Tumbling dogs, Guinness Records, and Birthday Cakes. Oh My.

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Toby on the job with Jim.

How long can you hold your breath? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Stig Severensen of Denmark holds the record at 22 minutes. Held it, that is, until I came along.

Step back, Severensen, Nancy Gallimore is on the scene and your record has just been shattered. Twenty-two minutes? Piff. I just held my breath for two hours and seven minutes. That’s 127 minutes. (Mad math skills, right?)

Record shattered.

Of course I had no officials from Guinness hanging around to verify my feat. Lucky for you Stig. The crown is still technically yours.

Stig did a long dive underwater to set his breath-holding record. Well, sure, anyone can hold their breath when there’s no air available to breathe. Isn’t that cheating? I held my breath, completely surrounded by oxygen, from the moment I left my Dalmatian, Toby, at the veterinary hospital until the moment I got the call telling me he was safely out of surgery.

It may have been the exhale heard ’round the world.

Backing up a bit to a point several days prior to this post, our dear Toby took a tumble down the stairs. He’s an older guy and we prefer he wait for us to offer him a little assistance on the stairs, but he has his pride.  The problem is that somehow Toby has decided that when navigating the downward path from the second floor to the first on his own, he should just take a giant leap of faith about three quarters of the way down.

This time, he did not stick the landing.

Jim was home, heard the crash, and found Toby in a crumpled heap at the base of the evil staircase. Initially shaken, Toby recovered fairly quickly and seemed to walk it off like a true Olympian would. We watched him carefully the rest of that day and into the next.

Everything seemed fine. Until it wasn’t.

And then it really wasn’t. Two days after Toby’s “look what I can do” tumble down the stairs, he started acting very disoriented and depressed. He seemed weak and unsteady, his rear legs starting to fold on him. He seemed uncomfortable and Jim and I started running through the list of symptoms with our veterinarian, who is also a dear friend, who is also on speed dial.

Then we took his temperature and it was 104.8. Yikes. Emergency vet here we come. (Because OF COURSE all of our animal related emergencies take place after hours.)

Several vet visits, IVs, x-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests, exams, pokes, and prods from a team of veterinarians later, we came to the conclusion that we still had no conclusion. The problem could be an organ damaged by the fall, or the fall could have nothing to do with it and this could be the manifestation of something far more sinister. You know, that “C” word that we shall not speak of unless we have to.

He had symptoms that pointed to several possibilities, including blood-tinged fluid in his abdomen, but none of the images from x-rays or ultrasounds could pinpoint the origin of the problem. There was only one road to the answer and it involved a scalpel and the mad skills of our very trusted veterinarians.

Toby had to have exploratory surgery to determine what was wrong.

And it required me to hold my breath for 127 minutes.

I have found that when stress hits, I am far better off if I stay very, very, very busy during the “wait and see” period instead of sitting still somewhere waiting. At 7:36 a.m. yesterday morning, I left Toby in the capable hands of our most trusted vets knowing that Jim would arrive in time to be there for his surgery.

Me? I headed to work where I could pace, run around like a mad woman, and keep myself from sitting and flipping through the worst-case-scenario book that is always tucked away in some dark crevice of my brain.

You know, this is the one book that truly should be burned someday. But it’s in my brain.  So, no.

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Post-surgery and home for the night. Morphine is his friend.

Finally, at 9:43 a.m. (I might have been keeping track), Jim checked in to let me know that the surgery was over, the very large incision was being closed, and Toby had come through just fine.

So you might think this is the end of the tale and that we have our answer. You might think that, but you’d be wrong.

It does appear that Toby injured his liver in the fall. There was a portion of the liver that had died (HOLY COW, portions of organs can die and we keep walking around?), and that had caused the remaining liver and entire abdominal cavity to be very, very angry and infected.

Apparently you should not punch yourself in the liver.

It would be great if this story ended with “injured organ, dead part removed, infection treated, all is well, hooray.” And it may.

But there were a few things in and around the liver that looked suspicious. Those things required a biopsy. So while we all like the idea that this is just a nasty infection caused by a nasty fall, we have to be sure that the nasty fall and subsequent nasty infection aren’t actually secondary to the fact that the C-word could be hiding inside Toby too.

It’s a very crooked world around here while we await results because we are all leaning SO hard toward the just-a-nasty-infection outcome that we can hardly even walk. It feels like a failed attempt at reenacting Lionel Richie’s “Dancing on the Ceiling” music video. (Sigh. Younger crowd…You Tube. It was 1986 and showcased really cool special effects for that era. Go enjoy it…or giggle at it. We thought it was genius in the day…and I still do.)  

So now we continue to wait. This is not the first time I’ve had a wait like this. I doubt it will be the last. It’s just part of the deal when you choose to love another living creature, whether it be human or animal. Life can be fragile. Sometimes you stick the landing with a perfect 10, sometimes you don’t.

Jim and I are well accustomed and equipped to take care of Toby. We will always do our best for him, as we do for all of the wonderful animals that grace our farm and our lives. First and foremost in this tale is Toby’s well-being and we will make decisions with that always in mind. We are Toby’s advocates, his guardians, and most importantly, we are the humans who love him dearly.

Sometimes decisions are easy. Sometimes decisions require us to set “self” aside. This is what it is to love animals; to love lives more temporary than our own.

I’ve decided not to hold my breath for the 24 to 48 hours it may take to get the biopsy results back. I don’t want to intimidate poor Stig, and I still can’t get a representative from Guinness book to come verify my world record obliterating attempt.

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Yes, we do fix a real cake for each dog’s birthday. This one is lemon. (and yes, we know chocolate is a no-no)

Plus, either way, Toby is surely going to feel better soon and we have a birthday cake waiting to be consumed. Yep, in the middle of all of this trauma/doctoring stuff, Toby celebrated his 13th birthday. Well, I can’t say he celebrated. It’s hard to get too festive when your liver is trying to check out on you, and you’re hooked up to an IV, but that problem is resolved and the big, spotted guy will feel like donning a party hat in no time.

Staircases, infections, and Guinness records, be damned. Let’s eat cake!

It’s ready when you are, dear Toby. We’re saving the first bite for you.

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