Nolagirl said she was sending a package, but she didn’t tell me what was in in it.
After traveling from southern Arizona to northern New Mexico, the package must have sat behind the counter of the mail room for at least a week before I was able to get there during business hours to pick it up. I was glad to finally have it in my possession.
Nolagirl had told me there were goodies for The Man in the package too, so I didn’t open it as soon as I picked it up. I threw it in the back seat of the truck, knowing we’d open it together once I returned home from work.
After work, I carried the package into the trailer. I told The Man that Nolagirl had sent us treats. We were both excited to discover what was inside the cardboard box.
I put the box on the floor while I removed my muddy shoes.
As soon as the box was on the floor, Jerico the dog was on it. He put his nose directly on the box and gave it some mighty sniffs. He was really excited to discover what was inside.
Is there food in there? The Man and I asked each other.
Jerico likes food. He enjoys eating, but he’s not what I would call food motivated. Food is not the driving force in his life. Sure, he gets excited by a bit of cheese or a canned fish treat, but he’s not a do-anything-for-food kind of dog. He has kibble in his bowl all the time, and he eats when he’s hungry, but he doesn’t overeat. He stays slim despite being allowed to eat whenever he wants.
The Man and I were skeptical that Jerico would be so enthusiastic about food that might be in the box. Maybe he’d act this way if there were meat in the box…but Nolagirl knew The Man and I are vegetarians. I doubted she would have sent us meat.
I got my shoes off and grabbed a pair of scissors to cut open the tape holding the flaps closed. Jerico continued to express interest in the box even after I lifted it from the floor.
I sliced into the tape, then pulled the flaps apart. I saw a small package of pistachios (which The Man and I shared right away), half a pound of Camilla brand red kidney beans, a box of granola bars, a box of breakfast cookies…and three blue rubber balls intended for playing racquetball.
While Jerico may not be motivated by food, he is certainly motivated by playing ball. Playing ball is Jerico’s most favorite thing in the whole world, the driving force in his life, and when he plays ball, the ball he plays with is a blue one intended for racquetball use. He was thrilled when I pulled those balls from the box and let him have one.
I was impressed that Jerico had sniffed out those balls through the cardboard box. What really amazed me, however, was that the particular smell that told him his favorite type of balls was in the box was still intact after Nolagirl touched them to put them in the box, after the box traveled from Nolagirl’s house to a post office to my mail room to our house, after the box sat in the mail room for more than a week, and after the box sat in the truck for hours while I was at work. All dogs have a keen sense of smell, but Jerico’s nose is something special.
Jerico is a hound dog. He’s part beagle, the vet said when The Man brought him in for his first checkup after being found as a puppy. You might not see the beagle in him at first glance, but when he throws his head back and starts barking loudly, his beagle heritage is apparent. He’s a beagle and he has a lot to say. He’s a beagle and he’s got quite a sniffer.
I don’t know if Jerico could sniff our a lost child or a fugitive from a law, but he proved he can sniff out a blue racquetball, even one he’s never touched.
The Man says Jerico the dog has suffered from acid reflux
since he was a puppy. I don’t remember the first time I woke up in the night to
find Jerico swallowing rapidly and repeatedly, but this situation became a
running theme in our lives. When the swallowing began, a hunt for grass was on.
Jerico would eat the grass (with gusto, obsessively) and eventually puke it up.
The puking seemed to settle his stomach and let him rest.
Finding grass was no problem if we were camped near a river
or a meadow, but it was harder to come by if we were in a desert. I remember
once waking up in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Santa Fe, NM at 4am to the sound of
the swallowing dog. The parking lot landscape did not include nonnative grass
growing like a lawn (Good for you, Santa Fe Wal-Mart!), so there was nothing
for Jerico to eat to induce vomiting. We had to drive off into the dark to find
another business (a school, actually) that did landscape with grass.
I worried about Jerico eating grass, especially from an area
where it might have been sprayed with chemicals. Who knew what sort of
pesticides grass in or around a parking lot might be subjected to? Even if the
grass wasn’t sprayed with poisons, was it safe for Jerico to eat so much of it?
The Man maintained that dogs naturally eat grass, and since eating grass was
the only thing that made Jerico feel better, it was ok for him to do so.
The Man experimented with other remedies. I drove to a
supermarket late one night to buy a bottle of Pepto-Bismol to cure Jerico’s ills.
The Man poured a dose of the pink stuff down Jerico’s gullet, and it did seem
to relieve his stomach woes. Baking soda dissolved in water seemed to work even
better. Of course, Jerico didn’t enjoy having anything poured down his throat,
so we often had a dried crust (either pink or white, depending on the remedy)
on the floor on the morning after one of his attacks.
If no humans were around when an attack happened and Jerico
couldn’t get to grass, he would eat anything he thought might help. Unfortunately,
what his dog brain thought might help never did. Once I left a long, thin strip
of sheet hanging in the bathroom of the fifth wheel. (I was sure I’d find a use
for it eventually.) The Man came home to
find Jerico had eaten it (then puked it back up) in a fit of acid reflux.
Another time when we went on a hike that lasted waaay longer than we thought it
would, Jerico chewed the portion of the plastic garbage bag that hung over the
edge of the trash can. Luckily, he puked that up too. The Man lived in fear
that Jerico would eat a plastic grocery store bag (or something equally
dangerous) if he were to have an attack while we were away. Jerico didn’t stay
home alone much.
We tried planting grass near the fifth wheel in the Sonoran Desert. I bought special organic “cat grass,” and The Man planted it, but it didn’t grow. I think it might have done better in a planter instead of going directly into the ground.
