Lady Jane was our black shepherd mixed-breed dog that we rescued when she was ten-months old thanks to an ad that Dean saw on Kijiji (which is like ‘Craig’s List’). He fell in love with her picture instantly and asked me could we go see her. By then, our two big Northern dogs had passed away, each in their thirteenth year and buried in our back yard with collars hanging from an overhanging limb. They had been good dogs but, sadly, their day was done.
Normally I would have jumped at getting a new dog but at that time, I was feeling pretty over-worked with the house, the yard, the business and the various students we would take in for months at a time.
I would hear other moms saying that the dog care always came down to them. That’s how I perceived it. It was me who worried about them. Me who made sure they were walked, or who got after Leo or Dean to walk them. They had been a lot of work that I felt relieved to be rid of. However, the look on Dean’s face after seeing the picture of that black tapered snout and high, pointy ears. Well, I could not disappoint. (That’s how he used to look at me, I realized). I told him I would go see the dog but, ‘no promises,’ I said.
She was gorgeous. Dean couldn’t stop patting her and saying sweet nothings in her direction. I said we needed to give it a tiny bit of thought. What I actually wanted was Dean to promise to take a more active interest in her.
So the sales pitch began by Dean: ‘I promise I’ll do it ALL for this one!’ he pleaded.
Next we went to the Farmer’s Market and met up with a friend from across town. Dean told Wayne all about the dog we had just looked at. Wayne wondered what there was to think about. I chimed in that having a dog again could be rather inconvenient. Wayne says, without skipping a beat:
‘The best things in life are inconvenient.’
We looked at him. We nodded. We turned and went to get our new dog. That was nine years ago.
Besides running off several times as an adolescent, sometimes being nasty when meeting other dogs while on leash, and an awful patch of killing chickens that nearly cost me a dear friend, she has been the best dog ever. She has never been sick. She rarely makes a mess. She doesn’t steal food. She doesn’t chew and she doesn’t over bark. Get this: she bites her nails. We have NEVER cut her nails, and they are fine. Of an evening, we will hear her surreptitiously biting them while laying on her mat.
But lately…there had been this mystery of the shit-breath that we could not figure out. And when I say shit-breath, well, that’s an understatement. I would have to roll all the windows down if it happened while out in the car and spray lavender water at her. And it would seemingly come from nowhere.
I decided to take a good look in her mouth. Perhaps it was an abscess? What I thought I saw in there, and it wasn’t easy to keep Lady’s jaws wide open, was a broken top molar-type tooth at the back.
Off to the vet we go and wow, were we impressed with this vet who was as high-energy as a boarder collie. She got right down on the floor with Lady and really checked her out well, while asking us various questions. She told us that Lady was in fabulous shape. Great teeth. Good pulse. Good eyes – no cataracts. She asked us what we fed her. Our answer: kibble and plenty of table scraps like meat, potato, cheese, carrots. Fresh water with a bit of organic apple cider vinegar (which instantly pretty much cured some piddling that was occurring after a run). She asked about vaccinations. We don’t do them, we said. We do get her seasonal tick and flea treatment though. (The thought of a dog being crazed by itchiness saddens me).
Then she asked about when the shit-breath occurs, because at that moment, it wasn’t there. We said it’s odd. It just happens seemingly out of the blue and lasts for a few hours.
‘Ahh’, she said.
‘Ahh?’ we asked.
‘Has she ever had trouble with blocked anal glands?’
‘Yes. We would sometimes see her scooting.’ And I knew from reading James Herriot in my teens, that scooting was a sign of blocked anal glands and that what would come next would be REALLY gross. And, by the way, what the hell are anal glands good for?
The vet took a look (with gloves on) and sure enough. Blocked anal glands. She explained that Lady would be licking at them to release the blockage. At this point we almost hurled, but, held it together while the Vet squeezed them for a few minutes to drain them…I’m almost sick as I write this.
Mounds of grey gunk came out on her paper towel. She showed it to me while I turned green.
‘Lady should be fine now.’
Lady? I’m pretty sure she meant we. We should be fine now.