Warning - this post is not for the faint hearted or those delicate tummies. Blood, gore and general medical talk are contained herein.
Cleo has been creating fun and hijinks lately. Last Sunday, when Rebecca made a lightning fast visit to pick up one son and drop off another to help us with harvest she had to run the usual gamut of members of the menagerie greeting her. Cleo bounded up with her usual joie de vie to say hello and Bec greeted her in her normal manner. Bec is a neck scruffer of dogs so she was first to discover the lump. I pat my puppies on the head or scratch them behind the ears, I rarely express my love by scruffing under their chins, and that's my excuse for not noticing the lump, along with the acres of excess skin Saint Bernards keep under their jaws.
Bec came into the house, said hello to us all then asked if I was aware that Cleo had a massive lump under her jaw. I immediately went outside to check and, to say the size of the lump under Cleo's jaw was huge, barely covers the description. I couldn't get two hands around it. It was also obvious that it had grown to these massive proportions in a matter of a few days. I'd bathed the puppies two weeks ago and if there'd been the slightest hint of a lump, I would have noticed it. The puppies have been enjoying inside time under the air cooler ducts and wear a bib for the occasion - a bib I personally put around their necks, so again I would have noticed a lump. This didn't stop me imagining the worst and worrying it was a tumour.
Monday morning I rang our vets and was told they were booked out all week, but I could have an emergency appointment if I could bring Cleo in an leave her for the day to be seen as soon as someone had the time. I was concerned that Cleo would need to be euthanized and didn't want that to happen without me being with her so I made an appointment for the next week. On Wednesday, Cleo upped the ante. The lump proved to be the biggest abscess I've ever seen and began to ooze disgusting stuff. Cleo had chosen for some reason to sleep out on the concrete driveway on Tuesday night and when the abscess burst, it created a huge mess all over the concrete. The entire area looked like a crime scene with blood and gore from one side of the driveway to the other – the only thing missing was the police tape. Despite this horrible sight, Cleo's abscess was still an impressive sight. I rang the vets' and told them the non-urgent lump had developed into an urgent one and may I bring her in this morning to be seen when they had time please? The receptionist told me to bring her in by 8.45am, which was only just doable considering the distance we live from the vets' surgery.
Graeme is still harvesting, and as I've mentioned before, I am unable to drive any more due to a back injury. Luckily (from Cleo's and my perspective, definitely not from Graeme's) the header and broken down on the weekend and needed repairing (we'd driven three and half hours on Monday to get the part needed) and we'd had rain which meant the wheat couldn't be harvested until it dried out considerably which meant that Graeme was happy to drive Cleo to the vets'. Graeme prepared the car for a canine passenger. This involves putting a protective covering over the cargo area of the car to protect the car’s interior from drool. Graeme has never learned to shut the puppies up while he's doing this and as soon as they see the cover go in, they try their hardest to get into the back of the car. Neither are athletic so all attempts fail, but their attempts always annoy Graeme who is worried they'll scratch the paintwork in their abortive attempts to get into the car, ready for their car ride. Thankfully, Cleo wasn't in the mood even to attempt to get in the car and Aslan was soon dispatched to the laundry. Cleo then needed to be lifted bodily into the back by first placing her front feet on the tailgate and then Graeme hefting her backend up to join the front paws.
Once at the vets’ I was lucky to for Cleo to be seen straight away and surgery was recommended. I left Cleo with the vet and went home to wait for the phone call to come pick her up. Later in the afternoon Graeme suggested, we take Aslan with us to pick up Cleo because Aslan was sad that he'd missed out in the morning and he'd missed Cleo all day. Venus, the ex-feral cat, also missed Cleo while she was away, but taking her with us wasn't suggested. Once Cleo was ready to come home, we loaded an unusually enthusiastic Aslan into the car. I told Venus, the ex-feral cat, her dog would be coming home soon and left her looking wistfully at the last dog in the yard to leave her.
