My dog, Josie, is a rescue, found on the side of a road in Sarasota at about two months of age. I think she’s mostly Blackmouth Cur, though she’d probably make a genetic test explode with her sheer muttitude. She has one ear that goes up and one ear that stays down. She’s a bit past her first birthday now, a year and three or four months, which puts her bang in the middle of that difficult developmental stage I call the Puppy Stupids. She has the worst case I’ve ever seen.
I know now that giving Josie free run of my bedroom at night was a mistake. I don’t know why Josie was chewing my things instead of her things, or sleeping. I don’t know why she chose my sewing kit, a toolbox-style container made of thick plastic.
She went for the clasp first, judging by the shrapnel. Her strong carnassial teeth tore the thing open with no trouble at all. Inside, Josie found toys: big patches on cardboard backings, lengths of embroidered ribbon, and a pincushion. The pincushion was velvety and red with green detailing, designed to resemble a tomato. It was perfectly round. Josie cannot resist a ball.
I woke to find Josie sitting proudly in a mess of sawdust and straight pins. Pieces of plastic and scraps of red velvet cloth surrounded her.
I don’t take chances when it comes to my dog’s health. I didn’t know if she’d eaten any pins, but I didn’t know if she hadn’t, either, and better safe than a surprise perforated intestine. I canceled breakfast, in case she needed to be doped for the X-ray, and called the vet. They said to bring her in as soon as they opened, and then they said scary things about esophageal punctures. So I hurried.
Josie had one pin in her stomach. My vet suggested I take Josie to the emergency vet, which is stocked with all of the latest veterinary technology and can offer several ways to remove a pin from a dog.
Off we went. Josie likes car rides, fortunately.
The emergency vet makes the news occasionally for things like putting four-foot-long sharks through their MRI and treating endangered Florida Panther kittens. They do great work. Like a hospital, though, you never want to be there.
Josie bounced into the building and put her forepaws up on the counter to greet the receptionist. I handed over the disc with the X-rays from our regular vet, then after some puppyish confusion I handed over my dog.
When I met the vet, I told her the story of the toolbox and pincushion. Then she gave me a long explanation of scopes and abdominal surgery. I asked questions and I’m sure she thought I was paying attention, but I wasn’t. Not entirely. I found it a little hard to believe one straight pin could cause so much trouble. My eyes may have glazed when we got to the cost of the scope, too.
The vet wanted more x-rays, to ensure the pin hadn’t moved. She came back surprised. Even for a dog, Josie’s digestive system is remarkably fast, and the pin was already in her colon. This was good and bad: Good because it had worked its way through her intestines with no trouble, and bad because colon surgery is fraught with complications.
The vet had a plan: “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’ll keep Josie here for a while and feed her some really high-fiber food. Then I’ll have a nurse take her out to do her business, and comb through the poop — ” at this point I swear she made an interpretive gesture, wiggling all her fingers “ — until the pin passes.”
The best-equipped veterinary practice in town decided the appropriate plan of action was to have Josie poop the pin out. It sounded nicely non-invasive, so I was in favor.
Before I left, I asked to see the X-rays. The vet was happy to show them, explaining everything as she went. I noticed it was a needle, not a pin: I could see the eye clearly. At one point, the vet said, they’d had to inflate Josie’s intestines to get a clearer picture, “which means she’ll be a little gassy.”
“Yeah,” I said, “because she isn’t normally like that. Hang on, I’ve got to take a picture of this.”
So I posted a picture of an X-ray of my dog’s inflated insides, with a needle in them, to Instagram. What else was there to do?
The vet called later with no news. Josie refused to poop. It would be best, she said, if I took Josie home. If the needle hadn’t passed by the next morning, then I’d bring her back for more X-rays. They didn’t know why she wouldn’t go.
Josie was waiting for ME to comb through the poop, is why.
When I arrived, the vet gave me my dog, a few cans of the high-fiber food, and a copy of the X-rays, which I may put on the Christmas cards. I needed something else, though.
“Do you have,” I didn’t know how to ask this, “anything I can … use to … dig through the poop?”
They did! I left with the finest in veterinary poop-dissecting technology: a bag full of rubber gloves and tongue depressors.
Night fell, because when you must dig through your dog’s poop, it’s more fun in the dark. Josie still refused to go, but I kept trying to make her. We fell into a routine: I’d put Josie’s leash on, we’d take a spin around the front yard, I’d light her up with a little LED flashlight, and she’d stare at me like I was crazy. Sometimes she’d mix it up by trying to steal the tongue depressors sticking out of my pocket.
I wondered what the neighbors would think, then decided I didn’t care. Dogs or dignity: You get one or the other. I wondered what would happen if a cop decided to stop and ask what I was doing. I decided I didn’t care about that either, because it can’t possibly be against the law to observe your dog crapping out a needle in your own yard, even if it’s past midnight.
When Josie finally popped a squat, I had my flashlight and my tongue depressors. I was ready. The needle emerged, skewered through the “beads on a string” excreta we long-haired animal owners are familiar with. It glinted in the flashlight beam. I did not need to go through anything. I can’t say I felt any disappointment about that.
Then Josie whipped around in a panic, as she always does when a strand of my hair makes it through her digestive tract. I tackled my dog to prevent her from stabbing herself in the butt with the needle she’d finally passed. Somehow we both survived.
I went to my bed with a great sense of relief. Josie went to her crate with a great sense of injustice. She’d grown used to having free run of my bedroom at night. No more, kid. No more. You need to grow out of these Puppy Stupids first.
Read more about needles and more from Julie: