Last Thursday, I took the dogs for a quick walk down by the river when I got home. Lilo was off-leash as is usual for this area and always within visual.
Then I left for an appointment.
When I got back two hours later, I let the dogs out. Everything seemed fine until we went back inside. Lilo flinched when I put my hand near her face. That was weird.
She slipped on the kitchen floor and then in the living room. That was weird, too.
I took her back outside and she seemed happy but her gait was wonky. A little discoordinated and then outright bunny-hopping behind. That was weirder still.
And then, as she sat next to me on the couch while I tried to make sense of this all — maybe 10min max had passed, maybe not even that — she fell over.
I placed one call to the nearest emergency veterinary hospital, fielded one from R., and began the longest 25 minute drive of my life. Lilo had perked up on the way to the car, but seemed increasingly neurologic as we drove — knuckling over front paws, very unstable — and then began to get sleepier and sleepier. She ended up sprawling across the two front seats with her giant head in my lap. She rolled her eyes up at me when I said her name, but that was it. I’m a practical person, you guys. I’m good under pressure; I’m a problem-solver. Except when it comes to my dogs and their health. When it comes to my dogs and their health, I am unreasonable; it all goes straight to my heart; I spent those 25min just insisting over and over to Lilo that she be okay.
My only consolation was the distant memory of a post on the Happy Trail Dogs Facebook group by someone whose dog had presented with very similar symptoms after picking up somebody’s marijuana on the beach — and had been just fine.
I thought I was just telling myself stories, but you know what? When we got to the vet hospital, when they took Lilo’s vitals and we talked about her day, that was our vet’s best guess, too: marijuana toxicity or some similar substance, but I’m guessing it’s likelier that somebody left pot down by the river than muscle relaxants, you know?
Lilo was pretty much classic and it was, honestly, a relief: my first thought had been poisoning, based on symptoms and speed of onset, but she hadn’t gotten into anything that I knew of and the in-house options (cleaning products, ibuprofen and allergy meds, Woodchuck cider) would have presented differently. And to be fair, I don’t know where she got whatever she got — but she hadn’t gone anywhere else that day and while she was never, like, gone in the woods for twenty minutes, it’s certainly possible that she snarfed something out of the leaf litter without me seeing it.
We ran bloodwork to check organ function and such and she was admitted for observation and supportive care.
I went back before work on Friday morning to visit and oh, you guys, it was rough. She was much steadier, so that was good! She knew where her feet were, which sure beat the previous night’s pancaking on the floor or else bracing up against the walls. But she was still so, so out of it and tired. She didn’t even protest when I handed her back over to the techs.
Happily — so, so happily — the news was better when I called back in the afternoon. She was doing great and could come home that night! They didn’t want to release her until mid-evening, I scooted home after work to let Titus out and then shot back down to the hospital.
This time she was back to herself, bouncing and trying to get up on the benches to sit like people and wagging so much that she knocked over somebody’s cup of water (sorry, that somebody!). I’d expected her to sleep hard once she got home and she did snore pretty good in the car, but she was much more interested in supervising dinner and making sure everything was where she left it.
So all’s well that ends well, I guess, but man. It already almost doesn’t feel real. I’ve handled sick animals before, but there’s a special kind of terrifying to watching your pup go downhill that quickly while having no idea why. I am so glad that she’s okay and so grateful to the folks who supported me during those scary hours waiting for her to bounce back — and of course to those at the hospital who supported her so that she could!
(And I’m also glad that she has insurance. I would have made the same care-related decisions regardless, but having to worry about how to make the financials work would have been a very unwelcome stressor on top of all the rest.)
We took it easy on Saturday: climbed in the car and drove up through Vermont. The dogs walked at Quechee Gorge, around Middlebury, and along Lake Champlain in Burlington and the humans ate delicious foods and visited the Woodchuck Cidery. Hiking happened on Sunday after all — I’ll write that up for next week — but something a little lower-key was, in the meantime, just the ticket.