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A Stubborn Butterfly

 

Two weeks ago, on Thursday, I came home after five PM and noticed Butterfly standing by the door and panting. When she tried to sit down, she yelped. I checked for the bump on her lower belly that usually causes these symptoms, and it was not only there, it was bigger and harder than usual. These attacks make me nervous because Butterfly’s health is already fragile, with diabetes, and heart trouble, and a persistent cough keeping us perpetually on alert. But most of the time the panting and discomfort, and even the hernia/bump on her lower belly, passes in a few hours. We watched her carefully and gave her extra cuddles, but when we took the dogs out for their late evening walk, Butterfly threw up three times, in purple. I brought her back inside and put her on my bed so I could keep an eye on her, but she couldn’t find a comfortable position. I sat with her and scratched her back as she drooled a river on my bed, and after a while she calmed down enough to decide she wanted to walk down her doggy steps and search for a sip of water and a more interesting place to sleep. I thought that was a good sign.

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“I’m fine, Mommy, this is just how I breathe.”

When I woke up in the morning, I expected her to be back to her healthy-ish self, but instead she was listlessly resting her head on her paws, facing the front door of the apartment, next to a drying puddle of pee. Both dogs were scheduled to go to the groomer that morning, and Cricket was blinded by hair and smelled awful, so we dropped Cricket off for her haircut, and took Butterfly directly to the vet for an emergency visit. The people at the front desk were a little snotty with us for not calling ahead, until an hour later when the doctor did an ultrasound on Butterfly’s bump and it became clear that her intestines were compromised and she needed immediate surgery.

We were very lucky that Butterfly’s vet was still there. We had assumed that she would already be gone, and we had said our final goodbyes at Butterfly’s last regular appointment, but it turned out that Butterfly had her emergency just in time, on her doctor’s second to last day at the clinic. In the past, the doctor had discouraged even dental cleanings because Butterfly’s oversized heart would be too vulnerable under anesthesia, but this time she said it was worth the risk. Without surgery, part of Butterfly’s intestines could die and that would kill her just as surely as the anesthesia could.

I held Butterfly in my arms and sang her the Misheberach song, a Jewish prayer for healing, and then I handed her to her doctor. I used up a box full of tissues at the front desk and in the car on the way home, trying not to think that I might never see my baby again.

The doctor called within the hour to tell us that Butterfly was doing well on the anesthesia, but they would need to do a second incision so she would be under longer.

Mom went out to pick up Cricket from the groomer while I did busy work to keep my mind as blank as possible. Cricket returned looking skinny and clean and confused. She was still recovering from her anti-anxiety medication, and the trauma of grooming, but I think the worst part was that her sister wasn’t home to sniff her butt and listen to her plight.

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“What is going on?!”

The second call from the doctor came an hour and a half later. Butterfly had survived her surgery and was waking up from the anesthesia, and they wanted advice on what to try and feed her, because her blood sugar was low and she was refusing all of their treats. Even chicken. The relief was extraordinary. The numbness that had taken over my whole body started to recede and instead of crying or something else more reasonable, I started laughing. My baby had survived!

I felt like there was a GPS muttering in my head all that day, “Recalculating, recalculating.” The relief that Butterfly had actually survived the anesthesia was replaced with anxiety when the doctor called again later to say that she wanted Butterfly to spend the night at an emergency veterinary hospital, where a doctor could keep an eye on her, and her breathing. The clinic would only have a technician on duty overnight and the doctor was concerned that if something went wrong, no one would be there to help. She didn’t specify what might go wrong, and she made it clear that the night at the hospital would be very expensive, but she didn’t leave much doubt about the right course of action.

The doctor brought Butterfly out to us, drugged and blurry, and gave us directions to the emergency veterinary hospital twenty minutes away. I held Butterfly in my arms in the front passenger seat of the car while Mom drove, and I listened to Butterfly’s raspy breathing, trying to buffer each bump of the road (she lifted her sleepy head once or twice to let me know that I wasn’t doing a good enough job with that). I could still hear the GPS voice in my head, “recalculating, recalculating.”

