Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Yesterday was three months exactly since our veterinarians scuttled their attempt to remove Butch’s anal sacs. As we might have anticipated, those troublesome organs are still giving him problems.

Butch stayed on antibiotics for a few weeks after the aborted surgery, and for a few more weeks after that, I lived in a state of denial, trying to pretend I wouldn’t have to make a decision about what to do next. I obviously knew it isn’t healthy for Butch to have anal sac abscesses one after the other, and I knew he can’t stay on antibiotics indefinitely, but thinking about how close I came to losing him just scared the bejesus out of me. Finally, when he began spending way too much time with his nose stuck up under his tail, I knew I’d have to face my fears and take him back to the vet.

We did that two weeks ago yesterday. Butch does indeed have another abscess, and it needs to be cleared up before surgery is even an option. This time the vet did a bacterial culture, which identified three separate bacteria, and she prescribed a four-week course of antibiotics that are supposed to wipe out those specific bacteria. At the end of the four weeks, we’ll consider surgery again.

While I was at the vet’s office, I asked her to write down what anesthesia they were using when Butch stopped breathing. That’s information I want to keep handy in case Butch ever has to go to the emergency after-hours vet clinic. The vet gave me a written list and said she suspected either morphine or pentathol -- or the combination of both -- caused the problem. She also said it wasn’t that Butch had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia but rather that he went under too deeply. He’s had anesthesia on at least three previous occasions, so no one knows for sure why he had problems on that particular day.

The mention of morphine helped me to better understand Butch’s bizarre behavior in the hours after I brought him home following his near-death experience. During the hours he paced the floor and crashed into walls and furniture, he may well have been having morphine-induced hallucinations. I remember my mother’s description of something that happened when my over-90-year-old grandmother stayed with her for a while. Mammaw was taking morphine to reduce cancer pain. Mother woke up to noises in the middle of the night and discovered that my fragile Mammaw had pulled the mattress and all the bedding off her bed. She was also highly agitated about the "naked men" who were flying around the ceiling of her room. I don't know if Butch's hallucinations included naked men, but he was definitely agitated.

To wrap up this lengthy entry, let me tell you about one moment I treasured on Butch's most recent visit to the vet: I was sitting on the end of a cushioned bench in front of a window in the lobby, and Butch, on a leash, was standing at my feet. A woman across the room spotted Butch, did a double-take when she noticed he didn’t have eyes, and walked over to ask about him.

Butch accepted the woman's attention enthusiastically while I explained about the primary glaucoma, but he lost interest after she stopped petting him. After a few “oh, poor babies” and a couple of “bless his hearts,” the woman asked, “Does he have problems getting around the house?” Butch chose that exact moment to turn away from her, scrunch up his hindquarters and leap up onto the other end of the bench, where he sat facing the window, nosed the venetian blinds open wider, and basked in the sunshine on his face.

I was kind of surprised myself that he'd figured out the layout of the bench, the window, etc. That’s my good boy.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on April 23, 2008.)