Olive & Gray-Sea

July 29, 2013
Anything can happen any time.
In the pre-dawn hours of July 4th, Olive, our 3 ½ year old German Shepherd began to whine, trying to wake us up. She wasn’t feeling well. I got up, she threw up, and we went outside. It’s not so unusual for a dog to get an upset stomach, so I didn’t think much of it and went back to bed. When I got up about 6:30, I discovered over the past couple of hours, Olive had become terribly sick thoroughly soiling the floors and rugs throughout the downstairs of the house. It was a stinking awful mess and she looked terrible. I let her outside and began to clean up. Five minutes later my husband, Bill, came downstairs and immediately went outside to check on her. He couldn’t find her anywhere. Our house sits on five acres at the end of a dirt road with a creek running along the southern border for a good distance. Much of the property is wooded, and there is a large amount of riparian growth between the creek, the large open yard and our house. Olive could have been anywhere, and though she has excellent recall and does not wander, she wasn’t responding to our calls.
After about ten minutes of looking, we began to get extremely concerned and frightened.  Olive was sick and she had disappeared. I decided to call my dear friend Jan who has many years of experience in canine search and rescue. She is currently training her one year old yellow lab, Gray-Sea, in scent trailing. Jan didn’t know if Gray-Sea was ready for a real “job,” but we were going to find out. They arrived about 20 minutes later. Once Gray-Sea had her working harness on with the long line attached, Jan gathered a scent article of Olive’s (swiping a piece of cloth on Olive’s car blanket) and waved it under Gray-Sea’s nose and told her to go find Olive. Off Gray-Sea went with Jan and Bill following right into the thick riparian growth towards the creek.
I stayed up at the house in case Olive came back, though in reality, I couldn’t focus on anything and didn’t know what to do with myself. I hadn’t brushed my teeth or had my morning tea. So, I sat on a log beside our fire pit crossing my fingers. I couldn’t sit still so I went back into the house to make a cup of tea. After I turned on the stove, I turned it off in disgust. How could I think of myself at that moment? I headed back outside and just as I got back to the yard I heard Jan loudly saying “Good girl, Gray-Sea, good girl!” It had only been five minutes, and that sweet puppy had done her job. It was thrilling. Olive was lying down in the brush along the creek barely responsive. She was in deep trouble. Before I knew it, Bill had carried her up from the creek, put her in the car, and I was off to the emergency animal clinic.
It was July 4th and there was only one veterinarian available, about a 40 minute drive away, a doctor I had never met. Once we arrived and the vet tech carried Olive in, it was clear that she was losing a lot of blood quickly and was close to dying. It was terrifying and traumatic, bewildering and impossible to believe, yet I felt a certain level of calm, clarity, and composure. Weird. The doctor made it clear that Olive was in very big trouble, had lost probably half of her blood volume, we didn’t know why, and that she may not live. Soon Bill arrived along with two friends who love Olive very much. There we were, four adults surrounding one dog. Many hours went by, lots of tests, lots of fluids, lots of love, and little by little, she began to stabilize just a bit; just enough for the doctor to move from pessimistic to neutral. We went home for the night completely exhausted.
On the way home I remembered an encounter I had had at the dog food store a couple of weeks prior. I overheard the clerk tell another customer that Innova dog treats had been recalled for suspected salmonella. I had just bought a bag of treats, but when I checked the brand it was Evo, not Innova. While I remember being relieved they weren’t the affected treats, I also remember thinking I should look into it further, just to be sure. I didn’t do it. When we got home from the animal hospital, I went online and looked it up and sure enough, the exact Evo dog treats were made by Natura, the same company that makes Innova products that had been recalled. The Evo treats, too, had been recalled. I called the vet, told him my suspicion that it was salmonella, and he concurred that the symptoms fit. Olive came home at the end of the next day weak, thin, alive and even managed to slowly wag her tail. It’s been a little more than three weeks and she’s not quite 100%, but getting close.
It was an extraordinary experience; one that exemplifies the uncertainty of all of our lives, how quickly things change, how impermanent everything truly is, how much everything depends on everything else, and how little control we have.  Even though we think we know this, when it happens in a dramatic or traumatic way, we are often surprised or even shocked. Anything can happen anytime, and it does. All of it or any of it could have been otherwise, and it wasn’t.