Dog Trainer, Heal Thyself. Or Should That be Heel?

ImageSaturday morning got off to a smooth start. Or as smooth a start as a multi-dog household can expect. I’m going to remain vague on the exact number of dogs lest representatives from Animal Planet Hoarders happen to be stalking the internet looking for new intervention prospects.

Let’s be clear, there are huge differences between my home and that of an animal hoarder. The primary difference—beyond the fact that our dogs, personal and foster alike, receive the best of care—is that I will happily place any of my foster dogs in wonderful new homes. The line forms to the left.

Ah, but I defensively digress. Back to Saturday morning. The dogs had all finished their breakfast. I had managed a shower, found clean clothes to wear, and was having an acceptable hair day. Things were going so well. Just as I was about to head out the door to attend a much anticipated conference for writers, I noticed Chip, one of our young foster dogs, doing a funny little dance across my kitchen floor. Break dancing? No. Trying to dislodge something disgusting that was protruding from his backside? Oh yeah.

Ok, it happens. You dog people out there—don’t you dare turn your backs on me. You know you’ve at least had to help your dog free itself of a long blade of grass or something similar. This however, was no blade of grass. I’m a tough gal, though, so I grabbed some paper towels and rushed to Chip’s rescue.

My rule of thumb is that if something protruding from that tender region of a dog’s anatomy comes forth easily, with just a little pulling assistance on my part, then all is well. Resistance is not necessarily futile, but it’s not a good thing.

So, I gave a gentle pull and voila! An impressive length of some sort of material came right out. Hooray! Now, run out the door, still on schedule. But no. Out of the corner of my eye I see Chip doing the south-of-the-border cha-cha once again. Damn it.

You guessed it. There was another length of foreign object exiting Chip’s nether region. Sigh. Dog ownership is oh-so glamorous. Another handful of paper towels, another gentle tug. Yelp! Foreign object not budging. Chip not amused. Damn it again. I yelled to my partner Jim, “Hey! Chip has something stuck in his butt,” which somehow did translate into, “One of the dogs has a potential medical condition and I need your assistance.” Oh how that man just gets me.

After Jim’s extraction luck proved to be no better than mine, we decided to call in reinforcements. It was time to admit that the “certified professional dog trainer” had not observed her young charge quite as closely as she should have. Oh how I longed for that now elusive ounce of prevention.

Fortunately, our veterinarian is also a close friend. After a rather hysterical exchange of text messages that were later chronicled on Facebook by said friend/veterinarian, I learned that there was not much sense in trying to get Chip in to see her at this delicate point. I believe the sage advice was, “If whatever it is has made it all the way through his intestines to his colon, then you just have to wait it out. Feed him some fiber.” Alrighty then.

I glanced at the clock. I glanced at Jim. I put on my best pleading face as I looked between the two once again. “Yeah,” he said, “I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Did I mention that I love that man? I was out the door in a flash and off to my conference, knowing that our little goat in Dalmatian clothing was in very good hands. Hopefully, nature, aided by a Metamucil wafer or two, would do the trick.

A bit later, as I was enjoying a wonderful panel discussion featuring some very respected and successful authors, I felt my phone shudder and quickly checked the text message. “Got it.” And then a photo. There was a pair of rubber gloves, a wad of paper towels, and a pile of blue…blue something.

“What was it?” I query, innocently.

“Your underwear.”

Oh.

Rule number one in raising a puppy is to maintain a safe environment in which you keep things put away and out of reach. My laundry basket apparently runneth over. Chip apparently consumeth. Baaaaad dog trainer. Baaaaaad.

The next morning, as I’m finally putting my laundry away where it belongs I let my mind reflect on Chip’s close brush with Victoria’s Secret. Well, that which doesn’t kill my dogs makes me a better teacher, right?  I will make a note to review the importance of puppy proofing your home with my students. Yes. I will do that. Right after I find…find…DAMN IT! Where is my bra?

CHIIIIIIIIIP!

Please note…while we are all laughing at this little episode, the reality is that it is very dangerous for dogs to ingest foreign objects. The most common problem with this is foreign body obstruction, a potentially life-threatening condition. Foreign body obstruction occurs when an object ingested by your dog is unable to make it successfully through the intestinal tract.  If you know your dog has ingested something he or she shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian immediately.  Foreign objects that become impacted in the intestinal tract may require surgery to clear the blockage.

If your dog is sneaky, like Mr. Chip, supervision is key. If you notice your dog is unable to hold food down, if you see your dog straining to poop and not succeeding, if you notice your dog is distressed in any fashion, don’t “wait and see.” Seek immediate treatment from your vet or emergency vet. If an object is small like a bit of grass, it will likely pass on its own or with a little gentle help. If it is something like fabric or string, it is best not to try to remove it yourself. In our case, The object was material and was not passing easily on the second pass. We did immediately seek advice from our veterinarian and stayed in touch with her until we felt certain that Chip was in the clear. That included watching him carefully for the next 24 hours to be sure that all systems were functioning normally. It’s ok to laugh about it when you know the outcome was good, but don’t take it lightly in the moment!