it he’ll be back in the woods chasing turkeys, happy as a clam.