“Why does the dog have coffee breath?”
That’s the question my husband posed to me the other night, upon coming home from dinner at one of our usual restaurants. In response, I got in real close to Elvis, our little 23-pound cocker spaniel/sheltie mutt. And sure enough, he smelled like a Starbucks’ barista who’d just finished a double-shift. So I scanned the kitchen floor for any coffee beans that may have spilled out of the bag when making coffee for the morning (as we do every night, knowing we’re lucky to find our way to the bathroom at 4:30 a.m., let alone brew a pot of Italian Roast) – even though I know the anal cleaner and responsible dog owner in me would never have allowed it.
After all, I’m the type of person who can’t sleep if there’s a dirty dish left in the sink. I don’t just clear the table after dinner, I wipe it and the oven top with Windex (even if we haven’t used the burners) and sweep around the refrigerator. It would be unlikely, given my type-A constitution and my distaste for extraneous filth, that there’d be even one lone bean on the ceramic tile.
But, in its absence, how to solve the mystery?
My husband’s approach was to insist he was tired, the dog was fine, I was overreacting and we should just go to sleep. So I listened—went upstairs, got into my pajamas, read Switch (a book about how to get people to change) for about 20 minutes, shut off the light and tried to breathe myself out of worry and into a restful state. But it was difficult, especially since Elvis wouldn’t settle down. He didn’t curl into his usual ball at the bottom of my feet or hide under the bed from Winnie, who likes to play roughhouse when he doesn’t. Instead, he sniffed around the sheets, my nightstand, Dan’s nightstand, both of our heads, and Winnie’s tail. He jumped on and off the bed, ran downstairs to get a toy, and then back up again to drop it in my open hand.
All while reeking of Ethopian blend.
The dog was wired for sound. Like somebody who’d had a few too many lattes. (I speak from personal experience here.)
And so, I wracked my brain—clearly, he’d had coffee. But where? Then it dawned on me: My husband, who’d just gotten back from a business trip, loves to travel with Starbucks Via—easy 1.2 ounce packets of dark instant. When I suggested perhaps that’s what Elvis had somehow found and gotten into, Dan leaped out of bed and ran into the next room to check his backpack. Upon which I heard this:
If I’ve learned anything in my 47 years, it’s that I’m good in an emergency. I’m not a person who stiffens up and stutters. Or who walks in circles wondering what to do next. When Steppy came with a bruised hand (she’d accidentally slammed in the glass door in her Maryland house) that, within a day, had swollen up like an oversized turnip and become an “8” on the pain scale, I immediately shuttled her over to the emergency room for an X-ray. (My husband, bless his heart, was still asking “what happened?”.)
When the colorists at a fancy hair salon in downtown Philadelphia decided to surprise me by painting my naturally light brown hair black (“It will look so pretty with your blue eyes!”), I remained non-plussed when, in the end, it made me look like a cartoon character. (Although I cannot say the same for my mother.) Instead, I lived with it until it grew out and enjoyed the experience of having nobody recognize me.
And the other night, instead of freaking out that my version of baby was on the verge of cardiac arrest, I calmly took the steps necessary to save his life (yes, that’s right, I saved his life, I did):
Step one: An Internet search to confirm what I’d already known – that coffee, in the right amounts, is toxic for dogs.
Step two: Get out the credit card and call animal poison control. They charge $65 to gather information about the situation and tell you whether or not to head to emergency vet. I know this since we’d called them once before – when Elvis had dug into Dan’s bag and eaten about 15 almonds (also toxic to dogs and yes, I could’ve killed Dan, but I believe he’s finally learned his lesson – pick your backpack up off the floor and/or keep it behind closed doors, right babe?).
Step three: And we’re off to the doggie ER—me, Dan and both dogs, since we don’t dare leave either of them home alone at this point. They’re simply too attached. And it was not fun for any of us. They immediately took Elvis back to the treatment room, while Winnie sat with her ears up in distress, Dan had a his head down, and I held onto tears rather unsuccessfully.
While we appreciated the work and kindness of the techs that greeted us once there, it’s pretty safe to say they’re not optimists. They mostly told us that, while Elvis was doing okay now, he could easily go into tachycardia—a faster than normal heart rate (something I already had at that point)—and that would NOT be good. They’ve seen it happen, they know it could.
Suffice to say we had to leave him there overnight. And, after a long night of crying—and wondering what life would be like without him, and Dan fearing I would reach for the yellow pages to investigate divorce lawyers depending on the outcome and Winnie rather enjoying all the focused attention—I woke up at 4:30 and called the clinic to find out little Elvis was doing well.
He’s a happy little guy, isn’t he? That’s what one vet tech after another told me when I called every hour on the hour because, well, I’m both a) irritating and b) rather attached to him. After all, who else is going to look at me and see Angelina Jolie every single day?
In the end, Elvis is fine. He’s back to curling up at the bottom of my bed and hiding from Winnie, well, wherever he can. The only downside is that the ordeal cost us $700.
The dog had a $700 cup of coffee. Now that hurts.
But he’s alive. And we’re grateful. Has your dog ever gotten into something he shouldn’t? Do tell and, by all means, make sure it’s a happy ending.
Until next time!