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  • Feb
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Veterinary Tales, Volume 1: The Mystery of the 200-Pound Dog

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200lbrobstephaustralia / CC

During my 21 years of practice, I’ve encountered heroic, comical, and tragic situations. I’ve considered writing a 21st century James Herriot set of memoirs, but I thought that I would first begin by occasionally sharing one of my favorite patient stories on PETA Prime. And so here is the first of many animal stories to come.

The Mystery of the 200-Pound Dog

It’s no coincidence that the words “massive” and “mastiff” sound alike. Chumley, a 4-year-old mastiff, weighed close to 200 pounds (I weighed 150 at the time) and was in good shape for his large frame. When I saw Chumley, I wondered: How much dog food must it take to maintain a single Chumley? Who handles Chumley’s poop patrol? Does Chumley sleep in his dad’s bed?

Chumley’s dad’s attachment to his dog was clear right away. “Doc, he hasn’t eaten hardly any food in two days-I tell you, he’s just not right. I think he’s lost close to 10 pounds this week. He needs some help.” Examination revealed a quiet, gentle giant of a dog with no obvious source of illness. I advised a battery of basic tests, including X-rays and ultrasound. This required lifting Chumley from the floor onto our examination tables. I recall joking with my nurses, “Hope you ate your Wheaties this morning!” and thinking that this must be what it’s like to practice on horses.

Our tests suggested an intestinal blockage. I relayed my suspicions to Chumley’s dad and advised surgery right away, as these sorts of things can become life-threatening if not resolved quickly.

One of our nurses took Chumley for a walk to empty his bladder before the anesthesia. When they returned, I asked if he “did his business.” She took me outside to the site where business had definitely been conducted. Apparently, this was an unusual transaction, as an intact 6-foot hemp rope that emitted a foul odor was lying on the grass.

Had Chumley solved the problem without my help? Or did he have some other “surprises” left inside? If he was capable of passing the rope, could there be a stereo system or perhaps a frying pan hidden in there? I called Chumley’s dad and informed him of the good news that we would not have to perform surgery. We elected to send him home for observation, along with a smelly souvenir. A full recovery was reported.

A year or so later, Chumley returned for the exact same complaint. I recall before running any tests that Chumley’s dad remarked, “Should we just go straight to surgery, Doc?” I proclaimed that would be depriving Chumley of his right of presumed innocence before being proven guilty. As expected, testing revealed another blockage. This time, I was not asked to inspect the grounds after the pre-operative walk, and a full recovery was made after surgery to remove a washcloth from his intestines.

While it’s always rewarding to restore dogs like Chumley back to normal, some animal companions don’t get the opportunity to have a specialist perform surgery, and in some cases, the outcomes are not as successful. So what can you do to prevent your dog from “pulling a Chumley”?

1.      Dogs like to eat things. The smellier and nastier, the more appetizing it is to them. If I could explain this, I likely would have already received my Nobel Prize. Oh, yes, and after eating these nasty things, they want to give you a kiss! Limit access to all the nasty things that dogs like to eat. This may mean closing the bathroom door to prevent access to toilet paper (my dog Winston’s favorite), keeping the garbage out of reach, and limiting time outdoors without your supervision. As a last resort, you can consider using a basket muzzle for periods when you are not around; dogs can breathe through them easily and even drink water, but they are unable to ingest anything.

2.      If you suspect that your dog has eaten something dangerous or undesirable, see a veterinarian right away. Less expensive and invasive measures than surgery, such as inducing vomiting or endoscopic retrieval from the stomach, can be successful, provided that less than a few hours has elapsed since ingestion.

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8 Comments

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    Phyllis says...

    February 11th, 2009, 4:13 pm

    I loved this story – get to work on those books! :-)

    Alan says...

    February 11th, 2009, 6:32 pm

    What a wonderful dog ! Six ft. rope ! WOW !

    Nancy the E. says...

    February 13th, 2009, 3:28 pm

    I’ll be your editor! You should definitely write your book!

    LeeAnn says...

    February 13th, 2009, 4:29 pm

    My book, found on my website (www.cornsilkworld.com) is definitely for dog lovers. It’s a great book but an animal book from a vet’s perspective would be way cool. This decade needs its own Herriott! Good luck with that and thanks for the great story about the gentle giant. My dogs try to eat stinky socks by the way!

