Thursday, October 16, 2014

Curse of the Skunk

Warning: this blog contains gross descriptions.  Do not read if you are eating.

When one is a parent, pet owner, cat breeder or just responsible for the care of others, there will be no shortage of challenging moments or messes to clean up.  You learn to go with the flow, accept the yin with the yang, cuteness and poop.  As pet owners, we sacrifice a bit of cleanliness, money, and orderliness for the love and completeness we feel by sharing our homes with furry creatures that have different agendas.  Raising children is similar up to a point; hopefully a child will continue to develop beyond the simple commands of “sit” and “stay,” learn to clean up her own messes, cost a lot more money, but in the end move out and live independently. 
We have two dogs; a 13-year-old Golden Retriever, Chardonnay, and a 3-year-old Shar-pei mix, Coraline “Cory.”  Cory is a high-energy gray bullet with a strong prey drive.  As a large, geriatric dog, Chardonnay moves more slowly and takes many naps, but still enjoys adventure in moderation.  Although her knees are weak, her hearing greatly diminished and her mind seems to have dementia, Chardonnay’s worst quality is that she has never lost her desire for coprophagia; she eats poop.   
Cory, on the other hand, is the subject of this blog.  We adopted Cory for Kelsey, who begged for a puppy for her 16th birthday.  She promised to take full responsibility for the puppy; housebreaking, puppy kindergarten, clean up any messes, etc.  Well, you can imagine how long that lasted.  Cory’s person of choice is Jay, my husband.  I am the mean one who doesn’t allow jumping up, pawing, barking, or other unpleasant behavior.  Jay tells the dog to get down while petting her and wonders why she still has bad habits. 
Jay recently went on his annual salmon fishing trip to New Brunswick with his buddy, Curt.  The day Jay left, I noticed that Cory had a large, hard bump on her jaw.  It was about the diameter of a quarter.  Even though Cory didn’t act like she’d been stung by rubbing her face repeatedly and the bump was much bigger than normally associated with a bee sting, I just assumed she'd been stung and didn’t think much of it.  
The next day, the bump looked the same and I mentioned it to Jay when he called from Canada to tell me about his first catch.  By late afternoon, however, the bump had tripled in size.  I had just come home from spending way too much money at Bed, Bath and Beyond for window valances when I realized that I was going to have to take Cory to the vet.  I had a sinking feeling that I was going to need to return my purchases in order to pay a vet bill.  I was right. 
My vet, Dr. Karen Brown at Stonington Veterinary Hospital, said Cory had an abscess on her jaw from where she had punctured it on something like a sharp stick.  It was too hard to drain so I was instructed to watch for skin color changes that might warn of a rupture, apply hot compresses and give her antibiotics.  Most of my summer I’ve had to deal with Levi the cat’s staph infection on his tail, which also formed an abscess, burst, was stitched, burst, and is taking forever to heal.  I joked that Cory and Levi were going to have to share a room where they can swap abscess stories. 
Cory with her swollen face
Cory clearly didn’t feel well.  She had a fever and the right side of her face was swollen uncomfortably.  I dutifully applied a warm washcloth to her jaw and babied her throughout the day.  Shortly before the dogs’ supper time (5 pm and Chardonnay starts campaigning an hour earlier to be fed), I let the girls out.  Living out in the middle of the woods has the advantage of not needing a fenced-in yard or having to walk the dogs on a leash; we just open the back door and let them go.  Since they learned the parameters of the yard from the invisible fence collars, they no longer wear the collar.  It works, most of the time.  This time, however, Chardonnay managed to find her favorite cologne, Essence of Bambi (deer poop) and happily applied it liberally to her face and neck. 
Great.  All I wanted to do was feed the dogs and relax and now I had to wash the stench off the old girl’s head.  I took a bottle of dish detergent and led Chardonnay back out to the garden hose for a lecture on hygiene as tried to wash off the crap.  That accomplished, I fed the dogs, but Cory didn’t come over to eat.  I found her hiding and upset because her abscess has started to ooze all over the side of her chest, leg and neck.  Not able to reach the hole from which the bloody pus originated with her tongue, Cory obsessively tried to clean what she could. 
I called the vet to see if this needed immediate attention.   The vet tech, Sherri, asked me to see if I could facilitate the draining by squeezing Cory’s cheek.  So there I was, phone tucked between my shoulder and face, straddling a nervous dog, holding a wet washcloth against her swollen cheek and trying to find the right pressure points.  Finally, a glob about the size of a dime came out of the small puncture wound. 
“Gross!  This is disgusting!  My husband should be doing this.  Cory is HIS dog and he’s in Canada fishing!”  Sherri laughed and reminded me that I had probably seen a lot more disgusting things as a cat breeder.  True, unfortunately.   Since it was already about 6 pm, Sherri asked if I could bring Cory to the office in the morning so they could suture a drain in the poor pup's face. 
As I sacrificed a washcloth to blood and mucus, I became aware of an aroma coming off of Cory’s face; skunk.  Seven months after her last skunk encounter, the water still activated the smell.  Anyone who’s ever had a skunked dog is familiar with this. 
Then I had a thought; what if the poor skunk that had lost its life in Cory’s mouth last spring had cursed the dog with its final breath?  It could have planted an alien skunk seed under Cory’s skin which was now hatching.  I envisioned the dog as Sigourney Weaver impregnated by an alien, but this time a skunk head (I hoped not the tail) would emerge from the side of our dog’s face.  It would be an extra mouth to feed, but think of the money we’d make on the talk show circuit.  Maybe we’d even get our own reality show, “Cory and Stinky - Two Heads, Two Species, One Body”.
The next morning, I took our grandson to school, a kitten to my other vet to be spayed 35 minutes in the opposite direction, then came home to get Cory and drove her to Stonington.  A lot of veterinary chauffeuring, but I got it all done. 
When I picked Cory up after her procedure, her swelling was mostly gone and she had a rubber tube which protruded from two places behind her jaw, vertically up, through her cheek then out the bottom near to where her original wound was.  She looked a lot happier, but weird.  I had already told my vet about my alien skunk theory, but when I saw the drain, I started joking about blowing in one end so Cory could make bubbles in her water bowl or taking her snorkeling.  My vet has concluded that I have a strange sense of humor.  Poor Cory.  She had gone through hell week and all I could do was make fun of her. 
Cory with her drainage tube. Note the tube goes through her skin and exits below her jaw.
By the time Jay came home Saturday night, Cory’s drain had been removed and other than a couple of residual holes in her face, she looked normal and very happy to see her favorite human.  Just a regular week here in the land of fur and feathers.