For those of you who have met Gryffin, you know how much I love him. And how love-able he really is. I can say with all honesty that he is the best dog on the planet. He is also a beast. I forget how big he is until I see him next to other dogs. Then it makes me laugh, to see his 120 pound furry Bernese Mountain Dog self next to a “regular” dog, like a lab or a golden, and those dogs look TINY.
Gryffin is friendly, loving, loyal and gorgeous. He also sheds, a lot. I have tumbleweeds of dog fur floating through my house and can find dog hair on my furniture or clothing at any moment, and he’s not even allowed on the furniture. He’s just so tall that he brushes by chairs and couches and his fur clings to it like Velcro. He’s not allowed in any beds either. At least while Brian is home anyway. If the hubby’s traveling, up into the bed comes my furry boyfriend, and like I am having an affair, Brian will find the evidence of dog fur on his pillow and blankets when he returns. Gryff has been caught in the act a few times. Usually if Brian gets up really early to go work out Gryffin will climb up next to me and we snuggle. We don’t like getting up early. We sleep in. Last week Gryffin jumped up in the middle of the night in between us and I thought it was hilarious. Brian did not.
Gryffin also drools. And I don’t mean oh a little wet pillow kind of drool. I mean the kind of drool that is long and sticky and looks like a white shoelace hanging from either side of his giant mouth. And then he shakes his head and drool goes everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It’s clear looking when it’s hanging off of his chin, but when it attaches to the walls it leaves a tannish brownish hue of nasty in a long stripe. And that drool disgustingness does not come off after it dries. It hardens into a permanent glue-like structure that we should probably bottle and make money on. I bet that stuff could hold jet planes together. Once Gryffin shook his head so violently that the drool landed on the ceiling, complete with dog fur dried into it, so that there was a stalactite of dog drool hanging down. That one I left to Brian. We will need to repaint our entire house at least yearly because of our drooly dog. When my kids were little babies I used to change my clothes before I went out so I didn’t have spit-up on me. Now I go out even with dog drool dried on my shirt sleeves. If I have a fancy event or an important meeting I need to sneak out in my clean clothes so Gryffin doesn’t see me. Because otherwise I will obviously need to pet him and get drooled on. There’s not another option. I can’t walk by him and not pet and snuggle. That’s just the deal in our house.
The other deal with having Gryffin as our dog is that he loves me more than anyone. And I don’t mean he loves me more than he loves other people in the house, although that is also true because I am his alpha. I mean that he loves me more than the other humans love me. He is never mad at me, he never tells me that he is annoyed with me, he never talks back, and all he wants to do on the entire planet is please me. And occasionally bark at delivery men. No one else in the house feels like that. They are usually plenty of annoyed with me, and the last two weeks have been proof of that.
These last two weeks have not been easy for anyone in our house, including the dog, kids and hubby. You know that expression, If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy? Well that is kind of how it has been around here. Except it’s not a happiness thing, it’s a healthy and organized thing. If you read Plumbing and Furry Things and Skiing Accidents Oh My then you know about my little knee kerfuffle and the current crutches. Crutches and snow and dog walks don’t work. They just don’t. So in addition to my physical therapy bills, we also are hiring a dog walker every day so Gryffin can continue to get out and get some exercise. Because otherwise he’ll just sit near me and whine and use his slobbery face to nudge me and my arm until I pay attention to him. And I really can’t blame him. I get cabin fever too. And I don’t even have a genetic need to go out and pee on things.
So the dog is getting reassigned, the kids are being asked to do more around the house (like pick up their own crap, like for real now), and the hubby is constantly surprised by how many times the dishwasher needs to be loaded, and unloaded, and reloaded, and this is with the paper plates that I bought for this little crises time period of six weeks while I am semi-useless. So when the dog started shaking his head again, I sighed and knew that he probably was working on an ear infection. He gets those a lot, being a floppy eared giant dog with giant ear canals. Knowing that we had medicine somewhere – I decided I’d find it and take care of it on the weekend when Brian was home and could help me so that I wasn’t trying to balance on a crutch and administer dog ear meds at the same time. Silly self-absorbed me.
Deciding to wait didn’t work well. Off we go on Friday for a little getaway weekend for President’s Day, and we pack the kids and the dog and head out. We’ve almost arrived, when we stop to pick up firewood. Brian runs inside, and the dog starts to barf. Not a little barf and done, like a lot of retching barfing and freaking out and turning around in circles. Alex starts to complain, since the dog is right behind him in the car, and why can’t the dog go behind Katie and this always happens to him. So I feel badly for the dog and the boy, and I hobble out of the car and leave the crutches behind, which in the icy snowy parking lot of the gas station in the middle of no-where-ville is not my best move, literally. I open the back hatch and pet Gryff and he’s really freaking out and making horrible noises and I’m worried in a big way because he’s not happy when I pet him. In his entire three years of life he has always calmed down when I’ve been near him. I’m his alpha. Out the window goes my self-preservation and I unhook his safety harness (because did you know in New Jersey the police could ticket and fine you if you drive with your pet if he is not “contained or restrained”? And guess what – the ticket is a higher cost than if you ride with your kid without a car seat. Gotta love Trenton lawmakers). I open the tailgate and I hold onto Gryffin’s leash and out we go into the dark deserted icy parking lot. And I am trying to balance not only my busted knee but also my emotional being as I try to soothe and comfort my giant hacking dog and also not freak out in front of the kids. Gryffin is running in circles, eating snow, and crying. Not whimpering. Crying. And retching. And nothing coming up. And he doesn’t pee. Now, for a dog who has been in the car for three hours, there should be pee. Especially for my dog, whose favorite activity in the world (besides counter surfing) is peeing everywhere another dog has ever been.
