Published in the Rains County Leader on September 25, 2018:
Besides sharing a booth with Tennille Case, another fun part of the Fair was visiting with those of you who stopped to tell me how much you enjoy reading my column each week. One gentleman specifically mentioned my Spike stories, so I thought it was time for an update. Conveniently, we’re staying with him this week, so I have news to share. Spike hasn’t been well the last several weeks, but he’s improving. In fact, he was feeling well enough to give me a hard time the first night we were here.
I can’t really explain exactly what’s wrong, because no one seems to be sure. Stella rattled off a lot of big words describing possibilities, but since she and the vet couldn’t agree on the problem, I don’t feel bad that I didn’t understand any of it. I can, however, describe the symptoms. At first he seemed to lose control of his jaw muscles. He couldn’t keep his mouth closed, he couldn’t chew his food very well, and he drooled – a lot. Somehow, the jaw muscles are connected with the muscles on top of his head, and those seemed to atrophy as well. The muscles on either side of his forehead – if a dog has a forehead – seemed to disappear almost overnight. This left the shape of his skull somewhat exposed giving him the appearance of a Conehead from an old Saturday Night Live skit. In addition, his eyes looked odd with one pupil dilated and the other little more than a black speck. All of this made him very listless, and all he did was lie around.
Stella told us last week that he seemed to be doing better. The vet had given him an injection, and he was finishing up a course of oral steroids. He was eating better, and the drooling had subsided. Still, we agreed it would be a good idea for us to arrive early to go over care instructions. As we drove up on Saturday afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to see Spike standing on the patio, watching to see who was coming for a visit. He trotted over to the car to welcome us and to get some ear scratches. His head didn’t look nearly as strange as I had imagined, and his slightly mismatched pupils gave him a bit of an exotic look. Other than that, he seemed pretty normal.
Stella walked me through the procedure for giving him his pill – wrap it in bologna and drop it in his mouth. I laughed at the story of the morning the pill slipped out, and after he devoured the treat, he chased down the escaped tablet and ate it, too.
Since chewing was sometimes hard, she told me how to get him to eat his dry food – moisten it with a little water, add a little soft food, or as a last resort, give him some canned food. I had no doubt the last one would work since one of them was made with filet mignon.
Spike seemed a little sad when Kent and Stella left, but it soon began to rain, and he settled down for a nap. He had already eaten his dinner, so aside from a short period of wakefulness to solicit more ear scratches, he slept the evening away. The rain was pouring at bedtime, and since he seemed perfectly comfortable, we let sleeping dogs lie and retired without taking him for a walk.
I’m still having trouble sleeping in bed because of my sling, so I was asleep in a recliner when a wet nose bumped my elbow and Spike began to whine. Stella had said that whining was his new way of asking to go outside, so I sighed and checked the time – 1:30 am – and weighed my options. I had been given strict orders by everyone concerned not to walk the dog for fear of doing bad things to my shoulder, but I could hear David snoring softly in the bedroom, and I hated to wake him. I could also hear the rain still falling, and my sleep-fogged brain reasoned that, if I let him out on his own, Spike would run out in the yard, do his business, and come right back. Right!
When I opened the door, he was out like a shot, barking for all he was worth. Apparently whatever is causing his problems hasn’t affected his lungs. The sound of his voice faded as he raced across the field toward the trees where all the best night critters hang out. From time to time, I’d hear him barking by the barn or the creek as he made his rounds, and from time to time, I’d step out on the patio and call him, knowing he wouldn’t come. I finally gave up around 3:00 am and fell asleep praying that he wouldn’t run into a roving band of coyotes.
When my alarm went off at 6:00 am, I shined my light out the window to see if the wandering boy had returned. He was lying on the cement, surveying his kingdom, and when the light hit him, he ran into the yard, barking at whatever was in earshot. He didn’t go far, though, and I hoped that breakfast would draw him back. I scooped up his morning allotment of dry food, figuring I’d worry about getting him to eat it if I could capture him. I poured it into his metal bowl as loudly as possible, and it had the desired effect. He sauntered onto the patio looking very pleased with himself, and allowed me to pet his head and clip the tether onto his collar. Before I had a chance to add water or whatever, he had his nose in the bowl and was chomping away.
Since then he’s been eating normally – even his crunchy dog biscuits don’t seem to be a problem. His head is still a bit lumpy and his eyes are a bit uneven, but other than that, he seems okay to me. I’m onto his nocturnal tricks, though. The rain stopped earlier today, and he was off the tether for several hours this afternoon. We also took him on a nice long walk this evening – with David holding the leash. If he wakes me up in the wee hours tonight, he’s just going to have to cross his legs until morning.