From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Dog’s Life
What’s Your Poison?
By Shirley M. Corder
A piece of grass a day keeps the vet away.
Our nine-month-old German Shepherd puppy, Sheba, was intelligent, obedient, and most of the time, quick to learn. However, she loved to play, especially in the middle of the night. One night I threw open the door to the kitchen.
“Sheba!” I screamed as the dog pranced forward to meet me. Her dark brown eyes gleamed with joy and anticipation. Her tongue, hanging to one side, gave her mouth a lopsided grin.
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“No Sheba. I’m not going to play with you. It’s one in the morning,” I scolded. “Get back in your basket….” My voice faded as I gaped at the war zone that had been a clean kitchen floor just two hours ago. The dog’s tail slowed from an enthusiastic wag to an occasional twitch, as it sank between her legs. She gazed at me through confused eyes that seemed to say, “What? You don’t like this game?”
The kitchen floor in front of me was littered with tins, packets and chewed-up wads of mushy paper. I spotted some minute fragments of torn foil, some scraps of yellow cardboard and a few dregs of red powder. It was the yellow cardboard that caught my attention, or rather the black drawing of a skull-and-crossbones.
“Oh no. How did that get into the food cupboard?” I attempted to smooth out a piece of soggy cardboard. “Rob!” I yelled. “You’d better come quickly.”
Sheba slunk into her basket and lowered her chin onto her front paws and watched, her face a portrait of dejection. Only her dark eyes moved, studying me as I rummaged through the debris on the floor. Obviously her mistress wasn’t in the mood for a game. Rob joined me and together we searched through the soggy mess for information about the product. Sheba hadn’t left anything legible. There were only enough fragments to identify a previously unopened packet of Fly Death, a highly toxic powder for use in a garden flytrap. I dashed to the phone and rang our vet.
“Our puppy’s eaten a whole pack of fly bait,” I blurted out. I could hear him struggling to understand, his brain doubtless fogged with sleep.
“Fly bait? What’s in it?” he said.
“I don’t know. She’s eaten the instructions,” I said.
“Can you read any of the packet? Anything at all?”
“Yes — a skull and crossbones,” I said. “And the words, ‘Highly Toxic.'” He swore.
“We must get her to vomit — at once. Have you a syringe?” he asked. I did. “Make a concentrated solution of dishwashing soap and water and squirt it down her throat. Keep going until she vomits. Then piece together any paper you find and phone me back. I need as much information as possible so that I can give her the right medication to counteract the poison. Work quickly or you could lose her.”
I slowly returned the phone to its cradle and stared at it for a moment. Piece together the regurgitated paper? He had to be joking. “We” must get her to vomit? It sounded pretty one-sided to me. I briefly considered changing vets, but it didn’t seem to be the best time to do this.
“Come, girl,” I coaxed. “Come into the garden.” Sheba’s ears perked up and she sprang from her basket. We had obviously changed our mind. We were going to play.
She wagged her tail cautiously as Rob gripped her firmly, then somersaulted in panic as I forced her jaw open. I squirted the green, soapy mixture into her mouth. At least, I tried. Most of it hit Rob’s face as the terrified dog broke loose and hurtled to the bottom of the yard. For half an hour we battled with the young animal. The more stressed we felt, the more frantic she became. She rolled her eyes in terror and thrashed around, constantly breaking loose. Foam frothed from her mouth, either from saliva or soapsuds, as we chased her round the garden in the dark in our nightclothes.
“Sheba, here sweetheart! We don’t want to hurt you. We’re not cross. Come on girl,” I called. She cowered in the darkness. “If you don’t want to hurt me, then what are you doing?” she seemed to ask. Her huge eyes glinted orange in the neon glow from the streetlights. We grew desperate — the dog petrified. Still she didn’t vomit. I phoned the vet again.
“This is taking too long,” he admonished. “You’d better bring her in at once and I’ll contact the poison center.”
I wondered why he hadn’t suggested that in the first place. We pulled on outdoor clothes, and attempted to get the dog into the car. Normally, Sheba loved the car. Not tonight. She had no intention of getting into a car with two deranged humans. Always a fool for bribes, she eventually succumbed, and we lifted her into the vehicle. I tried to comfort the terrified animal, as Rob raced the car towards the vet’s surgery, hazard-warnings flashing.
“What did I do wrong?” her wide eyes seemed to ask. “Where are you taking me?”
When we arrived at the surgery all the lights were on. The vet met us at the door with a drawn-up syringe.
“This is a morphine mixture. It’ll make her horribly sick. As soon as I’ve given her the jab, take her outside onto the lawn.”
Sure enough, within minutes, she heaved out the entire contents of her stomach. She examined the soapy, bubbly mess, then looked at us with hurting eyes. “How could you do this to me?” The vet insisted on keeping her in hospital overnight. As he led her away, she went berserk, seeking to break loose from this man who was taking her away from her crazy owners.
“Go, Sheba. It’s all right girl,” I assured her. “We’ll see you in the morning.” Tears of relief and guilt ran down my cheeks. She gazed back at me for a long moment, then lowered her head and trudged after the vet. She didn’t know what she’d done wrong, but it must have seemed we wanted to give her away.
The next day she was home, apparently willing to forgive, if not forget. Her playful spirit returned, but not at night. If we ever came into the kitchen when it was dark, if she wasn’t in her basket, she would scoot to her bed with an expression of panic that said, “Sorry, sorry! I’m in bed! I’m good. Really I am.” I think she believed all the drama of that dreadful evening happened because we caught her playing when the lights were out. We also learned a lesson. The next morning, my husband attached childproof clips to all the lower cupboards. Sheba may have had four legs, but she was still underage, and needed to be treated accordingly. She never burgled a cupboard again.