Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ever hear of a SHARKHOUND?

It is documented fact that certain types of sharks will eat almost ANYTHING they can find. This includes inanimate objects such as license plates, bottles, rubber get the picture.

Well....apparently our dog Sydney has some shark DNA slathered in there with the canine stuff (she IS a 'mixed' breed after all). Let me explain. But first, let me warn you that it's just about 2am Sunday morning as I type, so this could be interesting...Matt's.middle of the night rambling. OK...without further adieu, on to the story.

It all started happily yesterday (Saturday) morning. Our plan was for a 'Baby Beach Day' (BBD). The weather forecast was good (for us anyway.... mid 70's with about a 20mph wind, which is about normal wind for this time of year). I awoke early (6am) and as usual, Syd got up with me. I turned on the coffee and flipped on the telly. A quick guide search found that "The Princess Bride II" had just started. Cool...I had never see it. I liked the first one so was hopeful this one would also be good. Syd had settled in at my side on the couch as the Nectar of life burbled it's way to the pot. 10 minutes later I was holding onto a hot mug of steaming goodness with a weekend smile on my face, Sydney's tail turning like a propeller at her usual joy of simply being alive. I swear if we could harness the power of that tail we could make electricity, or butter maybe.

Jeannie got up around 7:30 and together we put the hurt on that first pot of coffee (she drinks hers in self-designated "supertankers"....basically the largest coffee mugs money can buy. I called the first one she got "the Exxon Valdez" many years back). She now owns an entire fleet of supertankers, but I digress. The morning was clear and slightly windy already, and as I polled all stations it was clear that BBD was still a go for launch.

 I folded the rear seats in the wagon and put an old blanket over the carpet (not entirely sure why I go thru with this motion, as dog hair has the amazing ability to find it's way all over the car no matter what I do to try and foil it's evil world-domination plans). A quick breakfast, a travel mug of hot liquid life and we are on our way to the base. The destination beach is what I call "Brown Beach", as it is at the bottom of Brown Road that climbs up over a ridge from the Brown ranch onto the base. It's an ancient piece of pavement that I used to ride my mt bike on years back, but the Air Force has since gated the top of the road with signs that designate it as "foot traffic only". I guess bikes are way to easy and fast for people to travel the miles up/over Brown road and can sneak onto the base thru an unoccupied (as in unguarded) gate. I've never seen an official name for this beach, so Brown Beach is as good as any. It sits at the farthest reaches of Vandenberg North Base roads. (By the way: don't forget that you can click on any of the pictures and get a higher resolution view, then just click your 'back' arrow on your browser to get back to the post).

The view over my shoulder as we drive
 As we turned off the road onto the dirt there was a decent sized rattlesnake lying straight as an arrow right in the road, soaking up the sun. Jeannie was aghast as she had never seen one up close. He wasn't interested in us in the slightest as we passed a mere two or three feet from his tail in my chugging diesel wagon. After a few hundred yards of bumpy holes that they call a dirt road, we were at our destination. No other cars, we had the beach to ourselves. BONUS!

Open the trunk and the babies piled out, quickly searching the immediate area for anything fun. Three poops later and we were on the trail down to the sand. What is it about dogs pooping in strange new places? Is it exciting for them? Is it some strange genetic need to deploy their poo in every new place possible? Whatever the cause, they certainly seem to enjoy dropping loads in foreign lands. I only had to clean up one (as Sweet Pea dropped her's right in the trail. The other two thankfully dumped in no-mans land, blending in quite nicely with the weeds and coyote dooty). I swear that if aliens ever do land on this planet after watching us for any length of time, they will go directly to the dogs assuming they are the leaders of the planet. After all, we cater to their every need.....feed them, bathe them, coddle them, and the moment one pooh's, we immediately scoop it up into little baggies for disposal. Obviously they are the supreme rulers of the planet.

Our private beach
 And so we assault the beach. Immediately my troops secure the beachhead, and we are safe to continue the mission. And also immediately I am left far behind in the excitement of the moment. "Wait for me, as I am your leader!" I cried, to no avail. Ahhh, the life of the daddy, always playing catchup. We forage, roam and ramble our way to the far end of our little slice of California heaven. There is much to sniff for the babies here in this rarely trodden part of their world...their paw tracks in the sand make it appear they have been drinking heavily...they weave this way and that way, never in a straight line for more than a few feet. They are drunk with happiness I believe, and it's our joy to be able to give this gift of total freedom to them.

