100: Tropical Punch

100: Tropical Punch

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Tropical Punch

No animal ever invented anything so bad as drunkenness—or so good as drink.

~Lord Chesterton

A Westie’s job description includes going to ground, which is code for chasing and capturing small animals. Being true to his breed, life with Mac meant time outdoors. Time outdoors meant pursuing butterflies, lizards and tree frogs. His “game” habitat was enclosed by stucco walls and was lush with South Florida tropical vegetation. There was even a koi pond available as an alfresco thirst-quencher until Mac fell in one too many times. Afterward, he steered clear of that watering hole. With screening secured across the wrought iron gate’s bottom to prevent escapes into the greenway, my white hunter roamed the wilds before charging the kitchen door for air conditioning.

Early one spring afternoon, a day like any other day, my little terrier explored his dominion and terrorized the occupants. Afterwards, he napped, walked, played and ate—nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until four the next morning.

Roused by the sound of hacking and heaving, I bolted out of bed, grabbed the source and made it to the bathroom in the nick of time. After cleaning dog and floor, Mac continued until the dry heaves ceased. Cradling him, I pondered whether dogs got the flu, my memory vague on the meaning of wet versus dry noses.

After showering and dressing, we were off to the vet’s two miles away. I recounted the last hours as we were ushered into a room. At fifteen months, Mac had already visited several times, a few to complete his puppy shots, an overnight stay for neutering, then twice more for routine vaccines. It was a place familiar enough to elicit apprehension. My alpha dog wannabe was diagnosed early with an incurable case of white coat syndrome. Whenever a vet or technician came into view, Mac would, well, pee. Though the technical term used started with submissive, one never uses submissive and Westie in the same sentence. His notoriety was great for one so young, and the receptionist automatically provided a towel to protect the metal examination table.

After pleasantries, embarrassment and Mac’s tale of woe, the doctor examined my laddie. Chatting about minor issues potentially causing his angst, he poked here, checked there, then began to run his hands over his belly. Mid-sentence, he paused.

“Ah, I feel a lump in Mac’s abdomen,” he said lightly.

I blinked back tears at the mention of that four-letter word. Suddenly, I was back in time, listening to another tell me about my seven-year-old Cairn.

“You mean cancer?” I choked.

“Oh my, no, don’t think so. However, I need to take an X-ray to see what we’re dealing with.”

He suggested I leave Mac and head off to work. It would take time to set up everything. The vet would call once he knew the prognosis. Clutching Mac, wanting to stay, but knowing I had to go, I bowed to his wisdom.

That day I jumped with each ring of my phone, disappointed until I heard the vet’s voice. The X-ray confirmed a blockage. It required surgery. While I was congratulated for bringing him in early, he could have been dehydrated and complicated the situation. I felt guilty for not remaining at his side. The vet’s staff was prepping Mac for surgery. He’d call when it was over. I hung up, happy Mac was being cared for but upset it meant going under the knife.

The morning dragged on. Around noon, the second call came. The surgery was a success. Mac was fine and sleeping off the anesthesia. Maybe my nerves were still on edge or I was too elated all went well, but the doctor made the strangest comment. I asked him to please repeat.

“I said we removed two palm seeds from his intestinal track.”

“Palm seeds?” I still thought I’d misheard.

“Yep,” he laughed.

I told him there were several Christmas palms in the back yard. Yes, they occasionally dropped one-inch crimson seeds. No, I’d never seen Mac put any in his mouth. Apparently, I wasn’t as observant as I should’ve been. Putting a screen on the gate was the least of my worries. Here I thought he was chasing the lizards and tree frogs. Instead, my puppy was sucking the jelly from the palm seeds. Ah, another Westie job, a perpetual fixation with food. Seems my laddie had accidently swallowed two seeds during his gorging.

From what the vet relayed, the jelly has a similar effect to consuming a wee bit of alcohol. My puppy had been hitting the sauce in the back yard. No wonder he had fallen into the koi pond so many times. It all began to make sense.

Unconcerned he’d become a palm seed junkie, my only thought that day was leaving to see Mac. While he was groggy and barely noticed I was there, I was grateful he was getting better. I called every morning and stopped by every evening; even my mom dropped by midday. A week later, the call came for his release.

After our reunion and his bill settlement, the receptionist asked that I wait. The doctor wanted to speak with me. A few minutes later, he walked out of an examination room, a big grin on his face and a small object in his hand. Then held out a glass container.

“Here they are, Debbie.”

I was shocked at their size. They looked like two almonds.

“You might want to gold plate these guys. You know, make them into a set of dangle earrings. You’ve already spent enough money, might want to get some mileage out of them.” That healing man snickered.

Cuddling Mac, I laughed before donning a no-nonsense face. “We’ll be back to have his stiches removed but not again until his regular checkup. Everything’s going back to normal. All the palm trees will have their flowers cut before ever turning to seeds. There’d be no more gorging in the back yard, no more drunken Westies.” I nodded my head for emphasis.

The vet patted my shoulder and threw me a wink before turning to heal another. As if knowing this was just the beginning.

~Debbie Kalata

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