I know most of you will be saying, “Told you so,” when I tell you that we caved and that the Fyfes once again are proud canine pet parents.
A lot of you probably wondered why it took so long but we lost Loki, UB and Cleo in short fashion after the 3 of them followed me around for a couple of years together and Cleo’s farewell in December of 2019 left a pretty big hole that we weren’t sure we were ever going to try to fill.
Its not as if either of us said, “Hey, I miss having a dog around,” or we were cruising animal shelter websites looking for a dog. None of the 5 dogs we had were purchases- Casey and Harry came from vet school, Cleo and UB were both strays and Loki moved in with us when her mom’s living situation changed.
The new-dog-in-our-life story happening now is a different version of a dog finding us through veterinary channels and its just one of those things about being a vet.
With a very good husband.
“Ike” had an emergency appointment at Clark Fork Veterinary Clinic in Deer Lodge where I work a few days each month when I was working last Wednesday. He saw Dr.Sami as a repeat offender for swallowing rocks that are too big to pass through his GI tract. He was already a bit febrile and hadn’t eaten in a few days and was definitely not feeling well.
You would think that after having crazy Casey in our lives for so long that the thought of an almost 2-year-old black lab at the farm would be frightening but I found myself engaged in the conversations between Sami and her technician, Cody. In fact, the whole clinic was involved because that’s how it goes down at a clinic where communication is a huge part of why we are such a great team.
The problem: Ike’s parents (an older couple) were still paying off the bill from the last rock-removal surgery from a few months ago. The thought of paying out close to 2 grand (its very real, people… emergencies are expensive) again when there was a good chance he’d eat another rock because whatever their situation is, it didn’t get changed the first time… well, it was bleak. They thought about it and talked with family for a couple of heartbreaking hours but eventually, tearfully, they made the painful decision to euthanize Ike.
Let me back up a bit to earlier that day when I first showed up at the clinic after a beautiful sunrise morning cruise through the snow-capped mountains of western Montana.
When I first looked through my appointments I saw that I had one euthanasia scheduled for 2pm.
For a Boston Terrier cross.
My mind immediately went to sweet UB whose lungs were surprisingly full of cancer at his sweet young age a few years ago. UB was supposed to still be here with us now and I texted hubby back in ND what was in store for the Angel of Darkness. I could read it in his own words how sad he felt for me.
When my awesome technician, Jaycee and I sedated that kind soul that afternoon I laid with him and told him not to worry because UB would be waiting for him to show him around. I made sure my tears didn’t fall onto his face but they did stream down my cheeks and I think that’s the first time I let the staff there see my vulnerabilities. (Not that I’ve held anything in… I just hadn’t been in that position since starting there.)
So, perhaps I was a bit emotionally charged to hear about Ike and his parent’s awful dillema.
I mean, I get it.
Dogs who eat rocks repeatedly make for extremely expensive pets and its not like the surgery is an easy one! There is great risk involved and there are all sorts of things that can go wrong and lets not forget about the after-care.
So the clinic was abuzz with the news and Sami and her veterinary technician were holding off as long as they could while a few of us texted whoever we could as quickly as we could.
I texted Alistair, who was at home after working all morning.
“Do we want a young black lab?”
Everyone else had run out of options so I was acutely aware that everyone in the clinic was whispering, “She’s texting with Alistair, we don’t know yet.” I watched the drug lock-box get opened and dosages for the sedative being punched out on the computer. I wondered how crazy I was to even think of paying for another surgery on a repeat offender and if Alistair would agree to that assessment of my mental health.
Minutes passed and everyone was wrapping up the end of the day and I couldn’t take it anymore so I called our Bismarck home and Alistair answered. After a bit of explaining he said, “Well, of course. I mean, we have to do something, right?”
And so… getting close to 6pm I helped Cody pre-medicate Ike and as I drove into Deer Lodge to get them Subway sandwiches (it was the least I could do for them staying extra late to operate on our dog) they started to prep the young black lab for his second surgery. (I asked Sami to put a zipper in him when she closed but she declined. Something about liability…)
I stayed as long as I could knowing there was nothing I could do other than crack jokes and tell stories but I wanted them to be focused so I hit the road back to Seeley Lake knowing Sami would text me that night with updates.
