It starts with a phone call – a call where immediately you know something is wrong, awfully wrong. Every warning bell in your brain goes off, your internal antenna goes on full alert, frantically searching for a false signal of normalcy to beat back the dreadful feeling that something bad has happened. The tone of the voice on the other end is somber, contrasting with your erratic heart beat. You take a deep breath, bracing yourself for what’s to come….
I’m out-of-town, three states over at a National Conference, sitting in the middle of a meeting. My cell phone is silenced – if I hadn’t of looked down when the screen lit up as the call came through, I would have missed the call all together. It’s Malcolm. My first thought is to call him back when my meeting is over in another 30 minutes. He knew I would be in back-to-back sessions all day long and I would call him later that evening. My next thought brings a tightening of the stomach muscles, Malcolm knows I’ve turned the ringer off and am out-of-pocket for the day. I quickly gather my belongings and step outside the conference room. “Can you talk?” breaks the silence as I answer the call. My eyes search for a quiet corner where I can’t be overheard, fortunately I find a private area with a sitting bench, across the wide hall. I sit down, turning my back to the activity behind me. “I’m at the vet’s” fills the silence. At once I’m both relieved Malcolm is okay and worried about which one of the dogs has been brought to Dr. Bob, our veterinarian, on a Saturday, late in the afternoon. Who? Why? What? How? The questions rapidly spew out like the staccato of high heels on a hard-wood floor. “Amore, she swallowed a bone. It’s lodged at the base of her esophagus, just above her stomach, they can’t move it, it’s too far down her throat. Honey, it doesn’t look good.” Moisture pools heavily at the corners of my eyes, I’m trying desperately not to cry. My Amore? Our girl who so loves life, was going to lose her’s due to a bone? I wasn’t prepared for this. I wasn’t going to be able to say good-bye to her? Malcolm, having to deal with “this” by himself. My thoughts turned to cutting short my attendance at the convention, getting a flight back to New Mexico, being there for Malcolm, being there for Amore. The next words I hear are, “gotta go, the vet’s here! I’ll call you back when I know more.” Malcolm cuts the call.
A bone? We had given our dogs beef and buffalo bones for years. Bones were the perfect baby-sitter. They were the equivalent of putting the kids in front of the TV to watch the Little Mermaid, over and over and over. A beef bone meant the house would be intact when we came back from running errands in town. No chewed library books, no masticated shoes scattered out in the dog pen, no drooled on socks randomly spread from one end of the house to the other, touting new holes in the toes. The girls would be so entranced with their bone, they wouldn’t even know we had left home. Bones were our puppy sitter of choice. And cheap! A few dollars spent on bones kept the house clean and the tartar on their teeth to a minimum. A bone had brought Amore so much enjoyment and now caused her so much pain.
The second-hand on my watch spun into minutes. Those minutes seemed like hours. I was paralyzed, sitting on the bench, waiting for Malcolm to call me back, praying for Amore to pull through, for some miracle to occur. Another call and Malcolm appraised me our options were not good, we were running out of time. Ideally, Dr. Bob would like to push the bone down into the stomach and then perform surgery to remove it, however he doesn’t have a long enough apparatus to impel the bone through. Worse case scenario: the bone adheres to the esophagus, restricting Amores’ breathing, eventually suffocating her. Second worse case scenario would be to operate in Amores’ current state – the success rate of this type of surgery is low, every low. Very few recover from the surgery. Malcolm and I were in the cross-hairs of Amores’ death.
Another hour had passed and still I hadn’t moved off the bench. Waiting. A text came through from Malcolm – “goin n 4 surgery. don’t fly 2 ABQ. horse vet fix bone. will call l8r”. What the hell? What horse vet? Which surgery? The worse case scenario surgery or the ideal surgery? New questions swirled, impatiently waiting to be answered. Sifting through the next few conversations with Malcolm explained our miracle. As Amore was being prepped for esophagus surgery, a horse veterinarian happened to stop by the clinic. He suggested Dr. Bob try a tool used on horses, allowing him to push the bone down. The device was long enough to reach the bone to tap it into the stomach, allowing the location of the surgery to switch from the throat to the stomach. Amore breezed through surgery with a newly shaved tummy and a coarse cough due to her throat being constricted. We had orders to feed her soft food and keep her quiet. Quiet? Our Amore, who loves to run? Who is our ADHD dog? We had our work cut out for us but we had our Amore back. Miracles do happen.
I flew home on schedule, making Malcolm drive straight from the airport to the vet clinic so I could see Amore. We brought her home the next day and managed to keep her quiet for one more day after that. We fired the perfect baby-sitter that day, threw away very bone we could find, and forbid any bone back in the house. Amore has completely recovered from her ordeal – Malcolm and I, well… let’s just say, we smile when we come upon a dog-chewed book or missing shoes.