a dog tale in three parts

the good

If you live anywhere near New Albany and you have pets, then your veterinarian should be Dr. Hesse at Ridgeview Animal Clinic. Period. End of discussion.

Our golden retriever, Lily, has had periodic small seizures for a year or so, and we've always been able to bring her out of them by giving her some syrup to raise her blood sugar. Last night was a different story. She had a seizure, and when we thought it had passed, we left her quiet in the garage. About half an hour later, we discovered that she was still seizing and had wedged herself under the car. An hour after that, she was still seizing, despite Doug's best efforts to bring her around.

What to do, at 10:30 p.m.? Surely there was no night-time help available for dogs. I called Ridgeview's number, and a message directed me to call the answering service if it was before 11:00 p.m. I did, and within 5 minutes I received a call back from Dr. Hesse. I described our situation, and he said something I never dreamed I'd hear: "I'll meet you at the clinic."

He opened the clinic for us, injected medicines that finally stopped the seizing, drew blood for tests, made Lily a bed in a kennel, and started her on an IV, all the while remaining calm and friendly, as if there was no place he'd rather be. He answered our questions (which helped us remain calm, too), stroked Lily's fur, spoke to her gently, and stayed with her after we left (past midnight), to be sure she was settled. In every possible way, he made it clear that he cared about us and our dog. I know it's his job, but this seems so above and beyond — I'm still in awe this morning.

the bad

Not too bad, really. Dr. Hesse just called (despite his late night, he arrived at the clinic this morning before 8:00 a.m.), and Lily is doing fairly well. She's very woozy from the high doses of valium and phenobarbital required to get her seizures under control, but she was very hungry when they offered her food. She's barking and, in his words, "carrying on," undoubtedly wondering where she is, what happened, and why she feels so weird.

Her bloodwork came back normal, so it appears that we have an epileptic dog (a condition that is, surprisingly, fairly common). She'll need to take phenobarbital tablets for the rest of her life to keep the seizures in check, and the vet will have to monitor her liver functions regularly to watch out for potential problems caused by the pheno.

the ugly

What's ugly is part of my reaction to this canine drama — which is, in the words of Bonnie Raitt, "unnecessarily mercenary." Standing in the examination room last night, watching our beautiful dog struggle through one seizure after another as Dr. Hesse worked to help her, I had cartoon-like visions of dollar bills flying out the window. I almost can't bear to think of what the bill will be when we pick her up, not to mention the ongoing cost of medication and monitoring. I'd like to find new homes for the dogs and reserve our house for cats.

But that won't happen. We'll pay the bills, and keep the dogs, and wait for the next adventure in pet ownership. And we'll continue to be glad that we know Dr. Hesse.

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