April 2, 2019

A loud, heart-rending, mournful howl yanks me from sleep. My well-developed emergency skills, finely honed with decades of experience, kick in. First, collect data. The clock says it’s one AM. A quick glance at Waldo shows a him in his crate, sitting up, in obvious distress, staring at the door. A quick review of his history reveals a dog who never soils his bed and sleeps throughout the night without issue. The prognosis is not good. The needed treatment is obvious. Waldo’s gotta go out and now!

I throw back the covers, don my underwear, socks, shirt and pants and race for my boots. I finally gave in and bought a pair of boots for the deep snow, and it takes time to lace them up. “Hang in there, Waldo. Give me just a minute!” I yell back at him.   I throw on a sweater (it’s very cold out there), grab my parka and run back to the crate. “Atta boy, let’s go!” I say as I open the crate door. Waldo bolts for the front door, but as I’m struggling to get his leash on (he’s strangely uncooperative), he assumes the position – butt next to the floor, tail outstretched behind, low back arched – and lets loose. He’s got a bad case of the squirts. The procedure is repeated a few times, producing less and less with each squirt, and then he seems to be a lot more comfortable. He’s done – for now. I put him back to bed, clean up the mess, and hope I’ll be able to finish the night without further ado.

I lay awake, looking for a diagnosis. Statistics would suggest he ate something he shouldn’t have. God knows I’ve seen him lap up water from puddles, pick up and chew detritus everywhere, even eat the yellow snow. I can’t prevent it and trying to intervene just seems to make him rush to swallow whatever he has in his mouth. He even eats rabbit raisins.

There are two kinds of rabbit raisins, you know. There’s your regular feces, but rabbits also produce something called cecotropes. You see, rabbits eat grass and other plants that are composed largely of cellulose.   But the only living things that can digest cellulose are bacteria. Only they have the enzyme needed to break the bond between the sugars that make up cellulose so they can be absorbed.  Rabbits are able to ingest the sugars in cellulose because they have a symbiotic mass of these bacteria in their cecum (beginning part of the colon). There, the bacteria produce the nutrient-rich cecotropes which are passed by the rabbits in the same way as their feces. The rabbits eat the cecotropes and absorb the nutrients. They do not eat their feces. Waldo does not have so discerning a palate and I’m pretty sure what he eats is mostly, if not entirely, rabbit feces. Maybe it was the rabbit poop that made him sick. Hard to know. It’s like trying to figure out the cause of a first-time allergic reaction. It could be anything.

Why do I perseverate on this stuff? I’m no longer in a position where its IT’S needed or even helpful. It’s not like my thinking it through in all this detail will help me decide what to do. That’s obvious. I take Waldo out as much as is necessary, feed him, make sure he has enough water and wait and watch. If the problem doesn’t correct itself, I take him to the vet. Part of it is the psychological momentum I mentioned before, but, I’ll have to admit, part of it is that I find it entertaining.

And, hell, I was good at what I did.

I glance at Waldo in his crate. He’s sleeping soundly. I close my eyes and follow his example.

The night passes without further disruption and I get up extra early to take the dog out. He squats and squirts several more times, but otherwise behaves like he always has. He is, clearly, not significantly ill. He sniffs under the evergreen bushes, looking for something to roust and chase, he wags his tail at any passers-by, he’s on the lookout for any and all adventure that might pass his way. He’s happy-go-lucky, not thinking about what happened, what will happen or what might happen. He is totally absorbed in what is happening.

Waldo is good at what he does.

I’ve got a ways to go and a lot of programming to delete to catch up.





1 comment

Paul Olmsted

Hi Byron,

It’s so much in character for you to derive meaning and understanding from something on a complex physical level. Then Waldo comes along and shows what it means to live in the moment. I believe we can all benefit from that approach.


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