Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Play Nurse, Part 3

With Ripley, I am torn back and forth. He is better, and then he is not better.

About six last evening, the electricity went off. With no power for reading, dvds, or surfing the web, I went to bed early and lifted Ripley into bed with me, reasonably certain that he would not jump out of bed, given his weak condition. I was right. Either the illness or the medication kept him quiet and (I hope) comfortable all night.

The electricity was still off this morning. I carried Ripley downstairs and noticed he could barely keep his balance standing in place. I got ready and left for school, after putting him in his crate along with his bed, a quilt, a blanket, a throw blanket, and a couple of his toys.

During my office hour at school, I checked my home e-mail, not certain whether I’d have power at home later. A friend and fellow whippet-owner from my years in Savannah wrote me via Facebook to say that her dog (Ripley’s uncle) had had almost the identical problem, and a blue ice pack held to his neck twice a day by a shrunken men’s turtleneck sweater had done wonders for him. She also reported that Ripley’s brother (owned by the teaching colleague who owned and bred Ripley’s parents) had had the same symptoms and been cured with steroids. So there are options, she said.

I googled “whippet AND neck disease” and found a complex, rather technical article on the dangers the whippet’s delicate spine poses for the breed. It did not cheer me up or encourage me at all.

When I returned home, the electricity was back on, and I found Ripley calm and alert in his crate. When I let him out, he tried to give me his usual frenzied welcome, but I told him no and easily settled him down. I carried him outside again, again hating to see him so unsure of his feet—how much of this is illness and how much is the drugs I don’t know.

Back inside, I reheated some leftover enchiladas and ate them on the living-room floor. Ripley lay beside me while I watched a documentary on TV. Then I felt he was shivering, and I figured his muscle relaxer had worn off and he was in pain. I tried to pry open his jaw to poke the pill down his throat, but his teeth clenched, almost as if soddered together. His eyes looked panicky. I pretended that he had hurt me, and the trick worked: he opened his mouth, and I pushed the pill past his tongue.

In a matter of a couple of minutes, the shivering stopped, and he licked my nose twice. When I came into my bedroom to write this, he ambled in and curled up on the quilt in his crate and fell asleep.

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