Exhausted from a particularly unbearable shift earlier in the evening, I decided to stay in and go to sleep early rather than go out this Saturday night. I was frustrated equally with both rude customers and coworkers and was not really in the mood to go out and socialize. Reesee, my dog and my family’s ‘baby,’ greeted me as he did any other family member when they left the house for more than twenty minutes: by ramming into me and imposing his unconditional love. He was seven years old at the time with an intimidatingly broad bone structure that contradicted his loving, harmless personality. Reesee was a pure bred chocolate lab and was the biggest lab our vet had ever seen. While not being in the worst shape of his life, Reesee had started to succumb to onset hip problems that are very common among his breed. The weakening in his hind legs would become very apparent whenever he would climb up stairs or try to hop up on the couch. Reesee’s deteriorating health was correlated to the lack of exercise he received when he was younger.
After a quick belly-rub I went upstairs to my bedroom to unwind and eventually fall asleep. At one point during the night I heard rustling coming from the kitchen. This didn’t alert me though as Reesee was notorious for getting into the trash at night and I was just too drained that night to stop him. God damn it… I’ll clean it up in the morning. Finally my consciousness gave way and I fell into a deep sleep.
I awoke to my mother shaking me awake in the early hours of the morning. “Reesee is very sick. He’s been throwing up for a while and he’s shaking uncontrollably.” Immediately the urgency of the situation hit me through the trembling undertone of my mother. Reesee, in her eye, was her baby and their strong bond was illustrated every time he spent the day following her around the house. We went downstairs and found Reesee quivering in the corner of the living room. Alone and petrified, his brown fur began to shed off in thick, unnatural patches. Reesee’s eyes were opened wide with great big black pupils. These were not the ‘puppy-eyes’ that he had perfected years ago and our family had become accustomed to seeing at our elbows during dinner. Rather, this was look of pure anxiety and fright that still sends a cold shiver down my spine. That was when we saw it. The remains of a yellow, half-pound bag of chocolate chips lay tattered in the corner of the room. Upon further inspection we found that nearly half the bag was gone. Reesee had eaten chocolate before and not gotten sick, but never this much chocolate. We called our normal veterinary clinic and they referred us to a local veterinary emergency center. We rushed over to the emergency center and they took him into the back immediately.
There I sat, bloated with anxiety and grief as my other and I awaited the vet’s return. The thought of losing my dog weighed heavily in my stomach. My mother and I were moved to a room separate from the waiting room for our privacy. As we sat, my mind raced with hundreds of thoughts. Why didn’t I just get the fuck up? My mom assured me it definitely wasn’t my fault, but I couldn’t shake my own disdain for my neglect. We began to reminisce on our fondest memories with Reesee and I could hardly contain myself. I recalled the trip to the breeder and picking him out of the litter. So many puppies were climbing and prying their way to the top of the pen for attention, but one caught my eye. I knew right then that my puppy was the one at the bottom being trampled by his brother and sisters. We brought him home in a small cardboard box that today wouldn’t manage to contain nearly a third of Reesee. My mom always loved that story and it was comforting for the both of us to reflect on it together. I made a promise to my mom then, “If Reesee makes it out of this, I’m gonna spend way more time with him and take way more walks. He deserves so much more”. She agreed and we resumed waiting an eternity.
Finally, just as my stress began to peak, a man in scrubs entered the room. I was immediately distraught. Where was my dog? The vet began to explain the situation, but I was in no shape to interpret any of the obscure medical terms. Eventually, I regained my wits long enough to understand what the man was conveying. Reesee had eaten three and a half times the lethal dosage of chocolate for a dog his size. The vet went on to explain that he really wasn’t sure how, but that, “Reesee is alright and making a recovery.” Sitting there as an emotional wreck, this incredible news suddenly overwhelmed me with both glee and relief.
Nearly five minutes later, I began to hear the clacking of paws from down the hallway, a sound that still resonates warmly with me today. Reesee exploded into the room with more energy than my mom and I combined. With his tail rapidly whipping from side to side and his tongue drooped half a foot out of his mouth, he barreled into us with the force of a crashing wave. After being poked and prodded by the emergency vets for the better half of a morning, Reesee was ecstatic to be in such familiar company once again. My best friend and I were reunited after one of the most terrifying mornings of my life. Soon enough and despite the odds, Reesee and I were headed home for some much-needed rest and relaxation.
I will never forget that car ride home. All 130 pounds of his robust, Labrador frame sat atop me while Reesee tried to poke his head out the window. As I sat there, slowly being flattened by his weight, I could feel his body trembling and his heart, still beating frantically. When we finally made it home Reesee hopped out of the car and galloped into the house. After drinking what seemed to be an entire gallon of water, he crawled up onto his favorite spot at the end of our family room couch. Our family spent that evening together in the family room enjoying each other’s company and reflecting on the craziness of the day. The whole ordeal served as a glaring wake-up call for our family, having never come so close to losing our beloved dog. I really wanted to take Reesee out and give him the attention that he really deserved, but I realized this would have to wait until tomorrow because that night he was just too tuckered out.