Brian comes back with sixteen thousand bags of firewood and starts packing the car wherever there is room and wherever there is not room and he asks me if Gryff is OK. I shake my head no and don’t speak and he gets concerned. If the wife isn’t talking and she’s hobbling in the snow with the dog something is up. Convinced it was just car sickness, Brian gets Gryff back in the car. I ride the rest of the way with my feet elevated on a pack of firewood and carrying two dozen eggs in my lap. We arrive at long weekend destination where Gryff starts to run around in circles and eat more snow. He just must be starving, or thirsty. We head inside. I give him a huge bowl of fresh cold water and he stares at me. Oh dear god he’s not drinking, he is retching and nothing is being produced and he is a large breed dog he must be dying of bloat. Now, if you’ve never heard of bloat, you think I am perhaps overreacting. However, if you know what bloat is, then you know that the fatality rate for bloat is approximately 50%. FIFTY PERCENT of the dogs with bloat DIE. And I, being a disaster preparedness freak, know this. A giant dog that I love and adore? I know exactly what can kill him. In order to be sure, I google it on my phone again, read the symptoms, (you can learn about it here on the ASPCA site or here on the pets web md site) and am convinced we have moments to act. And here we are, three hours from home and I have no idea where the 24-hour vets may be. Again, google gives me the answer, and I inform Brian I need to bring the dog to the urgent care center in case it is bloat and not car sickness. Brian, still with his jacket on, has just unloaded the car of all its luggage and firewood, and shakes his head at me. “You’re gimpy” he says, and takes my car keys and giant dog and heads off into the night, and did I mention this was Valentine’s Night? Former thoughts of chocolate covered strawberries and champagne have been replaced with prayers against doggy surgery.
Brian and Gryff are driving away, I put the kids to bed, and then I thank god for social media when I am in need of dog prayers. Because even though I love to use the internet to look at pictures of kids flipping people off at European football games, the people of Walmart, and mulletsgallore and things like that, this seems to me to be a much better use of connectivity and it saves my mental health hearing from friends and family via Facebook while I wait for the answers.
But somehow the answers don’t entirely make sense to me. Brian calls to tell me the vet prognosis. It’s not bloat, but Gryff has stomach issues. The x-ray shows his stomach and intestines are full of something “waiting to be expelled”. I think that means poop. But I am doubtful that he has had “just” a stomach issue because he “ate something”. This is the same dog that has eaten everything on the planet and had no issues ever. I’m not kidding. He’s able to reach the countertops like its nothing, and if we leave stuff in the kitchen, he thinks its for him. Two loaves of French bread, yum. Two entire pizzas, thanks so much. Kids breakfasts when they don’t eat them and instead are gallivanting through the house, I’ll take care of that. Grapes (which are supposedly toxic) – no problem. CORN COB – an ENTIRE corn cob, no problem. That looked RIDICULOUS the next morning, just in case you were wondering. One of the craziest you can read about here – in Things the Dog Has Done. Really – if you haven’t read that one about the bird seed it’s worth a few minutes of your time.
But the current problem at hand, what did he eat that would make him so sick? I think back and wonder if he has started eating salt from the plows kicking it off the street into our yard? Or the supposedly pet-friendly rock salt we put down on the path so people don’t fall and die? Was it just a trifecta cocktail of a double ear infection leading to nausea doubled by car sickness and air in his tummy from panting? Or something entirely different and I’m clueless and my furry friend can’t answer my questions?
I don’t know. Gryffin is seemingly better now and back to nudging me with his big slobbery snout and sitting on my feet and waiting for me to pay attention to him. Of course I still worry about him and will continue my litany of worry and will be hobbling on my crutches to bring the beast to our regular vet for a follow-up next week. But in the meantime I am grateful for vets who spend valentines day at the pet ER care center, a husband who also loves the dog enough to bring him, and who stays married to me in spite of my high anxiety of everything that can go wrong in the world. If my choices are over-reacting about car sickness or potentially ignoring a life-threatening condition that will have my dog dead in hours, I’m gonna go with that first choice. And as painful as it is to pay the absurd amount of money that costs me when all I needed was $10 ear drops, I will bite the bullet and be grateful. And I’ll take that with a grain of rock salt.
Katie, age 7, four feet tall, with Gryffin.