Look what WE found! It was just SITTING here!
We've been to this beach before and this gigantic rock sits like a sentinel smack dab in the middle of this long beautiful beach. As always it's a focal point for the dogs, and for us humans, it's a nice little shelter from the ever-present winds. However today it had another purpose.

Picture perfect! A rock in a hard place. The rock of life!
After our kodak moment we continue to the end of the beach. After that there's nothing to do but turn around and go back the way we came. I firmly believe that to the dogs, traveling over the same path in a different direction is actually equivalent to traveling it the very first time. Our canine companions are SO very easy to please!

The cavalry again charges ahead after we reverse course.
The day of discovery continues as we meander with the wind now at our backs. Who doesn't LOVE a tailwind? As we walk it's amazing to think that right here in California, every single print in the sand is OURS. We are rich beyond comprehension. The day is another gift to behold. And the babies are as happy as they can be.

Is this a happy face or WHAT!
 We stop by the rock one more time, this time getting in a family portrait. Of course, getting everybody to SIT still for 30 seconds as I TRY to get one decent shot is akin to herding cats (or so I've heard, as I've never actually tried to herd cats). But in the era of digital cameras, you take LOTS of shots hoping for a keeper.

As good as it gets.
Seagulls were passing overhead in flocks, and then this lone Pelican flew overhead and I was quick enough to get this shot:

The stroll on the beach was nearing it's end. Here's a quick final gathering of some very parched pooches:

That's about as happy as our 3 girls can be I think. And so our beach day is at an end, and we ascend the trail back to the car. However the happiness isn't over. Because we have a plan. And that plan involves hamburgers. Who doesn't LOVE hamburgers? I think the person who invented the hamburger should have his likeness carved on Mt. Rushmore along with the Presidents. Not long after the drive back has begun I hear the terrible sound of  Doggie vomit. Yes, Sydney has thrown up all her breakfast treats and about a half-gallon of water. I had placed an old blanket in the back of my wagon for them, yet Syd has amazingly managed to NOT hit any of the easily washable blanket. Oh no....that would be too easy. No, she has managed to yak out her stomach contents (or so we thought, we'll get to this soon, I promise) onto my cars carpet. Lovely. I quickly pull over and literally grab as much of the vile pile of 'stuff' as possible and fling it into the bushes. Not much else I can do here, so I cover it with an old towel and we continue our trip to burger happiness.

Our destination: the Burger King on base. It's PACKED inside as it's lunch time and even on a Saturday here on base there are many people out and about, all needing food. This is the place. It is the King of burgers after all. Jeannie gets her baked chicken whatchamacallit (BLASPHEMY!) as I of course order the Whopper combo. And the babies all get Jr. Whoppers. No cheese, no pickles, nothing. Just a burger and a bun, just they way they like it! We order all this at the drivethru, and Sydney is beside herself. You see, Burger King has that flame broiler thing going on, and I swear they pump that aromatic charring meat smell all over the planet, enticing you into their doors. I think if Syd could get out the car window she would actually jump inside the drive thru window just to get closer to that smell.  

After seemingly a 9 hour wait the order is delivered and we drive to a secluded spot where I let the babies out of the car. Jeannie hands out the items and I put the squirming chowhounds in a SIT. It works (the sit) long enough for me to tear each Junior whopper into tiny pieces in a pile on it's paper wrapper. When I have three piles of tasty treat ready I put one in front of each and they DEVOUR them in moments. The wind then blows away the now empty wrappers and I run frantically about trying to gather them all as Jeannie laughs at my lack of forethought. I manage to catch them all then we all get back into the car. Jeannie has already eaten her sandwich and I quickly devour mine. We then continue our way home, the BBD mission was a complete success.

Not long after we get home, it appears Syd has again thrown up. Hmmm. Not entirely unusual, but still disconcerting. She eats so fast that many times she will throw up and then quiclkly gobble it down again. And funny how that works, but the old saying "second times the charm"? Well, it works for her somehow. Except today. Not long after this cookie-tossing she drinks another gallon or so of water and again throws that up. She drinks some water and sits on the couch with me, so we watch her. Barely an hour later this water also comes back out. Uh-oh. THAT'S NOT GOOD! We've been thru this before a few years back. Of course, by this time it's after hours (and on a weekend) so Jeannie calls the Emergency Vet and explains the situation. They recommend we get her in ASAP of course. So I put a new blanket in the car and pack Syd up and off we go (Jeannie stays home as she almost had dinner ready, dang it!)

