Parenting Panic At The Paws of the Puppy

February 13, 2013

Posted By: Shaunescy

As I sit to craft this post, I automatically let out a heavy sigh. And once I share the story, you’ll understand why.

Rewind to last Saturday.

I was in Northern California with my husband (a work event) and decided we would stop in San Francisco – the city of my birth – and enjoy the bounty of fresh seafood. Traveling along was our 4- month old puppy, Rocco. (Our youngest son was home – alone on his 18th birthday, I might add. Now, before you rush to judgment, our son has never given us any reason to rethink going out of town. He’s responsible and has proven so. Although, since I don’t trust him to care for a puppy, the puppy came with us, and our son fended for himself.)

As parents approaching an “empty-nest”, this new puppy has certainly filled a growing hole in my life. My husband recently got a promotion and now travels at least half the time for work and our 18 year old graces me with his presence on rare and fleeting occasions. Instead of regular “family” portraits, my Facebook feed is now littered with images and antics of the new puppy – much to the chagrin on our son, I might add. I suppose he’s jealous, but would never admit to it.

As we travelled south over the Golden Gate Bridge, we decided to visit Baker Beach – located southwest of the famous landmark – and one of the most storied (previously known as a “nude” beach) and most photogenic spots in the city. Besides, the puppy had never been to the beach! And we were trading snow for sand this trip.

For mid-February, the weather was glorious. Not a cloud hovered, and the Golden Gate literally shocked the brilliant blue sky by which it was framed. We leashed up the puppy and went to explore the shore.

Scores of dogs were exploring this “leash-free” beach zone with vigor and zest. Only, we kept our little Rocco tethered to us, as he’s not keen on the “come” command just yet, and I didn’t need a public game of seek and not-catch me. Besides, this visit was short, as we were on our way to devour copious amounts of fresh Dungeness crab.

After marveling at the size of surf, we snapped a few photos with our phone, and walked lazily back to the car. Fresh fish was waiting (and as it turns out, would wait and wait…)

Approximately 15 minutes later, as we pulled into a parking spot just north of the famed Fisherman’s Wharf, I noticed Rocco was acting strange. His little legs stiffened, and he began to tremble. His eyes began to close and roll slightly upward. He appeared to be near convulsions.

A deep sense of fear and dread clouded over me, “Something is wrong with him” I stammered to my husband. “I think he needs water.”

After unsuccessfully trying to get him to eat (a treat) and drink, I noticed sand in his mouth. Did he eat something he found on the beach? He wouldn’t open his mouth to let me investigate. His jaw was clenched shut.

There are two types of people in this world, those who operate like a fine-tuned clock in the face of an emergency and me – those who freeze, unable to think, speak or move, where the only sensation is akin to falling deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole…

Within seconds, my husband located a pet hospital (via his Smart phone), and rattled off the number for me to call, as he sped the car in the direction of help.

Honestly, I can’t remember what I said to the sweet voice on the phone, other than something was wrong with our puppy. She said something about her next available appointment being nearly 2 hours away, and when I numbly relayed that information to my husband, he barked, “He’ll be dead by then.”

I went blank.

The next movements were as though they were happening to someone else. I jumped out of the car in front of Marina Pet Hospital on Lombard Street in San Francisco, squinting from the sun as I carried my listless puppy into the building. Somehow, I gave the girl behind the counter my name, the puppy’s name, and my phone number. Then, she whisked him away.

The next think I know, the same girl who took my information, asked to see me in the small examination room to the side of the front counter. I was alone as my husband was maneuvering the city for a rare parking spot. She said, “It appears Rocco may have ingested something. We need your approval for at least $500 of treatment.” I nodded. And she promised to be back with more information as soon as she could.

There was a waiting area with seats, but I could only manage to lean against the front counter. As I stood with my back to the small examination room, another dog and owner entered, checked in at the front desk and were ushered into the same small examination room I had just exited. The dog was happy, with a wagging tail and tongue hanging out to the side of his mouth.

How I envied them.

The next several hours all rolled into one hazy, mixed-up bucket of confusion.

When we finally met the doctor on duty – Dr. Kim – she informed us that Rocco had apparently ingested an illegal substance. They gave him an injection to induce vomiting, and a charcoal-based product to absorb whatever was already in his system. For the moment he was stable. We were told he would be here all day, but this facility closed at 5pm and Rocco required overnight monitoring, which meant, we would need to find somewhere else to take him.

(Insert aforementioned heavy sigh…)

Needless to say, it was touch-and-go for awhile.

We found a 24-hour pet hospital near our family in the South Bay, and transported our puppy to spend the night under the watchful eye of Vet Tech, Joe, a darling young Asian man who donned a ball cap with his navy uniform. Turns out, Joe knows Dr. Kim from the Marina Pet Hospital, as he used to work there. And Dr. Kim recently wrote his “Letter of Recommendation” as he was wanted to become a Vet himself.

In that moment, I felt an odd twinkling of karma, and knew it was all going to turn out fine.

The next morning, as I sat at the airport, waiting with Rocco to return home to Montana, I was in awe that after only two months as a member of our family, this little bugger already had a clamp on my heart nearly as strong as my own flesh and blood.

With a few days distance, we can shake our heads and make jokes that on our son’s 18th birthday, he was home alone and behaving, while the puppy – who was under our supervisions - was being treated for a drug overdose.

Sometimes life is indeed stranger than fiction.

Mother of three, Katie Walters is the author of An Authentic Life , a member of and is proudly invited to share weekly within the pages of Montana Parent Magazine's website.

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