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The Cardio Canine Caper

Our pooch Susie is home. And she's recovering nicely. I know this because she's a royal pain in the ass. That's a good sign.

A royal pain in the ass. But a good sign.

For anyone catching up, about three weeks ago our mutt lost most all of her energy. And while it was, to a degree, refreshing, to not have to chase her around quite so frantically, it was also pretty concerning.

"As she recovered, the scales tipped. Or if you prefer, dislodged."

(Okay, fine, she's twelve and a half. She doesn't do anything 'frantically' that doesn't involve scarfing a Snausage. She's still a handful. A slow, crotchety handful is still a handful.)

So when the pup stopped running around -- or walking, or moving, for the most part -- we took her to the dog-spital to get checked out. They said she had a bad ticker. Best case scenario, if everything else checked out, they'd fit her with a pacemaker. And long story short, that's what they did.

On Wednesday afternoon, the pooch docs carved into one of her jugular veins and inserted a catheter of some kind with a temporary pacemaker. Then they flipped her over, sliced the other jugular, fed an electrode down her chest and jammed it into her ventricular wall.

Ho hum, right? Happens every day. Barely worth a mention.

She came home on Friday evening, and while the whole experience has been quite an adventure, there are three developments that have really stood out:

Thursday: Even before the mutt got home, she was causing issues.

I've mentioned many times in the past that the pooch goes a couple of times a week to a local 'doggy daycare' joint.

(It's actually a legit training center in the basement of a pet supply shop -- they teach dogs to sit, stay, fetch, heel, protect, serve, guard, run agility courses and trot on treadmills. But my dog's been going there for more than a decade -- which means she's done learning. She ain't picking up new tricks, and she knows all of theirs by now.

Basically, she has her own pillow there and they let her sweep the floor for treats between classes. I wish my kindergarten had been so cushy.)

I take her in for 'training' two or three times a week. But on Thursday, I stopped into the shop to buy a harness -- her new incisions preclude using a collar -- and walked downstairs to fill the trainers in.

I reached the bottom of the stairs, with no dog. I never go down without the dog.

Also, my wife was tagging along. And they NEVER see us down there together. Not for years.

The entire room froze, expecting the worst possible news. At the office, I'm pretty good at 'managing expectations', but here I was already deep in a hole. What's the quickest way to signal, say or sign, 'MY DOG IS NOT DEAD! STAND DOWN! ALL IS WELL!'

I didn't know. So I started shaking my head and wagging my arms back and forth, meaning, 'no, no, don't worry'. They seemed to take this instead as, 'no, no, the dog is a cheap fur coat by now'. Which was not the case at all.

(Not until the next time she piddles on our living room carpet, anyway.)

We eventually sorted things out, but we -- meaning she -- gave the staff quite a scare. Because even unconscious and cut open, Susie still can cause trouble.

Friday: When we got Susie home, the docs told us she'd be perkier, and we might have to keep her settled down, so as not to jostle her new electronic lifesaver.

They lied.

Maybe not 'lied', per se. But they were wrong. The pup came out, and she was a lump. A double-scarred, half-shaved, barely-conscious pitiful lump. I had to lift her into and out of the car, and up our three steps to the first floor condo home.

We began to wonder whether they'd buried that pacemaker probe into the right organ. Maybe that thing was zapping her gallbladder instead, because she still looked like she was on her last legs. Meanwhile, they stressed that she needed medication -- painkillers, antibiotics, five pills twice a day in all.

Fine, we said. We can always slip her pills in with food and treats. That always works.

She didn't eat for eighteen hours. Because that was the most difficult thing possible. The bitch is good at this.

We went through the most ridiculous ramp-up to get the pooch back onto food. She had zero interest Friday night. None. By Saturday evening, she'd eat freshly grilled warm chicken -- not plain chicken, not cold chicken, and only two little scraps at all. But she ate. Barely.

Then it was any chicken. By Sunday, tuna fish. Then canned food, and plain rice, and favorite treats, and finally -- by Tuesday night -- dry food, usual diet, and (just like the 'good old days') basically anything you put near her face.

So it worked out. But early in the weekend, we were wondering whether they'd have to chop into her jugular again, to mainline IV fluids into her bloodstream or something. I don't even think she was sick. She was just being difficult.


The other thing the puppy came home with was a list of activity restrictions. The vets told us that we should keep Susie from moving around as much as possible for a few weeks, so the electrode wouldn't get dislodged. For the first day or so, that didn't seem like much of a problem. The mutt could barely stand, much less jostle any electrodes.

As she recovered, the scales tipped. Or if you prefer, dislodged.

They told us not to let the dog take the stairs. We told them we only have three stairs, that we live on the first floor. They said that was probably fine, so long as she took it slow and careful. Great, we said. We can totally do that.

On Saturday, when the dog was actually capable of moving, we put the harness on her and led her out for a walk. Slowly and carefully, just like we were told.

She fell down the stairs. Because, naturally.

She was fine. Of the three of us, Susie was the only one who didn't have a heart attack in the next thirty seconds. And now, we 'spot' her every trip outside.

They also told us not to let the dog on the furniture. Perfect. That's always been our policy, which the dog follows unfailingly. Just so long as we're in the room.

We go to bed -- *zuuuuup*, she hits the couch. This has been the dance for years. For a while, we escalated the fight. We covered the couch with magazines.

She slapped them off. And slept on the couch.

We put books on the couch.

She knocked them off. And slept on the couch.

We put a tarp on the couch.

She climbed underneath. And slept on the couch.

We put a tarp on the couch, then books on top to hold it down.

She knocked off the books, hopped down, climbed under the tarp, and slept on the couch.

So when we got her home, in her weakened and feeble state, we went above and beyond. We pulled in two big, long dining room chairs and lay them strategically across the couch. And we went to bed.

When we woke up, both chairs were still in place, tirelessly guarding the couch.

Between them, tucked among the legs and snoring on the central cushion, was the dog. Sleeping. On the couch.

We had similar issues with her crate. The dog is a strong little mother -- a forty-pound pit bull, stocky and buff. Also, stubborn. Particularly when we're not, as I mentioned, in the room. And she can escape from a crate. Repeatedly. Put a steel bar through the door -- it doesn't matter. We tried it. She's some kind of Hound-ini. Uncanny.

The docs say put her in the crate when we have to leave her for a while, for her own 'safety'. Horseshit. This dog would kill herself to get out of the crate, and we'd find her in cardiac failure, bleeding and twitching and panting her last. And doing what else, can you guess? That's right.

Sleeping. ON THE COUCH.

Yep. It sure is good to have the mutt back. Awesome.

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