Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
"Rudy" (short for Rudolph) was given his name by my nephews shortly after Santa left the golden retriever pup on their doorstep. As time went on, it became clear Rudy was on a personal mission to make "Marley" from "Marley and Me" look like a low-maintenance, nondestructive angel of a pet. The highlights of Rudy's resume are nothing short of impressive. He once made the TVs in the house suddenly lose signal because he was outside gnawing on the coaxial, severing the cable going to the satellite dish and tearing the wire completely out of the house. On multiple occasions, Rudy was the first party to find and open, in his own special way, UPS packages left on the doorstep when no one was home. After my brother-in-law found his special-ordered hunting equipment laying out in the yard surrounded by tattered cardboard one time, and some heavy brake rotors a very respectable distance from their original packaging another, delivery drivers were notified that a human signature would be required before any more packages were to be left at their house. Twelve solar yard lights fell victim to a savage attack by the dog, as did a bike seat and helmet. Of course, Rudy had a taste for some of the less exotic as well, such as decaying carcasses from the woods, pop cans, sticks, and where I come in ... rocks.
My sister pulled me aside at a family get-together and said Rudy wasn't feeling well. It only took a minute to find the problem: a firm, round object in his abdomen where it should normally feel soft or empty. Rudy's pica (the medical term for eating things that aren't food) had finally dished him up something that he could neither pass nor puke up. Later that night my sister put her RN degree to work as we anesthetized Rudy and surgically removed what turned out to be a ping pong ball-sized rock from his small intestine. He recovered famously ... so well in fact, he thought nothing of eating another bigger, more jagged rock twelve weeks later. This time, nothing other than the diagnosis was very clear-cut. If we fix him again, what's to say he won't do it again next month? Is Rudy aware of Darwin's theories on natural selection and survival of the fittest? Everyone knows the expression "dumb as a box of rocks" but how do you describe this creature that would actually begin eating a box of rocks if put in front of him? It can't be good, but we still love him. Off to surgery we go ... again.
Surgery can be nerve-wracking enough, let alone on a sick animal, let alone on your nephew's beloved puppy. I really began to sweat bullets when I got Rudy open and saw the degree of devitalized tissue this rock had caused passing through his system, and realized this time it would require removing a section of dead intestine along with the rock and reconnecting healthy ends rather than just making an incision and taking the rock out like before. It was even discussed whether we should wake him up from anesthesia or euthanize him to prevent any further suffering. I felt like the surgery went well so we recovered him, but it concerned me how he would fare if he were to get himself into this type of trouble a third time. We kicked around some ideas to discourage him or restrict him from dangerous things he might swallow, but it wasn't until I was driving away from my sister's house that one of those so-crazy-it-just-might-work solutions occurred to me. I called her up and said she should get another puppy.
She didn't hang up on me, but the skepticism was there nevertheless. I was serious, though ... fight fire with fire. A mischief-prone dog with so much spare energy would likely stay much better occupied with one of his own to play with, and my theory was that rocks, pop cans, flower beds, and whatever else would be much less interesting than a puppy jumping all over him wanting to play. Dogs are pack animals, and some undesirable behaviors in individual dogs can be a manifestation of boredom, loneliness, or stress of an unnatural situation.
It wasn't long before I got the call about "Gaborik" the black lab puppy joining the family. Gabby and Rudy are a perfect pair, taking the starch out of each other everyday. Their antics leave little time for eating foreign bodies, and Rudy has not graced my surgery table with his presence since Gabby's arrival. My sister may now have two "boxes of rocks" on her hands instead of one, but at least they aren't any lodged in intestines.