Friday, June 12, 2009
The day before yesterday, my wife took our dogs: Pharaoh, the Greyhound rescue and Rocco, our Old English Bulldog out for their morning walk, which consists of a stroll to the next the block for a leisurely turn around the sprawling grounds of the local cemetery.
At the entrance, Pharaoh insisted on walking on the left of my wife near to the Oleander hedgerow. Because he is so large, and because my wife’s knee is arthritic, he is never allowed to walk to her left. Almost immediately, he seized upon a movement, slipped his leash and chased something into the underbrush. My wife admonished him, gave him a small slap for his disobedience, took up his lead and they continued their mid-morning constitution.
After they arrived home, Pharaoh had a small contusion, a ‘mouse’ over his left eye. My wife told me he had been very naughty and chased something.
“Probably a cat!” she complained, and she told me she thought perhaps he had been scratched in the process, or maybe poked by an errant shrub cutting. I examined him thoroughly but could find no more serious wounds than the small scratch over his eye.
By early evening, Pharaoh was whining and pawing at his eye. I re-examined him and finding nothing new, told my wife,
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was bitten by something, or maybe stung by a bee.”
I gave him a Benadryl antihistamine for the small swelling and discomfort over his eye, and put him to bed.
By the following morning, Pharaoh’s face was horribly swollen, his breathing shallow, he was drooling and his heart was racing. He could not get up.
I called the Vet and he told me it was probably an abscessed tooth- rescued Greyhounds have notoriously bad teeth- he told me to bring Pharaoh in and he would extract the offending incisor or canine molar, but would do some blood tests first just to be sure. A half an hour after I got home, the vet called again:
“Pharaoh’s blood work came back positive for a toxin consistent with snake venom, probably a Rattlesnake.”
“You’re kidding!” I exclaimed. “A rattlesnake in the morning, in a cemetery, in the middle of town, in Santa Clara, California?!”
Since more than 12 hours had gone by without a proper diagnosis or treatment- save the Benadryl I gave him the night before- Pharaoh may die.
It is three in the morning and as I write this, I am listening to an aria from “Turandot,” Nessun Dorma, “No One Sleeps”- the story of man who must solve a terrible riddle before the sun rises or suffer the penalty of death-and wondering if my dog yet lives, knowing I will not be fully informed before ten this morning and I suppose, given the sad tale of the music to which I am listening, it is oddly appropriate.
Pharaoh is never ever allowed to walk on the left side of my wife but he stubbornly insisted that morning, and for his troubles received a scolding and perfunctory if sallow slap to his powerful haunches for his disobedience, and for slipping his leash.
His stubborn, yet selfless disobedience probably saved my wife’s life.
Post Script: Saturday Morning.
Pharaoh miraculously survived the night and I am told he is resting peacefully. Because of a severe and dangerous blood disorder and the high dosages of Warfarin my wife takes daily, a venomous snakebite to her would have almost certainly proved fatal. Pharaoh’s obstinate, if heroic insistence to walk between her, the hedgerow and grim peril saved her life.
His gentle and regal demeanor, his loyalty and selfless sacrifice, his quiet and studious manner are an unwavering and constant credit to his love and devotion, which is by default the very definition of a dog. He is and will continue to be my wife’s fierce and protective guardian angel and he remains my hero.
April 19, 2011.
This morning, my lovely, my gentle, patient, kind and princely Greyhound, Pharaoh- my wife’s protector and constant guardian angle- had to be put to sleep. He had developed an aggressive and terminal bone cancer in both his hind legs.
I held him. I kissed him. I blessed him,
And, he slipped silently away…