As soon as we reached the emergency veterinary hospital, a technician took Butterfly from us, and we had to sit in the waiting room and wait to hear from the doctor on duty. We’d assumed we would just be dropping her off, so the long wait was one more surprise. We finally saw a doctor after eleven PM, and she said that she could hear a crackling sound in Butterfly’s lungs, and wanted to do an x-ray. More waiting. I tried to read the books they had around the room (dog books, of course), but I was worried about Cricket sitting at home alone, needing to pee, barely recovered from her day of anti-anxiety medication and grooming and loneliness.

The x-rays turned out okay, thank God, and then we had to pay the exorbitant estimated bill in order to have the right to visit Butterfly one more time and say goodnight. They led us to a roomful of kennels, set up like high rise apartments, filled with sleepy dogs attached to IVs. As soon as the technician opened the door of her first floor kennel, Butterfly walked out, still attached to her IVs but ready to go home. I tried to explain to her that she needed to stay overnight, but she did not believe me. The technician had to put her back in the kennel for us, because Mom and I were both afraid to risk pulling out one of the tubes she was attached to. And then we finally left, after midnight.

Once again, I had to take deep breaths and tell myself not to think too far ahead. It was a long ride home. Cricket, as predicted, was losing her mind and full of pee. We took her out for a late walk and then we all tried to settle down and get some semblance of a night’s sleep, but even Cricket found the No-Butterfly feeling of the apartment disconcerting.

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“I have nothing to say.”

The next day, we paid the rest of the exorbitant emergency vet hospital bill and took a seriously drugged Butterfly (they put her on Methadone!) back to her doctor at the clinic.

Not only did we have to say good bye to Butterfly, again, we had to say goodbye to her doctor, who really was leaving this time.

We had a second night of no Butterfly at home, but at least we knew she was healthy enough to stay at the clinic overnight. The next morning, a new doctor called to tell us that we could pick Butterfly up that afternoon, because she had been taken out for a walk and managed a soft poop. The only trouble was that she still wasn’t eating, and they hoped coming home would reduce her anxiety enough so she would eat.

As soon as the technician brought her out and put her paws on the floor, Butterfly led the way to the exit, even with the Elizabethan collar making the walls hard to spot. We had a bagful of medications to give her and a list of things to do and not do: do not give her kibble; do not give her a bath; do not let her walk up and down the stairs; do give her chicken and rice; pick her up carefully so as not to press on the staples closing her incisions; keep her belly away from magnets (okay, maybe they left that one out, but I really think they should have mentioned it).

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“I can walk myself.”

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“Where have you been and did you get extra treats that I didn’t get?”

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“I do not like this hat, Mommy.”

 

She still wasn’t ready to eat by the time her nighttime meds were needed, so we crushed the pills in peanut butter, and then spread the mixture, bit by bit, on to her lips. An hour later, her face and my clothes (and the couch and the rug) were covered in peanut butter, but it’s possible that some of the medicine actually got into her system.

 

 

 

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Oy.

She started eating chicken and rice the next morning, and took the pills that I broke up and hid clumsily in her food. Then I had to cut off the peanut butter hair left on her chin (whatever she hadn’t managed to rub on the floor herself), and some of the hair around her hygienic areas as well, because she was getting a bit stinky.

Butterfly still had two rows of staples on her belly, and this funny hairless ring on her right front ankle, where they’d put in the IV, and she was a bit slow moving and still on pain medication, but she made the most of my unwillingness to pull on the leash of an invalid. Out on her walks, she started a new habit of walking ten steps in one direction, stopping short, looking around, and then taking ten or fifteen steps in the other direction, just to see if she could get away with it. She could.

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This anklet is the height of fashion. Really.

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Ouch.

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She’s Home.

 

Within a few days, she was off her pain meds and back to licking the hand that petted her, and spreading her food in ever widening circles from her bowl (which is much messier with soft rice than it is with hard kibble). She started to walk faster, and then to jog, but she still didn’t think I had any right to control her leash and she made that very clear.

