January 21, 2014 10:29:50 AM
He is a Labrador retriever and anyone who owns one will understand this. Harper, my dog, eats stuff. When it comes to what, he does not discriminate.
Cat toys, footballs, pens, CD cases, socks, wicker baskets, hats, plastic wrappers, flashlights and sandals have all made their way, either whole or in pieces, through his digestive tract. This is frustrating to my wife and I, and sometimes curse words are said.
We have had him since he was an 8-week-old timid dumpling. Now he's almost 4 and has a near-100-pound frame and mischievous eyes. His appetite for inedibles has never wavered and up until recently, it never slowed him down.
We live just outside of Columbus. Down the road there is a house Harper likes to visit. We try to keep him away from the place, but often he goes anyway.
Like two weeks ago, when we let him out in the evening and he did not come back. We found him down there marching around the backyard and had to literally pull him home. He got sick that night.
When Harper vomits it sounds the way demons do in horror movies. For a few nights in a row exorcism-like bellows coming from the den woke us up in our bed. We took turns cleaning up and hoped whatever ailed Harper would straighten itself out.
Then we went to Hattiesburg to visit family for the weekend. We left on a Friday night and during the three-hour ride south, Harper, stretched out across the back seat, let out these old-man moans. Saturday morning he declined the dog food I put out for him. That's when I made the decision to take him to a veterinarian. Driving him there, I noticed his eyes were no longer mischievous but timid and scared.
An X-ray turned up something metal in his intestine. Emergency surgery followed. The vet called and told me that after opening Harper up, they saw that the metal was a twist tie. That sounded minor. Then the vet said, "But I'm glad we went ahead and did surgery, because we found some other stuff, too."
This is what they found blocking his tract: a corncob, "multiple" bones, a newspaper wrapper, several inch-long pieces of a shattered plastic coat hanger and something unidentified. My wife and I shook our heads. The twist tie, wrapper and hanger likely came from our home. The others came from the yard down the road.
At any rate, he was going to be fine.
Harper stayed at the vet's recovering through Wednesday, when my mother went and got him, and she met us in Meridian with him that night.
When I saw him, my heart dropped a little. He had lost weight and moved slower than usual. He had stitches running from his private parts to halfway down his stomach and that timidness was still in his eyes. I felt sorry for him. I babied him.
On Thursday things leaned a little back toward normal. A stray cat came onto our front porch and when my wife went outside for something, Harper pushed his way out and chased the cat into some woods. I ran after him and brought him home.
On Saturday he chewed a hole in a scarf.
On Sunday I made deer sausage gumbo. I stepped into the den to watch a moment or two of football on the TV when I heard a commotion in the kitchen. When I stuck my head in to see what was happening, I saw Harper swallowing something quickly and I noticed some sausage missing from the counter.
I hollered at Harper and saw that his eyes were no longer timid but mischievous. That's when I stopped feeling sorry for him and a curse word was said.
He's got what my wife calls a $1,200 stomach and no longer goes out without a leash. But other than that, Harper is back to normal, frustrating us to no end and trying our patience.
As strange as it may sound, we would not have it any other way. Anyone who owns a dog will understand.
William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.
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