I explain everything to the vet, along with her history of eating stuff she shouldn't, and she takes her away for testing. Blood, urine, and X rays. It's not too much more than an hour later when the Dr. is showing me the X-ray results (the blood and urine were all negative for any type of poisoning or kidney issues thankfully). Yes, we have obstruction. Again. A few years back we were eating dinner one fine night, and Jeannie was heading back to the kitchen with her dish. Her eaten half corn-cobb slips off her plate and Syd SWOOPS from nowhere, snatches it up and runs. We give chase but when we catch her, the cobb is gone. Swallowed. Whole. (Syd doesn't chew much it seems....must relate back to when she was a puppy, fighting for food or something. She STILL eats like there's no tomorrow). Anyway, we watched her for days after the cobb-gobble but nothing. Figure the stomach of a dog was able to somehow digest that cobb. We were mostly right. Turns out that the full size cobb just floats around the stomach, slowly digesting. And FOUR MONTHS LATER, all that was left was that little plug in the middle, you know...the part you stick little corn cobb holders into? When it FINALLY had digested down to just the  right size, it began it's journey out of the stomach. And IMMEDIATELY showed that it was a perfect-size intestinal plug. Total blockage. Emergency. And that's apparently what we had once again. The X-rays showed all the signs of an obstruction. We're talking emergency surgery....again. Tonight. Can you say Ka-CHING! I can hear the cash register singing in my mind, but what are we to do? I whip out the VISA card is what. BAM! Yes Dr, whatever she needs Doc. Do it.

 I leave the ER around 8:30pm headed for home. My dinner is waiting, and Jeannie is frantic of course. Our baby is going under the knife yet again. Way back in another lifetime I was teaching a mainframe computer repair school in the Navy back in Virginia. One of my students had come back from England with two English Bulldogs. One fine day in class he was telling me that they lost the male over the weekend. Lost as in died. He ate a rock. Actually just picked up and gobbled down a rock. Only they didn't know about it until it was obvious there was something seriously wrong. He'd drink water and throw it right back up. Got him to the Vet, X-rays, emergency surgery for the blockage....but he died on the table. It was too late...they had waited too long to get him in. If he hadn't told me that story so many years ago I'd have had no idea that this was such a big deal (intestinal blockage). And now his story has now saved Sydney TWICE (thanks Con, wherever you are!)

Jeannie calls the Dr. around 9:30pm and they have her on IV's hydrating her prior to surgery. She is quite dehydrated so it will be a few hours, they estimate going into surgery around 11. Nothing we can do here but wait. I eat my dinner in silence and we go to bed, knowing we've done all we can. The other two babies know something is wrong...and there is no doubt when Syd is not around. She is SO full of life. Much like daddy, she doesn't sit still much. She's always on the move, squirming, licking something, and making noise (much like daddy). She is the happiest dog I've ever seen. Loves EVERYBODY! I swear she would get into any car door that opened. Especially if you had food. She will go up to EVERY SINGLE person we meet on the street, tail spinning, almost propelling her forward. There is no doubt by the stranger that she is not a threat. Her whole body undulates with her happiness. And once again we wait and pray that our little girl will be ok.

It's about 1:45am when the phone rings. I quickly nab it and stab buttons in the dark until I hit the right one. It's the Dr. of course. Instantly I recognize the good sounds of her voice. Syd is ok. She is awake and recovering nicely (tail still moving, even under heavy sedation). She says it's a good thing they went in when they did. Total blockage. Multiple targets too. There was a bottle-cap of some sort blocking the stomach exit, part of a tennis ball floating around IN the stomach, and some kind of large rubber band that had stretched down thru the small intestine and was causing some strange constrictions. But she's all better now...clean as a whistle! They won't try to feed her until tomorrow evening, so she can't come home until after they see how that goes. So at best it will be tomorrow night, and maybe Monday morning when she can come home. But for now we can relax as she's in good hands.

And so...another four grand has just been flung from our savings account. Funny how that works. But in the big scheme, it's money well spent. Our white shark lives to fight another day. Here she is in fighting form at the beach, in case you never saw what a REAL Land Shark looks like:

I don't know what this would have cost for a person but I assume something on the order of ten times more. Gosh, we should be able to add her as a dependent on our taxes, don't you think? Oh matter how you look at it, it's just amazing. I'm SO thankful we live in a place where we can get this kind of care for our babies. THANK YOU DR. BROWN! You have been added to the list of Dr's that have saved her life. You are number three. And counting.

