Slider is a model pet with one tragic character flaw. It’s a shortcoming that he shares with millions of Americans and with his male owner: The dog can’t say no to food. Peanut butter is his kryptonite, chicken his crack cocaine. He’s addicted to counter-surfing. The seductive temptress luring him into a double life is named Little Debbie. In the past, this canine Achilles’ heel has been mostly amusing. We’d clean up the mess, then laugh about the latest misadventure with friends. But two weeks ago, Slider’s ravenous appetite almost killed him.
We had gone to Rachael’s parents’ house in Quincy for the weekend. On Saturday, most of the family went to a charity trivia night, leaving Rachael’s mom home alone with two sick grandchildren and a greyhound, probably not our most considerate move. When Becky went to bed, she brought Slider into the room with her, but she didn’t shut the door. She fell asleep around 10:30, and we came back about an hour later.
I was the first one through the door. As has become my habit when returning home, I walked around the house to see if Slider had caused any mischief. The upstairs living room was clear, but when I started to walk downstairs to where Slider’s bed was, I tripped on a can of Campbell’s Chunky. When I came around the corner and saw Slider’s bed, well, I’d never seen anything quite like it. At first, we thought he’d somehow gotten into the pantry, but the possibility that he’d suddenly learned how to operate door knobs seemed remote.
Then we recognized the real culprit. Rachael’s sister Lydia was traveling for work, which is why her children were staying with Rachael’s mom. Thoughtfully, she’d brought over a large cloth grocery bag full of food that the picky, sick kids might eat. Slider had found the bag on the dining room floor and dragged it downstairs to his bed. There, he’d devoured an entire package of egg noodles, a box of cereal, a sleeve of Ritz crackers, and a box full of fruit granola bars.
For a moment, Rachael, her dad, and I all just stared at the carnage. Then we divided tasks, taking Slider outside for what promised to be an interesting excrement experience and beginning the arduous cleaning process. Once we swept up all the crumbs, Rachael’s parents went to bed. Worried that the pooch looked ill, she asked me to check what was in the granola bars. Slider had mostly shredded the box, but the panel with the ingredient list was intact. In the section about the fruit filling, the first thing listed was raisins. On our fridge at home, we have a poster listing foods that are poisonous for dogs, and I remembered with horror that raisins were on the list.
We frantically called a 24-hour vet hotline and were told to induce vomiting. I think we were too worried about Slider’s health to be grossed out by that prospect. I roused Rachael’s dad, Dave, then ran to the store for hydrogen peroxide, since there was none in the house. By the time I returned, they had Slider in the garage, standing on cardboard. Dave got a funnel and put it in Slider’s mouth. I held the dog still, while Rachael poured a few tablespoons down his throat. Then Dave pulled out the funnel and clamped Slider’s mouth shut. Slider thrashed about and hacked, but he swallowed about half of the liquid. We repeated the same process twice more, then waited. Within about five minutes, Slider’s stolen feast made its unwelcome return.
Rachael and I stayed up with him all night, partly out of concern and partly because nobody could have slept through his hours of coughing. The next day, following the vet’s orders, we withheld food, but did give Slider a little water. Twice, when no one was watching, he threw up wrappers on my in-laws’ carpet. Around midday, we decided to get him home, covering the back of my new car in protective blankets. That evening, he seemed to be feeling better, but in the middle of the night, he got up and vomited again.
In the meantime, we’d done quite a bit of reading about how grapes and raisins affect dogs. Some don’t seem to be bothered. But for others, raisins cause kidney failure that is often fatal. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea. We took Slider to the vet on Monday morning for a blood test that would show how his kidneys were holding up. Our vet gave us even more scary information about raisin poisoning—even a small dose can be fatal if a dog reacts poorly—then reassured us that as best he could tell, Slider appeared fine.
The vet gave Slider a shot to stop the vomiting (our dog always deals with being stabbed by a needle better than Rachael handles watching it). The vet recommended giving Slider a bit of water to see if he could keep it down, but the old saying proved true: No matter how many times we led him to his water bowl, we couldn’t make the greyhound drink. Later, we fed him some ground beef and rice, which I guess is like the canine equivalent of chicken soup and toast.
That night, after hours of nervous waiting, we finally got a call from the vet. He had good news. Slider’s kidneys were in tip-top shape. The test did reveal, however, that our dog’s thyroid number was low. The vet prescribed medication that should improve Slider’s skin and make him more active.
Increasing Slider’s activity level is great and all, but what we really need is a medicine that will help him choose his activities more wisely.