In retrospect, I see how Jerico’s bouts of acid reflux were
getting more frequent. The Man must have recognized it too, even if only on a
subconscious level. He did some research on diet and acid reflux and found that
beef can exacerbate the condition. Jerico didn’t know it, but he’d had his last
can of wet dogfood as a treat. He did get canned mackerel sometimes, when The
Man could find a brand with no added salt or oil. The Man also switched Jerico
to a dry food with salmon as the first ingredient. Jerico’s stomach seemed to
do better for a while.
We’d gone into town early one day to take showers and do other errands. When I went to the parking lot after my shower, I saw The Man pulling the truck behind the building. I met him in the back where he’d let Jerico out to eat grass. I knew this meant Jerico was suffering from an attack. Throughout our day, we had to stop several times to let Jerico out to eat more grass. No matter how much he ate, it didn’t seem to help.
At home, he was no better. He kept trying to find something,
anything he could eat to help relieve his discomfort. Unfortunately, there was
no grass growing anywhere on our property. Finally, The Man (who was working to
get our solar power system up and running) asked me to drive Jerico somewhere
with grass he could eat. I ended up
driving about three miles before I found some actual grass growing.
I parked the truck on the edge of the road, and Jerico and I crept through the barbed wire fence to get to the patches of deep green grass. I felt like the father of the unborn Rapunzel stealing arugula from the witch to satisfy his wife’s cravings, but what else could I do? I didn’t want to send Jerico to the other side of the fence alone. What if he saw a rabbit and bolted? What if a coyote or a half-wild dog came along and wanted to fight? I felt safer trespassing with him.
I let him eat to his heart’s (stomach’s) content, then
loaded him back into the truck. I hoped it was safe to take him home now.
At home he continued to swallow excessively. His stomach
still hurt. He wanted more grass.
The Man mixed up some baking soda with water and poured the
concoction down Jerico’s throat. We tried to keep the pup calm while we gave
the remedy time to work. He was obviously uncomfortable and wanted to pace.
I wonder if dogs can
have Zantac, The Man muttered, reaching for the phone to ask Google.
Turns out dogs can have Zantac. I got in the truck and made a trek to town to get the medication. Nearly two hours later, I got home with my precious cargo. The Man cut on of the tablets in half and pushed it down Jerico’s throat. We again tried to keep him calm, and this time after about half an hour, the medication actually worked. We were all able to get some rest that night.
About a week later, Jerico was at it again. We got home from
another day of errands. Jerico jumped from the truck and started eating from clumps
of grass The Man had recently transplanted. Thus began 18 hours of hell.
First he ate more grass than I’d ever seen him ingest. He
literally ate the newly transplanted grass to death.
When we brought him inside, he stayed in front of the door
and paced. When we let him go outside again, he headed straight to the grass
and started chomping on it again. This pattern was repeated throughout the
At a quarter to six, the Man gave Jerico half a Zantac.
Again, we tried to keep him calm while the medication did its magic. He never
calmed down. He continued to swallow and pace. The medicine did no magic.
Around six o’clock, The Man wondered if we should make an
emergency visit to a vet. He called the after-hours number of one of the
veterinary offices in town. He didn’t specifically say his dog was in an
emergency situation, so the woman who answered the phone made an appointment
for us to go in the next day.
The only thing other than eating grass that seemed to ease
Jerico’s distress was going outside and walking. We weren’t sure if he was
soothed by the distraction of the change of scenery or the motion of movement
or by the fact that he was in an upright position (or some combination of the
three factors), but he was calmer when we took him outside. We spent a lot of
time that evening taking Jerico outside, thinking (hoping, praying) he was
better, taking him inside, then realizing he wasn’t better at all.
At ten o’clock The Man decided to give Jerico another half a Zantac. I was afraid it was too soon to give him more, but The Man said obviously the first dose hadn’t done anything to solve the problem. He thought a second dose might make things better for Jerico so we could all get some sleep.
The second dose of Zantac did not allow anyone to get any
sleep. Jerico continued to move around and swallow. When we took him outside
for the last pee of the night, he headed directly to the transplanted clumps of
grass and tried to eat some more.
Around midnight I had Jerico on his leash, walking with him
around our property when he barfed up a wad of grass that had the approximate
look (size, shape, color) of an unshucked cob of corn. Gross! The grass had
come back up, but that didn’t solve the problem.
We continued to walk around past 1am, when I grew too tired
to stand. Jerico and I went into the trailer and got in the bed with The Man
who’d had the pleasure or an hour of sleep.
Jerico never settled down, never stopped swallowing. I got a
few hours of fitful sleep, but Jerico’s distress kept me from resting. Around
5am I took him outside again. Sunrise seemed to bring him some relief, although
he was by no means well. We were glad he had an appointment with a vet for that
day. None of us wanted to spend another night like the one we’d just had.
We arrived at the appointment right on time. Everyone
working at the office was friendly and kind. We were brought into an exam room
with a vet tech; the doctor came in shortly after. The Man explained everything
that had been happening, and the doctor agreed with the diagnosis of acid
reflux. He recommended The Man give Jerico 10 mg of Prilosec every day as a
What about eating
grass? I asked the vet.
He said grass is really hard on a dog’s throat, mouth, and
stomach and we should keep Jerico from eating it if we could.
After nearly two weeks on Prilosec and the special food we
bought at the vet’s office, Jerico hadn’t had a single episode. He hadn’t tried
to eat grass even once, and he only swallowed in a normal manner. I was glad he
was feeling better, and I was glad we were all able to get some sleep.