Stout (Part 2)
By Don Paul (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I’ll avoid details now about the progression of
whatever killed Stout. I won’t lay blame. I will own to first
responsibility. I should have done and spent more to treat the infection
that I believe eventually caused Stout’s heart to give out. I will also
say that the veterinarians whom I saw on December 17 and 27 should have at
least taken the dog’s temperature and then at least suggested antibiotics
to treat an obvious infection.
When I did try antibiotics (given by a friend after
her bout with bronchial pneumonia) along with human cough-syrup
decongestant, Stout appeared to revive. I let him get back into running
with the other dogs every afternoon. He turned down again. He still was
too sick or his heart was too faulty for him to keep up. On January 16 I
tried another vet, got an X-ray and ultrasound analysis and two weeks’
supply of “pretty intense” (the vet said) antibiotics. The X-ray and
ultrasound indicated possible vegetative endocarditis, this vet said.
Stout’s condition thereafter was hard for me to
gauge. I wish that I’d kept a chart of his feeding and behavior. He did
not improve markedly — but he did wiggle and jump in quarter-turns of
eagerness when we all were about to go out in the morning to Washington
Square Park; he did jump on the bed; did swing his great, thinner head
into nuzzling my forearm or cheek; did still crave and give affection. He
lost appetite on Tuesday, the day after Gina came over and cooked him a
bowlful and then handfuls of lean hamburger and rice. I reduced his
antibiotics (Clavamox) to one tablet a day. His eyes cleared up, stopping
their extrusions of “goop,” more white returning to their pupils. His
breathing, however, still was hitched, laboring so audibly that I could
not sleep with him on the bed, and he more regularly coughed and hacked
without the relief of expelling anything. The vet advised me to bring
Stout in for blood-panels and another X-ray and possible change of his
antibiotics and heart medication, but I chose to just watch him,
continuing to trust in his basic, tremendous spirit and strength. Gina
said on Thursday that he looked much better when she came to cook for him
and set up humidifiers before she flew to Florida. He’d gotten up to greet
her at the door, had wagged his tail happily with his first mouthfuls of
chicken — but then he had an attack of coughing and didn’t want to eat
more. He began to cough up small gobs of salivatic liquid with his
hacking, and we thought this was a good thing.
The next day, Friday, was his steepest downturn. He
averted his mouth from chews, from chicken, and even from water that I
cupped in my hand. He stood in place with his head, neck, and muzzled
extended, staring out at me or a wall as if breathing was all he could do.
He expectorated a lot, his ribs quaking like a bellows with the effort,
and I encouraged him — “That’s right, Stout! Way to go! You get all that
bad stuff out. You get that poison out. I know you can make it... I would
do anything to help you, guy. I love you so much.” His saliva was thick
like syrup and smelled of antibiotics. Spark licked his brother’s chin
From midday on I called vets, explaining to
receptionists that my dog was “in a dire state” or that I feared he was
“dying in front of my eyes.” No vet at the two clinics that had treated
Stout in San Francisco returned my calls before mid-afternoon — none
talked to me directly till past 5:00 p.m. — the clinic at UC Davis did not
return my message at all — and the semi-retired vet who had suggested
antibiotics and a decongestant in early January said, with kindness and
care, that if Stout had vegetative endocarditis, I might be “looking at a
Past 6:00 in the evening I drove cross-town and
exchanged the old antibiotics for new. I declined vets’ advice to take
Stout into the Emergency Pet Hospital. Money — rates were double there —
and the prospect of a new, alien environment for him overnight were
concerns that kept me from taking Stout to this hospital. I made him
swallow a pill of the new antibiotic. He stared without imploring any
more. He simply wanted to maintain connection. I’d made a date to meet a
friend nearby. There was no way to reach her by phone. Stout’s head began
to shake uncontrollably less than a half-hour after he took the new
antibiotic. I squatted beside his rest on the futon, patted his head, and
said I would be back soon. Another seizure of coughing raised him up, he
followed me into the entry-hall, proceeding as if he did not want to let
me go, then his legs wobbled, slipped out from under him on the tiles, and
he keeled over on his side. “Oh, Stoutie! No, Stout! Come on, Stout! Come
on!” A little mewl was his only and final complaint of pain. The liquid
that spilled out of his mouth and nose smelled to me like skunk spray.
I buried him out in the wild, where he could listen
to the ocean he’d so much enjoyed.
The death of one so vital compels heightened
awareness. Truths so basic and universal that they’re clichés resonate
profoundly. Life is precious. Do all you can for those you love. Feel! Be
honest! Open up! Time is also short and precious.
The other two dogs are equable. They gaze at me
with sadness, they sandwich me in sleep, but they accept better than I do
that Stout, our “dear friend” for five years, is gone.
I saw that Stout himself did not fear death. He
strove to stay in life — he tried so hard — he worked his heart till it
burst so that he might stay in connection with his life of loved ones —
such utmost effort was another part of his character — but he accepted
that he must pass. Dogs know that they’ve been here before, many times,
and that each of them will come back again and again.
The death of one so vital and giving must also
deliver lessons. We began this piece with musings about dogs’ genius.
Stout’s was to always be forthright, loyal,
sacrificing, courageous, and fun. He was all about maximizing life — even
when fulfilling his instinct to hunt prey. He was never petty, never mean,
never vengeful, and never cared about material gain apart from his
elemental needs. He lived to have and give pleasure. He was an improving
At the same time, he never submitted to domination.
He always fought a would-be bully. His purity — one-dimensional but
all-encompassing — would never comprehend the amount of random, wanton
death that the present U.S. government now prepares to visit on the Middle
East and elsewhere as the price that must be paid — not by its
perpetrators—for more toxic oil and gas and profits. He could never begin
to understand such madness, cruelty, wickedness, and slaughter.
He would, however, know what to do with such a
bully — take it by the neck and stop it. He would go all-out. It’s only
natural that “dog” has arisen from ghettos as a term of familiarity and
honor. Stout, I hope, has changed my life: the last gift of his great
example. I’ll always remember him, always look for his like, and he’ll
always lift my heart with gratitude.