 

On Wednesday of this past week, not quite two weeks after her surgery, Butterfly went to the doctor and had her staples removed, and celebrated by trying to run all the way home. She’s still not allowed to climb the stairs, and bath time has to be put off for another week, but she thinks she’s all better. She also thinks that now that her belly has been reinforced with extra stitches, she should be allowed to widen her diet to include French fries and pizza, but this is unlikely. I can be stubborn too. She’s a very good teacher.

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“Mommy, you learned the wrong thing.”

 

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About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

213 responses »

  1. No pizza???? Butterfly, call the animal cruelty folks and be thankful that you can still call.

    Reply
  2. Miracles of modern medicine. I’m glad she’s feeling better.

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  3. I’m so happy there was a happy ending. I hope she continues to heal and grow stronger.

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  4. I was getting worried as I read. So glad she’s doing well!

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  5. Oh how wonderful she’s well and back home 🙂

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  6. Oh dear, I know what it feels like when one of your babies isn’t ok. Thank you for sharing and please give your babies a big kiss from me.

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  7. So glad she’s doing okay.

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  8. Poor Butterfly! And poor you for having to deal with it. It’s so stressful when a pet we love is seriously ill, and we have to endure the emotional roller-coaster of good news/bad news, especially at an emergency clinic, which can seem so impersonal. I’m glad she’s feeling so much better now!

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  9. So glad that Butterfly is feeling better after that scare! I can tell it has been a rough 2 weeks. Hopefully, the worst is behind you.

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  10. While I read this, I was “recalculating” with you. So glad she’s OK. She’s lucky to have a good mommy like you.

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  11. Hope she’s better now…

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  12. What a relief to hear that she is regaining strength and the indomitable personality. Your experiences with the emergency vet hospital seem much like mine in Fresno, CA when Elf the Corgi had her scary diarrhea/vomiting ten days ago. It was all super expensive and the vets, sweet and knowledgeable souls that they were, would have encouraged us to be there all night to answer their questions. We were, however, absolutely exhausted. They let us go with the promise of my cell phone being on, ready for calls anytime. I knew this was the right thing when Elf, normally my wing dog and attached firmly to my side, went off in a vet’s arms, staring a me without, for once, the insistence that I be with her. She knew she was very sick, in the right place. … I love your channeling of Cricket and Butterfly. My late ex, but still loved, husband was Jewish, and I enjoy your cultural and religious writing also.

    Reply
    • Thank you! Miss Butterfly is a ridiculously good patient. In the waiting room she shakes and drools, but once she gets into the exam room she’s compliant in the extreme. Doctors always comment about it, and if they are holding her they are reluctant to give her back. I know she’s feeling better when she starts to say “No” again.

      Reply
  13. Elated to hear Butterfly pulled through, it is such a stressful time when your furbaby is sick. I went through similar situations with my two pooches last year. Hiding pills can get frustrating – hands covered in doggy saliva and a number of different foods smeared all over the place. Our pup’s favorite ended up being fried egg, or rolled up pieces of sandwich ham. I won’t even mention the cost of vet, specialists and emergency visits… it was on par with the price of some of my cancer treatment! But I would have done anything to have my snuggly children happy and healthy.
    Sending good vibes and well wishes!

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    • I’m still trying to remove mushed rice from the rug, because the dogs would spread the food on the floor and nudge the rice out of the way to get to the bits of chicken. Oy.

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  14. Prayers for her recuperation and God’s blessings to you both. Poor sweet darling…I am thankful she is doing better.

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  15. I am so glad you all survived this ordeal and Butterfly is recovering. I can imagine how odd, lonely and worrisome it was without her to cuddle a night. I am frequently an “Aussie sandwich ” they are definitely my comfy in the middle of the night.

