Sunday, August 08, 2010

Oliver (the "Twist" is in his tail)

Last week flew by in a haze of muscle aches and sleeplessness. My muscles were sore because I finally broke down and thoroughly cleaned my messy house. The sleeplessness was partly due to the muscle aches but mostly due to the fact that my granddogs spent the week here, and Lucy wasn't necessarily tired when the rest of us were.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed their company. Oliver, the newest and youngest pack member, is a treat to be around. His joie de vivre is infectious, and he's definitely the most stable, grounded dog I've ever known. Nothing fazes him.

Kim brought Ollie home on New Year's Day, not too long after her beloved Winston died. Ollie was a rescue dog. He'd been found running wild, his long hair matted to the point that he had to be shaved, and his whole hind end was inflamed as a result of a flea infestation. A Shih Tzu rescue group found him in the pound, and a foster mom in New Orleans fixed him up and took care of him until Kim saw his picture on craigslist and fell in love.

Nobody knows how long Ollie was on the streets before he was picked up, but it's obvious he was on his own long enough to pick up some street smarts. He's very clever. When he wanted to jump up on Kim's lap but couldn't get to her because other dogs lying on the floor blocked his way, he jumped up on the other sofa, gauged the distance between the arm of that sofa and the arm of the one Kim was sitting on, and made the leap. His front and back legs were stretched out so far it looked like he was flying.

One day last week a violent thunderstorm gave us a little relief from the heat, but it made the other dogs nervous. After one particularly loud clap of thunder, I took inventory of the dogs: Butch buried himself in the tiniest nook he could find in my bedroom. Lucy burrowed between my hip and the arm of the sofa. Kadi stood at my feet and trembled. Then, here came Oliver, racing in from the den and tossing a stuffed hedgehog into the air. Being inside during a storm probably seemed like a great thing to him.

Oliver's Trail of Toys

Ollie lives for toys. He likes to pull all the toys out of the toy basket in the den, pick out four or five favorites, then carry those into the living room to enjoy them. To a dog that loves toys, everything looks like a toy. One night I walked into the kitchen and found poop -- little-dog poop. By Lucy's reaction I knew it was hers. Ollie stood beside me as I fussed at Lucy and pointed my finger at the one long piece of poop and the two little round balls beside it. I left the room for just an instant, and when I came back with a big handful of toilet paper, one of the little round balls was missing. So was Oliver. I turned around to see him on his way back into the kitchen, evidently going back to make a second pickup. The missing ball of poop, I noticed, was now sitting perkily in the midst of Ollie's other toys.

We did have one other scary incident. Just before bedtime one night, I gave Kadi her thyroid pill, folded into a mini-marshmallow, and she dropped it. As fast as I moved, Ollie beat me to it, grabbed it and swallowed.

The dosage of the pill was for a Kadi-sized dog, three times the size of Oliver, so I called the after-hours vet, explained the situation, and asked whether or not I needed to bring Ollie in. They said no, but I needed to make him vomit. They said to give him hydrogen peroxide, about a teaspoon and a half at a time, every 15 or 20 minutes until he vomited.

After talking to the vet, I felt like it was time to call Kim, who was in Baton Rouge taking care of her vacationing friends' three very large dogs. While she was on her way here, I gave Ollie his first dose of peroxide. Nothing happened.

When Kim arrived, Ollie was busily playing with his toys, leaping around and happy as the clown that he is. We gave him a second dose. He licked his lips a couple of times and got an odd expression on his face, but nothing else. We encouraged him to play. We picked him up and bounced him around and rubbed his tummy. Nothing.

We dosed him again. This time we could tell he didn't feel well. He lay down, looking confused and miserable, and we heard a burp or two. But he didn't vomit. We felt so bad about making him sick on purpose, and we were quite aware that the label on the peroxide bottle stressed that it shouldn't be taken internally.

Kim called the vet again. They couldn't believe he hadn't vomited and said to give him three more teaspoonfuls, all at once. Kim asked what we should do in case that didn't work, and they said getting him to vomit was just a precaution, that the pill probably wouldn't hurt him unless he had an allergic reaction to it. Same thing went for all the peroxide in his system.

The larger dose didn't work either. By the time we gave up it was almost one-thirty in the morning, and we didn't know what else to do. Kim finally decided to go back to her friends' house in Baton Rouge, where she'd left the lights on when she rushed to come here. I promised I'd call her if anything changed with Ollie, one way or the other. I must have stretched a hand out to check on him a dozen times during the night, and each time he looked at me as if to ask why I was bothering him in the middle of the night. He never did vomit, and he's been fine ever since.

We learned with Winston that it only takes an instant for things to go terribly wrong, so this was kind of scary. This little funny-faced dog already owns a big piece of my heart.


  1. I rescued a Lhasa Apso/Shih Tzu mix when he was 4. I had him a little over 10 years when he had a heart attack. He was a delightful dog, especially since he'd been abused. He wanted to run things HIS way and we had our differences about once a year...other than that he was great. I miss him. I used to think that he looked like a stuffed animal come to life....especially right after his grooming appointment. They are tough fearless little dogs with an abundance of love to give.

  2. Oliver sounds like a treasure! I can just see him having a ball while the others cowered from the thunder. Glad he's OK and hope he isn't so quick to snatch next time!

  3. So glad Oliver is doing well! I have had to dose several dogs with hydrogen peroxide and it always worked! That's one iron stomached little pup!!!

  4. Val, Oliver is only about a year and a half old, so I'm glad to read that your Shih Tzu mix had a long life.

    Janet, he's great. He gives Lucy a hard time (wanting to play), which she didn't appreciate AT ALL in the beginning. She tolerates him now, and Butch sometimes goes in the other room to avoid Ollie's high energy, but the rest of us love him.

    Holly, speaking of Ollie's iron stomach, I forgot to write that immediately after we gave him the thee-teaspoon dose of hydrogen peroxide, he bellied up to the food bowl and began eating kibble. That's when Kim decided it was probably safe for her to leave him.


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