Sick as a dog

It wasn’t until today that I set out to see how the term “sick as a dog” originated. Woody has been sick for a couple of days — vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy — and it’s really brought out the daddy instincts in me. We’ve all had dogs or known people with dogs, and many of those dogs have become sick at one point or another. Just like people. It’s not the end of the world.

But watching a beautiful and beloved animal lay in one spot all day because his intestines are in a knot is not easy. I find myself altering my routine, checking on him every twenty minutes, trying to gauge — in the absence of his usual array of physical indicators — whether he needs anything.

The worst thing about having a sick dog is trying to understand 1) how he got sick and 2) precisely what he’s feeling. As precious as my dogs are, they don’t have acute human memories, our developed sense of discernment, or anything approaching the ability to explain. I’ve backtracked through the last four days, trying to detect my way to a solution, but without Woody’s participation, the investigation is nothing more than me trying to be in control of a situation I don’t really understand.

Were I a true detective, I could tell you this: On Christmas Eve, he had a sandy poo. Sandy poo always means that Woody or Darwin ate dirt at the park while out with their dog walker. I cooked all day; throughout the day, Woody would sit in the kitchen doorway, waiting for handouts. He got a few pieces of carrot, which he loves, and a tiny piece of rutabaga, which he’s never had before. I’ve also been stuffing their Kongs with chicken jerky from the local pet store. They’ve had digestion problems in the past related to this jerky, something I hadn’t really put together until this weekend.

Still in detection mode, I conclude the following:

  1. Woody ate something foul at the park.
  2. Woody is fiercely allergic to rutabaga.
  3. Woody got a bad piece of jerky.

Conclusion 1 is fairly likely, but I can’t be sure. Conclusion 2 is unlikely, since Darwin had no reaction whatsoever and I can’t determine any chemical quality of rutabaga that would contribute to an allergy. Conclusion 3 is also fairly likely, since I recall a time when Darwin had explosive diarrhea after eating their jerky a few months ago.

Unfortunately, just by looking at the pathetic little sack of listless dog in my bed, there’s no way to tell. So, today Woody will fast. That’s a great way to let the body get rid of impurities or toxins. Tomorrow, he’ll start on a diet of soft rice and soft unseasoned chicken. By Monday, he’ll be back to the bright-eyed, eager-to-please tail wagger.

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