It was Saturday night. I was in bed, depressed, and trolling for dogs when I saw the photo of Bosco (above).
I emailed the rescue. The next morning, Cheryl Douglass of Chows Plus emailed me back. Yes, Bosco was available. He was with his foster mom, Debby Burchett in Folsom. I called Debby. We had a long discussion about how sweet and happy and affectionate Bosco is. She also mentioned he had an abscess. It didn't sound like a big deal.
I thought about Bosco all day Sunday. I showed his photo to my friends at the pub (seriously we have a pub called Ol' Republic in Nevada City now). I emailed his photo to my mom and dad. I called my friend Kat and asked her to go with me to Folsom on Monday morning. She agreed.
When Debby arrived we heard the jingle of leashes before we saw the dogs (her other foster dog Raina was with her). When Bosco saw me, he ran into my arms like a cheesy movie of lovers reuniting. He circled round and sat in my lap. Well, that's it. Here's my new dog.
Then I looked down and and saw the abscess. It was swollen, jagged, and gruesome. I couldn't breath.
Debby reassured me I could flush it out and hot pack it and it would heal. She was so confident, coming from the world of horses, that I was encouraged. I called Bosco's vet and they sounded encouraging too. I talked to Cheryl Douglass and we negotiated the care of Bosco's treatment.
I took him home and renamed him Tyler. He was sweet and happy and affectionate...
Then, about 24 hours later he snapped at me. Very aggressively. It was late afternoon on a rainy Tuesday. I had said I would use Bosco/Tyler's vet in Sacramento. That was an hour away and I wasn't sure I would make it time. I called Cheryl and she arranged for me to see a local Nevada City veterinarian named Dr. Denny Nolet at Pine Creek Veterinary Clinic.
I put on my down coat and leather gloves for protection and put Tyler in the car.
When I got to the office Dr. Nolet examined Tyler. He said he wanted to clean out the wound. That meant surgery. I sat in the waiting room, but then Dr. Nolet asked me if I wanted to come in and see.
No, I didn't. Injury makes me queasy. When I was a kid I was traumatized by the safety town movies and the stations of the cross. I never grew out of that.
But I went in.
Tyler was opened up. Dr. Nolet showed me the necrotic tissue he took out. He showed me the suture he found. He showed me the hole so deep you could see Tyler's rib cage. I almost passed out. One of the technnicians rolled over a stool and sat me down.
"How bad is it?" I asked.
"Here's what concerns me..." said Dr. Nolet.
I looked and tried to not look.
"This puncture wound is so deep and so close to the thoracic cavity that there is a risk the membrane that protects it could rupture. If that happens air would rush in. And that is life threatening. There are ways to address it..." (Here's where I don't remember what he said because it felt like my thoracic membrane had ruptured.)
I watched as Dr. Nolet took out more tissue, inserted a tube for drainage, and sewed up Tyler. He scratched his ears as the techs took him out of sedation. He was very gentle with him.
For the next two days Tyler and I slept on the couch that I turned into a furniture fort by wedging it against the coffee table, the dog crate, an easy chair, and a folding chair. I wanted to make it impossible for him to jump down. I couldn't get a cone on him so I cut up some t-shirts to keep him from getting to his stiches. He wasn't doing well...
But he let me take his photo with his tube in...
On Thursday, I was putting a hot compress on his wound and I saw something poke out. It was hard and white. It quickly retreated. I was sleep-deprived and doubted myself. But I saw it again. I called the Pine Creek office and told them. They said bring him in.
Dr. Nolet brought us back into the operating room. He flushed out Tyler's wound. He listened to me as I described what I saw.
"It could be some tissue," he said.
"It didn't look like tissue," I said. After witnessing Tyler's surgery, I knew what tissue from my dog looked like.
"It looked like a rod," I told him.
"Maybe it was the microchip," said one of the techs.
That made sense to me, because it looked man made.
Dr. Nolet didn't seem convinced.
I thought about its color and shape. "Maybe it was a tooth," I said.
"Maybe," said Dr. Nolet, "it could be a tooth from a small animal that attacked him and got stuck inside."