And now it's time for bed....maybe I can sleep now. Or maybe I will tune into the Amstel Gold bike race online for just a's already happening (it's now about 4:30am). I don't think I will be getting that mt bike ride in tomorrow (today), nor will I see the ending of the bike race. Life goes on. Happy Sunday all. And welcome to the NEW Asylum!

Patient UPDATE (Sunday 3pm)
We went in this morning to visit Syd. They brought her out to us so we could take her for a short walk and spend some time with her. She was pretty whacked out on pain killers, and she could barely hold her head up. But her tail was still going, she is such a trooper! 

Syd n Jeannie on her walk, taking a little break.
 After our walk they brought her some food which we gave her, and she at it with gusto (a GOOD sign!) So now we wait. We will call back this evening and see the prognosis...but the Dr. warned us not to get our hopes too high on bringing her home tonight, she said tomorrow morning is more likely. She has a nice new 8" or so slice in her belly, and was walking very gingerly...obviously quite sore despite the pain killers (and she is still on IV's to hydrate her...she still had IV's in both front legs). I asked if we could get the sutures removed and a zipper put in. Apparently they DON'T have surgical zippers. What's up with that? Someone should invent one....they'd be a zillionaire! Just think how easy this surgery would be if they just unzipped her belly and got the stuff out! 

Now THAT'S a groggy-doggy!She was whipped after our short walk.

Oh...and speaking of  stuff, we got the baggie of 'stuff' they removed. It honestly wasn't as bad as I expected (nowhere near as freaky as the last time). When the Dr. told me a 'bottle cap', she actually meant the TOP of a clear plastic in the threaded part and  maybe 1/4" down from the she either ripped the top off a bottle or found it somewhere. And then the rubber band. And another strange shaped piece of plastic of some sort. The rubber band had wrapped around the bottle top and the other end was tangled in the plastic piece. So the plastic piece was small enough to get past the stomach, but the bottle-top wasn't. So there was this spring-valve action going on, with a tangled mass of grass and stuff wrapped all around the rubber band and plastic piece, effectively making a spring loaded plug that must have been going partly down the intestine and then eventually springing back up. We have no idea how long this stuff has been in there either. I just can't fathom what she's thinking when she sees something like that and eats it. It's not like it's wrapped in bacon or anything. 

But, she is alive and hopefully coming home soon. So we are as happy as we can be about the situation. Another crisis, another day.

UPDATE TWO (Sunday 9pm)
Jeannie had called the vet this afternoon and pretty much had them onboard with our plan of taking her home TONIGHT unless there was a real good reason not to. They really didn't have one, so we got there sometime after 6pm and sprung her from the ER! And as a bonus, the overall tally wasn't 4 grand as we were expecting (I was thinking OVER). Yesterday when they mapped out their strategy they gave me a sheet to sign with 'low' and 'high' end figures. The low end was if they do a barium treatment and she somehow passes whatever the blockage was without surgery. The high end was with the surgery. Well, we got the surgery plus a few extra options. So as I handed her my credit card she told us the total and we were quite pleased...giddy even! I was ready to dance a little jig (if only I knew how I mean). The total came in at ONLY $2750, and sure, that's a lot of dough, but it's a LOT less than the 4 grand I was expecting! And so we got our little shark back home where she belongs and it didn't totally break the bank (but it's got some serious cracks in in it for sure). I guess there's always a silver lining if you look hard enough. Now we commence with the recovery. But it's great to have the family together again. All is once again right with the world. Game ON!


  1. I think Sharkhound needs one of those cones permanently attached to her head.

  2. I'm pretty sure she would eat it. THEN where would we be?

  3. Glad your little girl is home and on the mend.

  4. Glad all has ended well, Matt.

    Love the new site, too!==Rae

  5. Oh Sydney!!! What are you gonna do with that gal? She is going to have to get herself a job to pay for her life-saving surgeries. Maybe you could work up that idea of generating energy with that tail :)

    I've experienced that credit card moment myself with one of my horses. The thing with horses is that they can make themselves dangerously sick simply by eating too much of the *correct* food. Too much rich grass (she IS a huge piggy) and she was off to spend a week at the large animal hospital in Madison. Glad your bill wasn't as much as expected this time. That is always a "moment of truth" when the total is revealed.

    Love the new site and the great pics. What a super place for pups to play!

    So happy she is going to be OK :)