Surgery went very well. Nothing had ruptured and rocks were removed. (Testicles were also removed as per our request/rule… you know, ‘Donate your reproductive organs at the door and get along’… that rule for moving onto Fyfe’s Farm for Wayward Pets and Unwed Mothers.)
And Ike recovered in the clinic for a few days and I got lots of updates and apparently Ike yipped loudly or whimpered unless he was outside of the crate sitting next to someone and he drove them all nuts because its kind of a shrill bark that I could hear over the phone but he needed to be crated with the IV in his forearm and the staples in his abdomen but you explain that to a young lab and I am sure the staff rolled their eyes but everyone was still happy because we didn’t have to do the deed to this little guy and he was coming to a great new home and that kind of thing is huge at a close-knit veterinary clinic in a profession where we continue to die by suicide at alarming rates and they all knew that Ike would stop shouting at them on Saturday when his new parents would come and get him and take him home.
I rode in the back of our big silver Ram with Ike and he slept most of the way with just a couple of little whimpers. He is, of course, still on pain meds and antibiotics and small feedings several times a day of a canned prescription food that is gentle on the GI tract.
And he is fitting in just fine despite a few hiccups last night trying to figure out how or where he could sleep with that E-collar on. He fits in a bunch of our crates just fine but the collar makes it difficult for him to move. He spent last night in my surgical kennel down in the barn with D’embe and Professor Higgins but we’ll keep him in with us most likely tonight.
You see, his dad got up at 6 am and took him out and removed the E-collar and kept him on a leash until we realized Ike wasn’t leaving our sides.
To say Ike has bonded with us is a bit of an understatement. He is laying next to me right now and when Alistair left to go to the dump a little while ago he whimpered and just stared at the door before resigning himself to a no-Alistair situation and coming to sit next to me as I type.
He hasn’t chased the cats despite not having been around cats in his life. He seems curious about them and Jockey is the only one who hissed at him a couple of times. Even then, Jockey is on the couch behind me right now so Ike can’t be all that bad.
We have walked outside a couple of times up and down the slushy driveway and Ike sticks close by to either of us. He hasn’t once made any move towards his staples and with his collar off he is able to do so many more things. Make no bones about it, though- if he is not in our eyesight the collar is back on. Veterinarians mean it when we say the E-collar is integral to the success of the surgery and the life of your pet!
Ike isn’t easy on those plastic collars and the collars or cones are hard on our shins and our furniture but we will still put the second one back on when we go out to the hot tub. And Ike is still restricted in his activity so that his GI tract and abdomen can heal properly, too. Even though the new collar took a beating through the night in a steel crate.
I think I was in the right place at the right time for both the Fyfe household and clearly for young Ike. I have felt that way when we’ve made the choice to bring a new companion into our world for one reason or another over all these years. I had called Alistair back in 2004 with a similar situation Harry was facing and we were able to change the scheduled euthanasia to a neuter and within hours a groggy husky was en route back to his new home in a charcoal Ram with his new Mummy.
And maybe Ike will go back and forth with Alistair when he travels to Bismarck. Both of our outdoor kennels are concrete so there will be no rock-eating when we are at work. The rest of the time he will be under our watchful eyes.
And maybe… just maybe… Spirit of UB had a hand in everything that went down on Wednesday because of everything that went down on Wednesday. Maybe Spirit of Casey thought we needed another crack at a black lab who is already better trained than he ever was, even though we never faulted Casey for his faults. Maybe they all figured the Fyfe Farm wasn’t right without a dog. I don’t know.
Right now we are learning a new routine with a new soul in the family. The Fyfe Bee Gees are having a sleepover party with Ivan, Fallon and Joel & Jeanette so we can focus on making sure Ike fits in and we can give him the time he needs to recover from his surgery. We are thankful to them and Dr.Sami and Cody for staying late to save Ike’s life and to the staff at CFVC for enduring the shrill barking.
So far, so good.
You know I’ll keep you all posted. xo