That would explain a lot, the swelling, the refusal to heal.
He poked around inside Tyler's stitches and tried to find it. He commented on what a good dog he was for letting him do it. I felt proud, like I had formed his personality in the last three days. Or maybe just proud that I picked such a good boy.
Dr. Nolet didn't find anything. But he wasn't dismissive. He told me that if I saw it again I should pull it out. He sent me home with forceps.
We spent another night on the couch.
The next morning I was doing his hot compress. And I saw it. I didn't have time to get the forceps. I pulled. And pulled. It was wooden and sharp and it kept getting larger in diameter. Tyler was screaming. I could tell there was more inside him and I had to keep pulling until finally it was out. It was about 6" long.
I think it was a coffee stirrer.
Or a stick from a corn dog.
Some people think it was a chopstick.
Or he got shived in Folsom...
Tyler Foote's Stick
I called Pine Creek and babbled what happened.
"Tell her to come in," Dr. Nolet said, "and tell her to bring the stick."
Dr. Nolet cleaned Tyler's wound, checked his tube, and everyone had see the stick and hear the story. Or maybe I just needed to keep repeating it.
After that, Tyler healed quickly. He got his tube out last week and his stitches out this week.
I asked Dr. Nolet if I could interview him. He graciously agreed. I must emphasize graciously because he confessed during the interview that no vet wants to be known for missing a 6" stick inside a dog he operated on. But he was the third vet how saw Tyler. I saw Tyler opened up on the operating table. I can't understand where the stick was hiding (don't you love how I am a surgical expert now?)
Here is our exchange:
Moira McLaughlin (Me): What did you think when you first saw Tyler's wound?
Dr. Nolet: "I thought it wasn't healing properly for the time involved."
MM: When you performed the surgery, you asked me to come in and look. Do you usually do this with pet owners and why?
Dr. Nolet: I ask people if they are interested in seeing it because it can be difficult to explain. I like to give the pet owner as much information as they want.
MM: Well, I want you to know that I really appreciate it. Even though I thought I would faint, it helped me understand what was going on. And it helped me with Tyler's care. What were your thoughts when you opened up the wound?
Dr. Nolet: I was surprised by how deep it was. But I tested his lungs with positive pressure and no air was emitted, so that was good. But, as I mentioned, if that membrane ruptured he could have suffocated.
MM: What did you think when I called and described the stick?
Dr. Nolet: I thought if she's saying six inches then it must be at least two or three. When I saw it I was astounded.
MM: On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most strange thing you've ever seen in your practice, how strange was this?
Dr. Nolet: a 9.
MM: Do you still have the stick and what will you do with it?
[There was discussion in the office about where the stick was and it didn't turn up.]
Dr. Nolet: If I had it, I would frame it.
I asked if I could take a photo of Tyler and him. (I haven't honed my photographing-a-black-dog skills.)
Later, Tyler and I stopped by my sister's art co-op, Art Works, and I asked her take a photo of me and my happy, sweet, affectionate, healthy dog...
I am still processing this whole situation. But I want share this: many campaigns promote rescue dogs with the concept that "they are not damaged." But the truth is even if they are damaged, they still might be excellent dogs.
Also, I am in awe of the people who are on the front lines of rescue. People like Debby Burchett, Tyler's foster mom, who took him in even though he had that wound and she had three other dogs and a business to run.
And Dr. Denny Nolet and the the staff at Pine Creek Veterinary Clinic. I don't know what would have happened if he had not agreed to see us on that rainy night, or if he had shut me down when I told him I saw something. Thank you for listening. And for empowering me to "pull it out."
Above all, thank you Cheryl Douglass of Chows Plus for trusting your instincts and rescuing Tyler from the City of Sacramento Animal Shelter, who does a terrific dog promoting highly-adoptable dogs, but understandably doesn't have the ability to handle special cases like Tyler's.
As promised, Chows Plus paid for Tyler's medical expenses. And incurring that cost challenges the organization's ability to rescue and treat other dogs. If you would like to make a donation in honor of Tyler or Dog Art Today or me on my birthday today, please donate below...
Thank you. We are doing great.