Thursday, April 16, 2009

Around Town: Close call for Miss Hepburn

Our dog, Miss Audrey Hepburn, is unique. She came to live with us in March of 2004. Our son, Andrew, was home on medical leave from the Marine Corps. Andrew had a plan: If the chemotherapy worked, he would move back to his assignment in Annapolis with a dog. And if it did not, then we, his parents, would have someone to take care of. None of us knew that Andrew had only two more weeks.

Miss Hepburn came to us scared and traumatized, most likely the victim of abuse. At our house, she hid, defecated, climbed and chewed. When guests arrived, she hid behind the sofa and growled.

Every midnight, The Cat chased Miss Hepburn into our bedroom. We’d wake to her whimpers. Miss Hepburn would cower, facing the corner while The Cat stood behind her, triumphantly.

During the day, The Cat ate Miss Hepburn’s food and chewed her toys. The Cat was in charge.

As the years passed, Miss Hepburn relaxed and The Cat relented. The middle-of-the night episodes diminished and both The Cat and Miss Hepburn stopped growling at guests. So it was unusual, last week, to be awakened by The Cat in the middle of the night.

Actually, it was the coyote that woke me up.

I sat up in bed. “Len! Something’s wrong.” My husband muttered something unintelligible. I jumped up and ran downstairs.

The coyote was outside, emitting the baby animal cry it uses to lure house pets.

Inside, The Cat was wailing. It was a sound I had never heard before nor since. Evidently, The Cat’s cries had attracted the coyote.

Miss Hepburn was silent, pacing.

“Len!” I called. “The Cat is sick.”

We all went upstairs.

I picked up The Cat. The Cat stopped crying.

Meanwhile, Miss Hepburn seemed restless. She continued to pace. Her breathing seemed different.

“Something’s wrong!” I said.

Len began to get dressed. “We’re going to the vet,” he said.

Fifteen minutes later we were at the TLC 24-hour Animal Hospital on Huntington Drive in South Pasadena. The tech came out and checked Miss Hepburn. “She seems OK, her abdomen is not distended, but why don’t we do an X-ray, after you fill out the forms.”

We chatted with the receptionist and filled out the new patient questionnaire.

Suddenly, Miss Hepburn moaned. She collapsed to the floor. Miss Hepburn was rushed inside for an X-ray.

The vet looked solemn. “We’ve got to operate. This is a deadly disease,” she said.

At 1:30 a.m., Miss Hepburn had emergency surgery for gastric dilatation and volvulus (“GDV”) also known as “bloat.” Her stomach had twisted, a condition that killed Marley of “Marley and Me.” It is the No. 2 killer of all dogs.

“You are very lucky,” said the vet.

The most obvious signs of bloat are abdominal distention (swollen belly) and nonproductive vomiting or retching. Audrey exhibited neither of these symptoms until after we arrived at the vet hospital. Other symptoms can include restlessness, rapid shallow breathing, or increased salivation due to the pain. Bloat usually affects larger dogs with deep chests. Miss Hepburn is mid-sized, but well-endowed.

Miss Hepburn is at home, recuperating. Saved by The Cat.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, 4-16-09California

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