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  16. Poor Butterfly, What a difficult time she’s had. I am so glad she is feeling much better. And poor you!! You must have been terrible worried. I know how worried I was when the Man went into hospital and how worried I was when the WaWa got that bad cut. The WaWa being little, sleeps next to my head whilst the Benji keeps my back warm. I miss them both when I am away

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    • Thank you! Miss B has forgotten her whole ordeal, but my memory is a bit longer. It’s such a relief when I get home and both girls are there, hopping and running and telling me that they are starving to death.

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  17. Glad Butterfly is ok. It’s awful when they are ill, you feel so helpless and unable to do anything!
    Cricket certainly looked different after her hair cut!!!

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  18. I’m so glad everything turned out and that your original vet was there to do the surgery! What a frightening time for all of you!

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  19. Thank goodness Butterfly is okay.

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  20. How traumatic (and expensive) for you all. So pleased that Butterfly has a happy ending. I hope that she continues to be well.

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  21. Whew! That had to be so scary, glad it all worked out and she is healing.

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  22. I’m so glad she made it through the surgery.

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  23. Sending lots of positive thoughts to Butterfly for a full recovery and many more happy times with her family!

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  24. Such a relief, hope she gets better and better.

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  25. So happy your sweet little girl is on the mend with continued recovery.

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  26. What an adventure! So gald that all turned out well and Butterfly is on the mend. I love happy endings.

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  27. Wow, she (and you) went through a lot there. I’m glad she’s ok and hope she is doing well today.

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  28. Holy cow! What a roller coaster of a story! I’m so glad she’s feeling better!

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  29. Holy moly! I am so glad she is fine! Whew, scary story!

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  30. An instance where stubbornness is good. And your prayer song for healing. Please tell Butterfly I am so happy she is well on the mend.

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  31. So happy Butterfly is well. She is tough and so fortunate to have you…that you have each other and Cricket. We send our golden best.

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  32. I am so glad Butterfly is on the mend and doing well. Such a sweetie pie. ♡

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  33. Aww, so glad she is all better….we lost our dog after taking her back and forth to the vet and the hospital but in the end there was nothing more they could do for her…I still miss her so.

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  34. So glad that Butterfly is going to be okay 💚.

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  35. I’m so glad that Butterfly made it through! What an ordeal for everyone!

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  36. Can Butterfly’s loyal fans contribute to her vet expenses?

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  37. May daughter went through that kind of hell with her beloved puppy. He was her companion during her lonely college years and she loved him dearly. The emergency vet bills soared up into 5 figures in no time. I feel for your plight.

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  38. Oh, dear, you had me in tears of anxiety reading about little Butterfly’s experience. It’s a terrible time for all and I can empathize with you having gone through similar times. I’m so happy she is recovering. Sending prayers that all continues to progress well.

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  39. Omygoodness I was on the edge of my seat reading this!!! Sooooo relieved that everything turned out okay!

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  40. I love that “recalculating” part. Glad your BFF is on the mend.

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  41. So relieved that she is ok, it was very worrisome for a while there. Hugs and kisses to Butterfly and Cricket, love those girls!

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  42. Hi Butterfly, I am so happy that you are better from your surgery. I had surgery myself recently, only 2 stitches in my eyebrow area, nothing near what you had. Also, I did not have to wear the cone. I hope you keep getting better and better. Love, Trixie

    Reply
  43. Most heartwarming story. I am so glad to know Butterfly might soon be able to flit and fly like a real butterfly during the summer. Glad poor baby is getting better and sorry she had to go through all of that. My Sid sends her sincere meows. Glad she has a sister to share the good and bad.

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  44. Poor little girl! Man, there is nothing like the anxiety of having a sick kid, is there? You can’t ever tell them why you’re letting strangers do awful things to them either. Or why, as I’m doing with Leo because he has an ulcer on his eye, you’re torturing them.

    Thinking good thoughts for Butterfly. She looks like a sweetheart.

    Reply
  45. She really has been through the mill, poor little girl. We are all delighted that she seems so much better now. It is such a worry for Kemo Sabe when any of us is ill. Take care. Pip and the boys

    Reply

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