Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

bad talents (part 5) July 16, 2010

Continued misadventures of Kimelle’s Optimum Jive aka OJ the standard poodle  

The (first) Near Death Experience.  

True and very scary story.  However, like most true and scary stories, it has its comical elements.  So while we’re laughing about this, I know we are all very aware of how very, very close this was to being a tragedy.   Consider this a cautionary tale.

I tend to have the TV on, my notebook computer out, and be reading  (or writing) a book well into the wee hours of the morning.  The dogs (OJ and Dusty, his mini-poo brother who is much less prone to life threatening idiocy) fall asleep on a couch or their pillows, keeping me company until lock them up for the night when I finally head off to bed.  One night, I fell asleep on the couch around 2 a.m. and woke up again at 4 a.m.  I staggered down the hall to lock up the dogs in their room, and crashed on my bed.  At 8 a.m. I was attacked by a flying poodle.  

Normally, my husband wakes up first, gets the dogs up, outside and serves them breakfast.  Then he locks the two of them in the bedroom with me when he heads off to work.  (We endeavour to keep the dogs contained when we aren’t supervising them, for obvious reasons).  I am usually awakened by my radio blaring, and open my eyes to find OJ’s nose nearby or Dusty dropping a stinky ball beside my head.  Apparently on the day in question, our containment routine was missed.  Hubby had neglected to shut the dogs in with me; I guess because he was home and puttering around in the basement and garage.  

I blinked sleepily as OJ barked a happy bark next to my face, wagging his tail furiously, and then he leapt off the bed and tore off full speed down the hall.  I tried to wake up, but didn’t rise.  OJ came tearing back up the hall, leapt onto the bed with a long, gazelle-like stride, his front feet landing firmly on my belly.  As I struggled to regain my breath, OJ stood next to me, tail creating an impressive breeze, while he panted like he was laughing at me.  I sat up.  He barked again and raced off down the hall again.  Before I had my feet on the floor he had roared back up the hall and was beside me on the bed panting again.  OJ is not a morning creature either.  He is generally the last body out of the bed everyday.

“Do you have to go out, OJ?”  

“WOOF!” he declared and raced off again.  

“All right, all right.  I’m coming,”  I muttered as I stumbled down the hall and let him into the back yard.  He tore out the door and raced several circuits of the yard.  I stood at the kitchen window watching.  OJ is not a very energetic dog.  This was very odd behaviour.  He stopped at his favourite tree and lifted his leg.  He promptly fell over.  It took him a couple of tries to get his tri-pod balance and get the job done.  This was weird.  

I met him at the door to let him in.  He raced into the living room, leapt up onto the couch, and promptly fell off.  This was alarming.  I went to the couch and he jumped up beside me.  I felt into his arm pit* for his pulse.  His heart was racing.  I felt his feet.  They were really hot, almost sweaty feeling. I pushed a finger onto his gum.  It stayed white longer than it should. **  What on Earth was going on?  I ordered him to a pillow to lay down.  He obeyed, then stood again panting.  I ordered him down again.  He obeyed, then stood again.  He couldn’t contain his energy.  

I went into the kitchen and started making myself some pancakes while I thought about what to do.  OJ followed me.  He stumbled as he walked. His eyes were unnaturally bright.  

I opened my pantry door to get some flour and the mystery was solved.  

Pulled through the wires of one of the pantry drawers was the wrapping from a chocolate bar. A large chocolate bar.  I turned to OJ in horror.  “OH NO!”  He looked down at the floor, giving his tail a weak, decidedly guilty wag.   

Crap.  Crap. Crap.  This was bad.   

This was very, very bad.   

Science lesson:  

Dogs cannot eat chocolate.  It’s not so much the caffeine as it is a related chemical called theobromine found in the cacao bean that is seriously toxic to their system.   Theobromine levels increase the darker the chocolate.  White chocolate has hardly any.  Milk chocolate has some.  Bakers chocolate has tons.  According to the toxic level of 100 mg of theobromine per one kilo of canine body weight works out like this:  

1 ounce per 1 pound of body weight for Milk chocolate
1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight for Semisweet chocolate
1 ounce per 9 pounds of body weight for Baker’s chocolate.  

OJ had consumed almost all of a huge bar, about 10 ounces of 80% cacao specialty chocolate (i.e. Bakers).  He weighs 65 lbs.  He was well over the toxic threshold of about 7.3 ounces for his body weight.  He was looking death in the eye.  

We phoned the vet to tell them we were coming.  We were in the examining room 10 minutes later.  As usual, OJ behaved like a model citizen in the vet office.  He believes strongly in his role as standard poodle ambassador, even when at death’s door.  He allowed the vet to poke and prod without complaint, even when his tail was lifted and the thermometer was inserted.  He gave me a rather unimpressed look while the vet talked to him and tried to distract him from indignity by patting at the other end, but OJ bore it all.  His temperature had come down; I could feel it in his paws as well.  The vet took his pulse, and his heart rate was just a bit above normal.  His blood pressure was almost back to normal.  The verdict was that he had already passed through the danger zone, and was in recovery.   

Once a dog has reached the stumbling stage, the brain is suffering from the toxicity.  After that stage come seizures, and then heart or respiratory failure.  OJ had ingested enough theobromine that he should have died.  I was sent home and told to bring him back if he developed seizures, but the vet was pretty sure he was going to be fine.  The good news for us was that although theobromine takes several days to clear out of the system, it doesn’t leave lingering effects, such that a few chocolate chips at a later date would tip the scales and kill him.  He gets to start from zero again.  Considering OJ’s incorrigibility, this is a very good thing.  

Ever notice how OJ is sleeping in all his photos? He's really just faking, while he plans his next stealth mission of death.

We had no idea when OJ got into the chocolate.  It could have been while I was sleeping on the couch or when he was left out after starting his day.  It takes a few hours for the effects to show. If we had caught it early enough, he could have been given charcoal to absorb it or had vomiting induced to get the theobromine out of his system before he was poisoned.  Because we figured it out only after we observed the neurological symptoms, it was too late to do anything except treat him with anti-convulsants if he developed seizures, which luckily, he didn’t.  

 Needless to say, I no longer store my chocolate in the pantry.

* find your dog’s pulse using the femoral artery in the ‘arm pit’ of a back leg, palm facing the leg.

** you can check for blood pressure by pushing the gums.  Do it when the dog is healthy to see how quickly the spot goes from white to normal again.  (about a second).  If it takes 2 or 3 seconds, the blood pressure has dropped.


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