By Van Denn Cruz, D.V.M.
Dazzled from my REM deep sleep, I had to peel off the covers and get up from my bed. Our veterinary assistant was pounding the door at 2:00 AM.
“The patient is vomiting and pooping blood” the assistant greeted me as I opened the door. “Looks critical.” He greeted me with his half-swollen eyes and a literally out-of-bed look.
I hurried downstairs to our emergency department’s treatment room. A worried client was almost in tears, presenting her dog in a debilitated state.
“Good morning. What happened to him?” I asked.
“He just puked and pooped blood a while ago. He collapsed afterwards.” After which a flood of tears came running down her cheeks.
As a doctor in a 24/7 veterinary hospital, I had countless nights of staying up late attending to numerous emergency cases. Such practice requires waking up in the unholiest of hours to save a four-legged, tail wagging munchkin.
During those times, I can’t help but credit the times I had also been awake at 2 AM with my feet pounding on soil and gravel along treacherous trails. It was my source of comfort.
Our local trail races usually start when the stars and moon still alight the dark sky. I always enjoy that time when everything is so quiet and peaceful up in the mountains. No life and death situations. No stressful cases and patients. No vet emergencies. It’s just you and your natural biological habitat. I value the feeling when the cold wind embraces my warm body and gives me some relief. It’s awesome to see the moon glow amid the sleeping yellow lights of the city below. Up there the trees stand eerily tall and quiet, casting shadows on the beaten path. For several hours I escape the crazy and busy urban jungle I have below the hills. I am free.
Feeling for a weak pulse, I immediately put the adult, male mongrel on an Oxygen mask. His femoral pulse was weak and asynchronous. We attached an IV catheter to establish a venous access and immediately gave doses of the medicines we deemed necessary. The heart beat was very quick and the legs were getting cold.
“What’s happening!? Pooochieeeeee! Nooooooooo!” the client screaming her head off.
“Poochie is in a state of shock. We need to up his blood pressure so the different parts of his body can equally receive the right amount of blood it needs” I replied.
The client was on the verge of hysteria as we put the patient under a heat lamp.
“Chie-chie don’t leave me!!!”
The client charged to her dog and smothered his head with kisses and tears. Adrenaline was bouncing from room to room.
We were defined by the white walls and glass walls of our space. The space was bare and hissed with the sound of Oxygen. The white fluorescent ceiling lights casted ominous shadows on the empty room and chairs beside us.
My right foot got stuck in ankle-deep mud as I finished my downhill descent. Focusing my head lamp below, I found my way out of the obstacle. Several meters from where I stood is a stream of jet black water. The sound of dribbling fluid played its song under the cover of the night. I sat at the bank and scooped out water. I drank it even when I was not thirsty. It was great to be in such a tranquil place.
“He’s gone!!!” the client shouted to me as the mutt’s ECG reading flat lined.
The heart beat was gone. The ECG indicated a systole – cardiac arrest.
I injected epinephrine with the hope of reviving its failing heart and administered chest compressions.
The client filled the room with her rage and hysteria. It was a scene straight out of an afternoon soap opera. Her loud painful cries resonated the quiet halls of our facility. It’s as if she was losing her mind. Her heartache was reverberating throughout the whole building. It was just too much to bear.
It was a steep uphill climb when my sweat started to pour and my heart started to beat tremendously fast. My quads began to complain. But I was having a great time feeling this suffering. The crickets were humming in unison. I started to walk slowly, rethinking of how terrible and euphoric I was at the same time. I closed my eyes and became more aware of myself and the peace that the experience was bestowing upon me.
The dog started to have a cardiac activity on the ECG. We all felt a wave of relief. He stabilized after several minutes. The rodenticide antidote must be working its magic.
We all sat down and I looked outside. The night deemed to be long and infinite. “So far, so good” I murmured. I turned my attention back to the client. “This is her second life” I told her.
“Thank you so much, Doc. I thought I was going to lose him. For 10 years, he was my source of strength and happiness. I can’t imagine a life without him.”
I smiled to her and checked Poochie. He was breathing normally and his mentation was somewhat improving. Laying on the table was this large, well-loved dog who was someone else’s family member.
“He accidentally ate the rat poison that our maid left open on our kitchen table. I was furious about it. You think he’ll make it?”
“It depends on the amount of poison Poochie’s body has absorbed. I’m afraid he may have had a lot of it.”
“Please do everything you can!” as tears welled again. “I had lost so much pets in the past few years. I don’t want it to happen again.”
“The outcome of this treatment will ultimately depend on Poochie’s fighting will and response to the medications.” I said.
Suddenly, Poochie had a seizure. The ECG was thumping with a series of tachycardias.
I hurriedly administered an anti-convulsive medication.
I drifted on top of CM50’s highest peak. It was dawn. The sunlight glistened on the evergreen fields of grasses. The clouds were hiding by the landscapes below. It was chilly and we barely made it to the cut off time at the turn around. My partner was smiling as we stopped by to sit down and ingest the awe of what we were seeing. We opened our zip lock bag of trail mix. I laid down on the blanket of grass beneath me while I munched on the nuts and dried fruits. We were halfway through the course.
In my mind, Lana del Rey’s Video Game single was playing. “Heaven is a place on earth with you/Tell me all the things you wanna do/I hear that you like all the bad girls/Honey, Is that true?”.
I was humming on the song as Poochie finally collapsed. Heart rate gone, breathing is none. I looked at his owner, indignant.
Poochie is in doggie heaven, running across the fields of glistening grass and eternal sun shine. He was running his own race, on the trails.
*Based on true events
*Written in dedication to the love mutually shared by people, their pets and the trails