63: A Dog on a Bender

63: A Dog on a Bender

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!

A Dog on a Bender

Strength is the ability to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands — and then eat just one of those pieces.

~Judith Viorst

Quimby is our stately, black Labrador, tall, beautifully proportioned, calm, and a deep thinker. The trouble is that he is addicted to chocolate. He prefers at least seventy-six percent dark, organic, expensive chocolate, but he’ll eat any kind in a pinch.

We are Quimby’s family only because he was too cautious to continue in the Guide Dog Program. His trainer called it “fear response,” and she was right, but we like to think of him as too wise to put himself in harm’s way. Still, he couldn’t be a guide dog if he was going to hide under a table every time he saw his reflection in a skylight at night.

At first Quimby would just steal a double chocolate chip cookie that fell to the floor, or a piece of Halloween candy forgotten on the bottom of a plastic jack-o’-lantern — nothing that would hurt a ninety-pound dog.

Once he ate most of a large Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bar, so we called our vet. She calculated the amount of chocolate versus his weight and said he’d be okay, but that we needed to be very careful. Quimby was clearly in need of a doggie intervention.

To tell the truth, I share Quimby’s addiction. As a human, however, all I have to worry about is weight gain and a caffeine rush if I eat too much chocolate. Therefore I am very careful to have small amounts of the very darkest, most satisfying chocolate I can find, and only indulge when I need it most, a surprisingly frequent event.

Before small packages of chocolate were readily available, I would take great pains at Christmas, Easter and Halloween to buy several packages of Hershey’s bite-sized candy bars in the assorted multi-packs. I pulled out all the Special Dark Miniatures and stashed them in Ziploc bags in a drawer in the kitchen.

If my family ever noticed that they never got Special Dark in their stockings or baskets, they never said anything. Smart family. They know they are better off when Mom has plenty of her Special Dark.

One Easter I’d just finished packaging my stash. It had to last me until miniatures would be available again at Halloween. I keep my Special Darks in a drawer low enough that Quimby could reach, but it’s very hard to open, so I was stunned when I came home from errands to find Quimby surrounded by shredded Ziploc bags and tiny bits of pink, yellow and silver aluminum foil wrappers.

Wrappers stuck to his nose as he shook his head and flicked his tongue in and out, trying to dislodge more wrappers from his teeth, all the while offering that “who me?” look Labs are known for. I laughed, then panicked, as I realized how much chocolate he had actually eaten.

My six-month stash was not a trivial amount of chocolate.

It was after-hours for our regular vet. How long did I have to get it out of him? How would I manage that? Would that save him? I called the ASPCA’s animal poison control line. I waded through the recorded voices until I reach a real person who told me I needed to force-feed him hydrogen peroxide to make him vomit right away.

Ten minutes later, I found a bottle of peroxide in the back of a cabinet in the bathroom. Was time running out? I took him outside and squirted a dose down the back of his throat with a turkey baster.

Nothing came up, and he tried desperately to escape. He was a big dog determined to be wherever I, and the turkey baster, were not. Still no action.

I called back the ASPCA to see if I could give him another dose. More time was lost with more recordings, and then the live person wasn’t sure what to do. Supervisors were consulted and finally I was told I could give him more peroxide.

But Quimby was onto me now, so I had to wrestle a ninety-pound Labrador while holding a turkey baster full of peroxide, which was flailing around my head. (The bright side was that the “highlights” in my hair had never been so inexpensive, or so orange.)

Having no success with the second dose, my husband and I opted for the emergency vet clinic on the other side of town. I wished ambulances would carry doggies as we careened down our mountain road, bumped onto Highway 99W and hoped for more green than red lights on our way past town.

A vet tech took Quimby to a back room immediately upon hearing our story. We tried to laugh at the comedy of the situation instead of thinking about the possible dire consequences. We picked up, then put down, one slobber-coated, torn-up magazine after another, unable to concentrate on any of them.

Another vet tech came out to say they were having trouble getting him to vomit and wanted more clarification on the timing of his chocolate bender. We weren’t exactly sure how long before we got home he actually got to my stash. After a few minutes, yet another tech rushed from the back room and ran out to the parking lot. Before we could get out the door and catch her to see what was wrong, she returned with a camera in her hand, smiling.

“Oh, he finally vomited. He should be okay. I’m a student at the vet school, so I just want to get a picture.” She stopped to shake her head and laugh a little. “None of us has ever seen that much chocolate come out of one dog. Some of the pieces were still whole and in their wrappers!” She hurried off, still chuckling.

Quimby survived his chocolate bender and became famous in the process. A picture of him standing next to his astonishing pile of chocolate is still on a wall at Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Quimby, however, is still a chocoholic.

~Sallie Wagner Brown

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