About a month ago, I took the Fluffy Dog in for his annual checkup. He was perfect in every way except that his left hip didn’t extend as much as it should, and started bothering him at about 80%. The vet suggested an x-ray to see what’s going on with his hip. Because of the particular shot they’d have to take, the Fluffster would have to be under sedation. I had to think about it; that’s a lot of money to spend on diagnostics for something that isn’t even bothering him in daily life yet. At that visit, I went ahead with the pre-anaesthetic bloodwork. The Fluffy Dog is six and a half years old now, fully middle-aged for an 80-pound shepherd cross. It never hurts to have baseline bloodwork and a chance to catch disease processes early.
The Fluffy Dog and the kittenz were adopted from the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter, and they came with six weeks of pet insurance, which my ex and I (and now I alone) kept up. I checked in with Petsecure to see if the x-ray was something they’d cover, since it was at the vet’s recommendation. Turns out they’ll cover it, but to my gasping, choking horror, the Fluffy Dog’s annual deductible is now mysteriously $300 instead of $100. When I called back to ask for an explanation, they told me there is an age premium: up until five years of age, the deductible is $100, from 5 to 10 years it’s $300, and over ten years of age the deductible is $500. I did a bit of math and figured out that with my monthly premiums, the $300 deductible, and my 20% co-pay, Mr. Fluffy would have to have an accident or illness costing over a grand before I’d see one penny out of that year’s payments. So I’m starting to seriously reconsider whether someone as broke as me can really afford this insurance. I mean, really, if he’s that sick or injured, I’ll probably just feed him a euthanasia bonbon, right? Well, maybe not. Probably I’d end up selling my furniture or my body to pay whatever vet bills need to be paid. Anyway, deciding whether or not to continue with the insurance is something that can wait until I am sleeping regularly again, because at the moment, I am still lurching zombie-like through my days, and staring wild-eyed into the dark at night.
Anyway, I did decide to go ahead with the x-ray, based partly on Petsecure’s willingness to cover it, and also working on the theory that if baseline bloodwork is good, a baseline x-ray is good, too. But I’m one of those clients at whom vet clinic staff roll their eyes. I sent them a long email explaining that I wanted to go ahead with the x-ray, but that I wanted to stay with my dog until he was under sedation, that I would like to suit up and be present during the x-ray, and that I wanted to be with him as he woke up, so he would never be alone. The clinic agreed that I could be with him as he fell asleep and woke, but they drew the line at letting me in the x-ray room. No problem; I always ask for extras so I have room to compromise! The important thing was that I wanted to be with him as long as he was conscious so that he wouldn’t feel scared and alone.
The Fluffster had to be fasting, of course, since he was going under sedation. It is really incredible how expressively reproachful a dog can be if you skip his meal. At first, this morning, he thought I had just forgotten about breakfast. He would hop and skip and jump around every time I got near the kitchen, hopeful and delighted that I was headed in the right direction, and than stare at me in wide-eyed astonishment when I walked away again. It got to the point where he just stood by his food bowl, staring pointedly between the bowl and my face: don’t you get it? don’t you get it? dammit, woman, I’m starving over here!
How delighted he was when I leashed him up later in the morning and loaded him into the car! How hopefully and sweetly he greeted each staffperson at the vet clinic, sitting nicely and offering a paw, waiting for his usual reward of treats. No matter how many tries and how long it took, my optimistic boy never got dejected or dropped his shoulders. He knows the world is a good place, and treats will eventually come to those who wag. He was looking particularly beautiful, since I’ve been brushing him almost every day for a couple of weeks—partly because it’s autumn and he’s blowing coat like a Husky, and partly (confession time!) because I want the staff at the vet clinic to think I always keep him this well-groomed.
The Fluffy Dog and I were escorted to an exam room. The stated purpose was to allow him to calm down before getting the sedative injected, but I suspect the front-desk staff were feeling guilty at ignoring an obviously starving dog’s desperate attempts to get them to feed him. They said it would be about fifteen minutes before they came to give the injection, so I pulled out my book, sat on the floor, and started reading. When I do that at home, the Fluffster just stretches out on the floor and waits patiently for something more interesting to happen. When they came to give him the injection, they brought a soft blankie for him. I put my book away, and arranged the blankie and my sweet shaggy dog so I could lean on the wall and keep a hand on him as he fell asleep. I am so tired lately that I half-slept there as well. It was lovely and calm, although the sedative wasn’t strong enough—or he was just too excited to be at the vet’s—so he kept lifting his head at loud noises, and never really closed his eyes or stopped twitching his ears.
At the second check, after forty-five minutes, The Fluffy Dog still jumped up (albeit unsteadily) when the door opened. The techs said they were going to have to put in an IV for more sedative. They allowed me to stay with him while they did so. It’s been ten years since I worked as a vet tech, but I still get some special consideration because of it, probably in part because they trust I won’t freak out if my dog pukes or get tremors or a seizure or weird breathing or whatever as a result of drugs or procedures. The Fluffster did get a bit of a spasmy leg but it passed quickly.
There’s something so adorable about animals falling asleep under sedation, and waking up again. I love how heavy and limp they get, and I love soothing their little hiccups and gasps and twitches. Sometimes when they wake up, they are scared and trembling. I used to like it when it was my turn to take the “recovery shift” and be with the post-op cats and dogs, easing their way back into consciousness with a helpful injection and a soothing voice and a gentle hand and a warm blankie (and a bucket of hot soapy water to clean up after the poopers and pukers, of course).
After the x-ray, I was invited back to be with the Fluffy Dog before they administered the antagonist to start waking him up. First, the vet took me into the x-ray room to look at the photos. Mr. Fluff’s left hip is indeed not as beautiful as his right hip. The ball isn’t sitting as nicely in the socket. His knees both look good, so at least we know the problem is definitely in the hip. I didn’t ask all the follow-up questions that are now bouncing around my head, but I’ll have a chance to do that another day. I just wanted to get back to my dog before he started waking up and realised his Mama wasn’t by his side.
When he was awake enough that they could stop monitoring his breathing and heart, they carried him into a clean kennel filled with soft blankets and I sat with him for a bit. The tech came a few times to listen to his heart, and after about twenty minutes, he was getting kind of agitated. I could tell he had to pee, so the tech let us go outside. After the Fluffy Dog relieved himself against a fence, I took him to the car. I fully expected to have to lift him in, but by the time I had opened the hatch, he was already halfway in, so all I did was boost his butt in case his jump had been weak.
He’s happy to be home, but as you can see in the picture, he’s still pretty dopey. He was hauling himself to his feet to follow me whenever I went to another room, so I finally just sat down with a bowl of popcorn and some Netflix to give him a chance to sleep this off. I’m going to give him a little bit of food now and see if he can keep it down. My good little dopey boy. He’s such a honeybun.
*Edited at 2030h on Oct 27 to fix some typos.*