Man's best friend turns our Thanksgiving into a wild ride

Man's best friend turns our Thanksgiving into a wild ride

This year, surgery on one of our dogs turned this Thanksgiving holiday into an emotional roller coaster, a whirlwind of highs and lows - doggy style!

Man's best friend turns our Thanksgiving into a wild ride

    They say that Thanksgiving is a time to recognize the things that you have - especially your friends and family - and give thanks for all those things in your life.  And usually, that's exactly what we do this time of year.  But this year, surgery on one of our dogs turned this Thanksgiving holiday into an emotional roller coaster, a whirlwind of highs and lows - doggy style!

    We rescued a beautiful white boxer mix several months ago (pictured to the left).  We already have a rescued poodle mix so we were prepared for some of the...odd habits that rescues have thanks to their stressful past.  Her name is Penny, and she was supposed to have been spade.

    A month ago, our "spade" rescued boxer went into heat.  While rare, there is apparently always a possibility of missing some pieces of lady parts during the spay procedure.  Thus, we had a choice to make.  Penny is about 3 years old, so we either spend the rest of her life going through her less-than-pleasant heat cycles with the increased risk of internal bleeding and infections, or we put her under the knife to finish the job.

    We elected to do the latter, and the week of Thanksgiving gave us the opportunity to bring her back up to the vet that the rescue organization does business with.  It's 2 hours away from our house, but my wife's parents live in the area.

    Logistically, it worked out.

    Last Tuesday, we brought Penny into the vet and she had her spay re-done.  Our girl was completely drugged up and not feeling much that day.  Dazed and confused, we put her in a quiet room to let her rest and recover after we got her home from surgery.  She chilled the rest of the day and slept good that night.  So far, so good.

    The next day was wonderful.  She was up and walking around, sniffing around for food and acting completely normal.  She wasn't even licking her incision, which is one of the more common problems following a spay.

    Great, we're in the clear!  A day after the spay and Penny appears to be feeling great.  Sure, she might still have some meds in her from the surgery, but this is working out well.

    We must be damn good parents.  :)

    Then...about 4am rolls around on Thanksgiving day, and Penny starts to pant, shake and generally act completely scared for her life.  Her ruff was up as if she felt threatened, and everything changed that day.

    Her panting was uncontrollable.  We gave her lots of hugs and encouragement, but to no avail.  She would stay around her bed for the majority of the day and adopted a brightly-colored dragon toy and took it under her wing.  She never left that dragon all day.

    When dogs get spayed, apparently their mothering instincts can kick in.  She guards that dragon as if it was her own.  If another dog gets close, she gives them the "crazy eye" and, if they don't back off, she might growl.  She also guards her food and will snap at other dogs if they try to eat out of her bowl.

    Penny is in full blown defense mode.  She thinks that she just gave birth and interprets almost anything to be a possible threat to her or her "puppy".

    Throughout Thanksgiving, Penny never stopped panting or shaking and certainly could not sleep - even though she clearly wanted to.  I often wondered if she was hyperventilating.  This can't be good for her cardiovascular system.

    But this is Thanks-Damn-Giving.  What do we do?  The vet is closed.  Emergency vet services are open, but was this truly an emergency?  Panting?

    After doing some research, we decided to try a product called Rescue Remedy, which is a calming concoction that you get your dog to eat.  It's supposed to calm their system.  The reviews for the product were pretty darn good, so this is a nice bet.

    But again, it's Thanks-Damn-Giving, and nothing is open today.  No Petsmart, no Petco.  Convenience and grocery stores don't carry anything like this.

    Well damn, we're screwed.

    We were stuck with a dog who is going crazy after her spay - probably due to her medications wearing off.  We have no pet store open.  We don't want to sedate her because that could make things worse.  She was eating and drinking, so she is probably going to be fine?

    What a day.  We eventually sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, Penny huffing and puffing in a different room.  The food was great, but there was no way any of us were thinking about anything other than Penny.

    How will she sleep tonight? will WE sleep with her panting?  Should we keep her in another room?  Is that mean?

    Eventually, it was bedtime.  Nervous and wired, I put Penny on her bed in our room and tried to get some sleep with poor Penny panting up a storm.  All night long, she mostly sat and panted.  Even when laying down, she tried to sleep but could never stop her nervous system from acting like a crazed meth addict.

    Needless to say, I got no sleep that night.  My wife slept a little with ear plugs, but I can't sleep with those things in my ears.  It was a rough night, but we promised ourselves that we would call the vet the next day to see what can be done about her panting.

    Friday morning, tired and wired up with adrenaline, we drove up to Petsmart and picked up some of that calming stuff - it wasn't Rescue Remedy, but a similar product.  That may have worked a little, but it was damn tough to tell.

    I finally got through to the vet and apparently anxiety and panting following a spay isn't a normal reaction (what?!?), so we had to bring her in on a walk-in basis to get her seen by a veterinarian before additional medication can be prescribed.

    So, off we went.

    3 hours later, we returned with a bottle of 20 pain pills and immediately gave her one hoping that it would provide her with some relief.

    Later that day, we once again separated Penny into another room and my wife and I spent some time with her.  After 20 minutes, she began to relax.  She laid down and initially panted...but eventually, slowly, her eyes began to close.  She was relaxing.

    Then, something miraculous happened.  The panting stopped.

    All was quiet.  Penny was sleeping, and I was cheering in silent.  It had been more than 24 hours since our dog had any rest, and her nervous and respiratory systems were probably shot by now.  Never-ending panting.  Shakes.  Muscle spasms.

    But now, she was finally relaxed - and so were we.

    Penny continues to lay with her dragon and guard it as her own, but she is finally able to sleep soundly now.  Even during the day, she will regularly nap.  At night, she sleeps.

    It is still difficult to get her to go outside because she doesn't want to move her dragon.  We have to physically take her dragon outside and she will follow us.  She'll walk around the yard with the dragon in her mouth to find the appropriate place to relieve herself.

    After one of the most stressful and downright weird Thanksgiving weekends of my life, things are finally returning to normal.

    In fact, Penny is sleeping with her dragon on her bed as I write this article.


    Steve Adcock

    774 posts

    Steves a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence.