By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
There should probably be a warning on this column because it’s graphic, and if your stomach is as weak as mine, perhaps you should turn back now and save yourself.
If you’re still with me, let me tell you what happened last week and how a humble peanut butter sandwich saved the day. My 16-year-old daughter, Kate, called me from school, and I instantly knew something was wrong.
Her: Mom, something happened. Mac ate a chicken leg.
(Mac is her 80-pound Goldendoodle service dog who goes to school with her.)
Me: What? How did Mac get a chicken leg?
Her: He found it on the cafeteria floor. When he picked it up, I tried to take it from him, but he swallowed it whole.
Her: Yes, it happened so fast.
Me: Is he choking?
Her: No, he seems okay. What should I do?
Me (quickly Googling for answers): This website says you should feed him some bread, and then we need to call the vet. You find bread, and I’ll call the vet. I’ll text you in a few minutes.
With the vet clinic on speakerphone, I raced to the high school to get Kate and the dog. She looked worried sick. He looked like a tail-wagging dog who’d just scored some free chicken.
When we arrived at the clinic, they said we’d need to “induce vomiting.” Let me stop here to admit that I’m one of those people who nearly gags when I even hear the word “vomiting.” I get panicky about puking. I’ve done it less than 10 times in my life, and every time it happened, I was convinced I was dying.
I asked the vet if there was any other way. But she said the risk of the chicken leg causing a bowel obstruction was higher than the risk of him throwing it up before it could move through his intestines. She said if it was her own dog, she’d do an x-ray and then get it out.
The x-ray left no doubt. In black and white, there was the perfect outline of a 4-inch chicken leg. How’d he swallow the whole thing? No idea. But this dog is what we call “highly food motivated,” which is great for training but terrible for dropped chicken legs.
I was nervous the bone might hurt him on the way back up, but the doctor said she’d feed him some special dog food that forms a protective cocoon around the object, making it easier to cough it up. But Mac – who is as afraid of the vet’s office as I am of puking – refused to eat. He was too scared. We tried everything, but he wouldn’t take a bite.
The vet said his x-ray showed something else in his stomach, and Kate confirmed she’d fed him half a peanut butter sandwich earlier. “Perfect,” said the vet. “That will do.”
Now, here’s where the drama ramps up. The vet gave us the option of having Mac stay in the room for the procedure or be taken to a back room where they’d handle it without us. Kate insisted on staying with him to soothe his anxiety. She’s a good dog mama. I felt proud but also terrified that I might sympathy-puke with the dog.
The vet gave Mac an injection to start the process, and he got so scared that he peed and pooped his fur pants, which triggered a tsunami of stink. Then the gagging sounds started (his, not mine), and I closed my eyes and silently prayed for the strength not to make this day any grosser than it already was.
The vet, who is clearly a superhero, knelt in front of our dog with a small butter knife, sifting through stomach contents. I couldn’t see her because my eyes were squeezed shut, but I heard her yell, “I got it!”
With the entire chicken leg safely out, she gave Mac another shot to stop his nausea. (I wanted one, too, but didn’t ask.) The vet and her crew cleared away the mess and handed me a bill, which I was happy to pay because no one has ever earned their money more.
Despite all the trauma and bodily fluids, we ended the day with three positive facts: Mac is safe and healthy. I didn’t puke in public. And none of us will ever look at a chicken leg the same way again. The end.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at email@example.com. Her book is available on Amazon.