    Bonnie Bonsor says...

    February 13th, 2009, 6:56 pm

    My cat Chloe ate a piece of string from a fringed rug – when she was a small kitten. She is a miracle kitty because she also survived the surgery to remove the string – which had spread all through her system. She’s 11 years old now – but that was one thing that taught me to realize that animals will eat anything that looks interesting! So glad this big dog made it!

    Lillian says...

    February 14th, 2009, 9:05 am

    Hi, that was very enlightening. Here where I live we got no specialist .. I thnk that’s just what happened with my dog Prince. He wouldn’t eat and vomited pieces of plastic, tried so hard to defecate something inside. I never thought somethng was wrong because whenever I am near him he was always the usual pet. Until I just found him dead. Thanks for the article. It helped me a lot…

    karen rivera says...

    February 16th, 2009, 4:53 pm

    This is a great story… We lost our Duke to a simular incedent, he was starved when we found him & would eat anything he could get a hold of. we had him for 5 years & suddenly lost him from hemoraging in his stomach. We did not realize what was happening.. Keep an eye on your dogs, Watch them very close.. I am so glad chumley’s ok…

    Mary-Kay Bono says...

    March 29th, 2009, 11:21 am

    Hello,

    We had a similar situation with my sister’s dog Buttons. He was a Llasa Aphso (hope I spelled it correctly). When he was a baby, he used to eat stones. They had a really tough time trying to watch his every move once they found out what he was doing. Finally, as he got older, he stopped. Unfortunately, they just lost Buttons after 16 wonderful years. My sister couldn’t function for weeks. She has still not removed his food and water dishes from their usual place in the kitchen. Buttons used to sleep at her feet on their bed and follow her everywhere. He would even “smile” when she told him to. He was well taken care of, loved, and missed very much now–that’s for sure.

    A friend of mine also had a similar situation with their Heinz 57 dog. She had swollowed the tape from a cassette tape. It was stuck somehow in her mouth and down her throat and intertwined in her system. They finally retrieved it thanks to the vet, and she was fine after that until years later when she did not survive cancer surgery. However, she was quite old at that point, and they had enjoyed her companionship for many years. She, too, was very much loved and well cared for.

    I’ll share just one more animal story with you. We had a beautiful German Shepard when my children were small. He was actually a true member of our family. We also had three cats. They all got along beautifully. One day my husband and I arrived home, and and the dog did not greet us at the door as usual. He went to search for him. He came back to me in the kitchen with the most horribly sad look on his face. He told me that the dog had been lying in the bathroom. My husband pulled the dog into his arms to comfort him, and our poor baby actually died right in my husband’s arms. It was as if he had just been waiting for us to come home so he could be with at least one of us in his last moments. We didn’t know what was wrong; however, I remembered that he had been lying around a lot lately and drinking a lot of water. We didn’t realize that anything was actually wrong. After we lost him, we consulted with a vet. The doctor told us that it sounded as if the poor dog had ingested something poisonous. We didn’t know what it could have been since the dog had the run of the property as well as the woods behind our home. About two days later, I found the body of one of our cats in the basement. After that, we started looking around the area most intently. And, low and behold, my husband spotted a container of rat poison in his stepfather’s garage next door. His stepfather hated animals–none of our family liked him either. We tolerated him for my mother-in-law’s sake. Upon speaking with his mother, my husband ascertained that it was very possible that Ken (stepfather) had been the one to put out the poison for the animals. His mother promised to tell him NEVER to do it again and to throw out the poison or we would definitely go to the Police. Luckily, it never happened again. But, I do know that God took care of that man. He was married to my mother-in-law for 15 years. Only the first four were good. After that, he had numerous health problems, some of which put him into a nursing home. He was made to suffer for 11 years at the end of his life. He definitely had a lot to suffer for!!!

    I have always maintained that there is something wrong with anyone who does not like animals. I feel with all my heart that is true!!!

    Thanks for reading my stories. Very best to all.

    Mary-Kay Bono, Sergeant First Class, (Retired)

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