Okay friends, between Vegas and wine tastings, my last few posts have been fairly fun. I am afraid I have to bring us down a little this month, but I promise I am only sharing to help spare another family from heartbreak. If you aren’t one for sad stories, then I suggest you skip this post altogether or skip down to the pet health and safety tips. Also, please note that I am not a veterinarian or animal medical professional. I am simply sharing what we learned in an effort to spare you some mistakes.
Back in 2017 before we moved to Kansas, we had our house on the market down in Texas. We had to do this crazy routine everytime we had a showing. We would load up the whole family, which at this time included 3 dogs, and go hang out in a park somewhere. We had a pretty solid offer on our house, but our real estate agent said it would still be a good idea to continue accepting showings. We had a request for an early morning showing on a Saturday, so we decided to visit Palmetto State Park. It was only an hour or so away and we had been there before, so it seemed perfect.
Palmetto was not a rough hike by any means. It was mostly flat, well defined, and shaded. Still, we planned smart by going early in the morning and brought plenty of water. With us that day we had: my mom’s shitzu Maisey, our lab mix Cooper, and our pyrenees pup Wesley. Wesley was the youngest of the dogs, but also the biggest.
Just before our wedding in 2013, my husband had been volunteering at the local animal shelter. He fell in love with an older pyrenees named Gracie. He wanted to bring her home so bad, but we hesitated because we knew we’d be going out of town for a week or so for our wedding. Of course she was adopted by the time we made up our mind. A couple days later Dean was serving at the shelter again when a threesome of pyrenees pups came in. One look in Wesley’s big brown eyes and the two of them were in love. Wesley embodied the phrase “gentle giant.” He watched my tummy grow and used to let Warren climb all over him after he was born. As close as my husband was with Wesley, Warren definitely had the second strongest bond with him.
Back to our hike, we were just barely halfway when Dean and Wesley were going over a wooden bridge. Wesley started walking real funny and we thought he was just scared of the bridge. As he got to the other side, he collapsed. Dean tried to give him water and even took him under the bridge to a freshwater source. All the other hikers and dogs were fine, so we were really confused. Wesley got weaker until eventually Dean had to hoist him over his shoulder. Dean took off in a full out sprint down the trail. He found a spigot at the campsites and again tried to get him to drink. Every part of my fiber wanted to call 911 or the park’s emergency line, but we didn’t think they’d help with a dog. It turns out the closest emergency pet clinic was back in our town, an hour away. (Note: I highly suggest you do a quick lookup of the closest 24 hour emergency vet clinic near you.)
We all loaded up and took him into the clinic. At first, they told us he was dehydrated. While we were confused, we did learn something: the veterinarian told us instead of dousing the dog with water it would have actually been better to wrap his paws in a damp cloth. Apparently that directly affects their body temperature. We had to leave to go check on the family at home and by the time we got back to the clinic a new doctor had come on shift. This doctor gave us a different diagnosis.
The second doctor who saw our Wesley said she believes he was actually suffering from anaphylaxis. She explained he mostly like was bit or stung by something that he was allergic to. There was a test we could have ordered to tell us definitively, but instead of paying for that we decided to pay to keep Wesley as comfortable as possible until the very end. If you’ve never held a dog until the final moments of life leave their eyes, it’s one of the saddest things ever – but I am so glad we were there for him. It would actually be years until I told my youngest son the truth, but I think he finally accepts it now.
We felt great sadness, doubt, confusion, and guilt afterwards. Which is why I am making myself write this right now. If your dog is part of your family, I want to urge to you talk with your veterinarian about an allergy test and/or having an epinephrine syringe on hand. Especially if you are a fairly active family that will be going camping or hiking with your dogs. Also, it’s important to know the seasonal factors that could affect your dogs. For example, here in Kansas it’s important to vaccinate your dogs all year round but especially in the Summer months when fleas and ticks are prolific. Also, one of my favorite things I learned about preventing dehydration during hot weather is that dogs actually enjoy munching on ice chips and even fruit! For more ways to keep your pets safe this Summer, check out this article from Kansas State University: https://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/2019-06/summerpetsafety62819.html.
I hope this post wasn’t too tough to read and that your whole family – including your pups – have a safe Spring and Summer! Yay for warmer months, finally!
I have included a few more articles for reference below:
Hugs to all,