I hadn't realised that Cleo was the social glue that held the backyard menagerie together until she was gone for the day. Aslan sulked in the laundry and didn't want to talk to anyone. Venus moped around and tried to befriend Aslan instead, but as I said, Aslan was sulking and ignored any pussycat overtures of friendship. We took Aslan with us to pick Cleo up and he was over the moon when he saw her wobbling her way towards the car (she was still dopey from the anaesthetic). When she was lifted into the back of the car (with lots of interested patients' owners looking on and laughing), Aslan tried to welcome Cleo back to the fold. Cleo wasn't interested and just wanted to go back to sleep so Aslan, ever the pragmatist, settled down to sleep next to her.
Once we arrived home and got Cleo out of the car (no easy feat with a drowsy puppy wobbling everywhere) Aslan again tried to welcome Cleo home. Cleo just tried to weave her way to the water dish, but Venus had rushed over to greet her as well. There were a few harrowing moments when cat and puppy's legs looked about to tangle, but Cleo managed to keep her precarious balance while Venus decided the welcome home could wait a few seconds. Once Cleo was drinking from the water container Venus went to town with her welcome. She rubbed against all Cleo's legs, one after the other, stood under Cleo's jaw so she could reach part of Cleo's face to rub against in welcome (not the best idea with the drainage tube doing its job) and finally, Venus followed Cleo to the laundry. This looked something like a triumphal march because, with Cleo leading the way, Venus following close behind and Aslan bringing up the rear, a parade scene was definitely brought to mind, even if the leader of the parade looked decidedly tipsy.
The vet had told me to take the tube out on Monday. Cleo and Aslan had other ideas about that and Friday morning Cleo greeted me at the back door sans drainage tube. I had a closer look and she had the tiniest bit still in place held down by the stitches. I think she got Aslan to chew the tube off on Thursday night, although neither was admitting to anything. By now, Graeme was once again harvesting so he was less than impressed with the possibility of another trip to Wagga. When I rang to tell him the bad news he grumpily said it would just have to wait and hung up. Why he was cross with me I don't know - I think it was guilt by association.
Thankfully, our son-in-law Grant is here to drive the truck for us. He told me he wasn't needed until 10.30 so, after another call to the vet, who was again booked out for the day, I locked up Aslan - he wasn't invited this time - helped Grant load the Puppy-Who-Was-In-Disgrace into the car and off we headed for Wagga. When I rang I was told there could be quite a wait and neither Grant nor I were thrilled about that because Graeme would have the truck ready to go at 10.30 and grandson Ethan, who had come down to help with harvest as well, isn't old enough to drive the truck. I'm sure he would have been thrilled to be given the chance, but ... just no.
Thankfully, our vets are all country people who understand about harvest frenzy and the vet saw Cleo as soon as we arrived. There was a moment when I had to laugh when we arrived at the vets'. The new Covid-19 system is to ring the receptionist when you arrive and someone will come out and tend to your pet. I dutifully rang and told the receptionist I had Cleo in the car-park ready to see the vet. The receptionist told me to just carry Cleo in and she'd let a vet know. This was obviously a new receptionist who hasn't met my puppies before. I thanked her, but silently declined carrying Cleo in. The vet met me almost at the door, whisked Cleo into the back room, with Cleo wagging her tail furiously because she was making a new friend. The vet and Cleo returned after a few minutes when the vet removed the tube and stitches. I was told all should be well now so we thankfully headed home.
Once home again, Cleo had to endure the same over the top welcoming committee from Wednesday's joyful reunion, but she was bright and happy this time so she joined in the celebration of being back home, only showing mild embarrassment when Venus rubbed up against her and generally told the world that Cleo was her best friend.
There's nothing I can say to Cleo to make her feel ashamed of her bad behaviour in getting rid of the tube. In Cleo's mind, it was all win win. She'd had two more car rides and made a new friend at the vets'. In Cleo’s opinion, causing all that trouble at home and the extra trip to Wagga at a very inconvenient time was worth it. It’s a good thing I love her.