Allow me to preface the following, for my fellow worry-warts, with this: Licorice is fine. Thank goodness.
Some of you who’ve been around a long time may recall that when we first met Licorice a year ago, she had quite a few health concerns. For one thing, she was half-bald (as in, her entire butt and a good portion of her legs were naked), and what had originally been thought to be mange turned out to be allergies, but even so, we were warned that she might never regrow her fur. She also had chronic ear infections, although thought to be a side effect of allergies and general neglect.
I spent a lot of time at the vet with her, those first couple of months. I love the vet. She was kind and encouraging and assured me that we were on track to a healthy dog and that—even in my nervous over-mothering—I was doing fine. And I knew there was a second vet at our office, but we saw LadyVet exclusively for the first year, somehow, and that was fine.
One of the things I asked about at one of our first first visits was Licorice’s teeth. “Her breath is pretty nasty,” I said. “And see how that one tooth is broken and kind of gray? Is that… okay?” LadyVet assured me that Licorice’s teeth looked fine to her, that the broken tooth wasn’t a big deal, and she sold me some dental rinse for her but said she probably wouldn’t need her teeth cleaned for a year.
Fast forward a year. I made an appointment for Licorice to get her yearly shots, and was a little surprised when LadyVet was nowhere to be found. That day, ManlyVet swaggered into the room and began poking and prodding.
“I think I need to make an appointment to have her teeth cleaned…” I began. He peeled back her lips and whistled.
“Yeah, see if they can get you in next week. It’s looking pretty nasty in there,” he said.
I sighed. Then we had a discussion about pre-surgical blood tests. He told me it was “an option” and quite costly and might not tell us anything, but that if I wanted it done for “peace of mind” they would certainly do it. “What would you do, if she was YOUR dog?” I asked.
He looked at her chart. “She’s a healthy 4-year-old. I probably wouldn’t bother with the blood tests,” he said. “But it’s up to you.”
I opted to skip the blood test.
Yesterday I dropped her off at 8:00 sharp, and they assured me that surgeries are generally done by around 1:00, and then they just keep an eye on the animals to make sure they’re coming out of anesthesia okay, and that I would likely get a call by 4:00 or so to come pick her up.
I went about my day. Monkey came home from school and asked where the dog was. Then every 10 minutes he asked if it was time to go get her.
Chickadee and Otto came home and asked where the dog was. Finally I called the vet’s office and said, “Hi, it’s nearly 5:00, and I haven’t gotten a call. Is my dog okay?”
“Oh, she’s still in surgery!” chirped the receptionist.
“She’s WHAT?” I said, sure I’d heard wrong. How long had she been in surgery??
“There were some emergency surgeries today, so she got pushed back a little bit,” she clarified. “I think he’s almost done with her. We’ll call you in a little bit.”
I hung up and went about making dinner. Finally at 5:45 the phone rang. Chirpy receptionist asked me if I was going to pick Licorice up or leave her overnight. “I would like to come get her,” I said. “Remember I called a little while ago? Is she ready to go?”
“Oh, you can come and get her, sure,” she said, “But we close at 6:00 so you need to come right now.”
I drove over there and no one was out front. So I cleared my throat a few times and coughed a couple of times and finally just walked into the back to find someone. They shooed me back out front and said they’d be right there.
Chirpy receptionist came out and started rummaging behind the counter.
“How’s Licorice?” I asked. “Can I see her?”
“Oh, she’s fine,” she said. “I’m just going to get her things… and he’ll bring her out in a minute….” She stopped rummaging and placed a bag on the counter. “He wants her to have a follow-up antibiotic,” she said. “There’s a dropper in there for it, and directions.”
I peeked inside the bag. There was a bottle of medicine along with a dropper. There was also a small ziploc bag with some bloody gauze inside of it. I immediately knew this meant she’d had an extraction, and at that point, I was still okay. Probably that chipped tooth I’d asked LadyVet about a year before, right?
“Let me just see where he’s at,” chirpy receptionist said, leaving me at the front desk and disappearing back into the offices.
I read the instructions on the antibiotic. I waited. I looked around. And then I took out the ziploc bag.
I opened the zipper. I pulled out the flat swatch of gauze and placed it on top of the bag, on the counter. I folded the gauze back.
Nestled in the gauze were FIVE rotten little teeth.
I have since Googled how many teeth an adult dog supposedly has, and the official answer appears to be 42, but I am here to tell you that I’m pretty sure Licorice didn’t start out with 42 teeth. She’s a small dog and she already had some tooth issues, and one of the things we’ve always loved is the adorable snaggle-toothed underbite of her crazy little bottom front teeth sticking every which way (a common presentation in little dogs). But now I was looking at five little teeth and four of them looked VERY familiar. Because those goofy teeth in the front are a lot smaller than the rest of her teeth.
The chirpy receptionist came back out and brought a tech with her. “Does she have any teeth left?” I blurted out.
They exchanged glances. “Oh, honey, of course,” the tech assured me.
I gestured at the gauze. “There are five teeth here. Little ones, from the front. Does she have any FRONT teeth anymore?” They looked at each other again.
“Um, ManlyVet is going to come out and talk to you in a minute,” one of them said. I don’t know which one, because I was busy being a total dork and trying not to cry. “She’s fine, just hang on, he’ll be out in a minute.”
“Can I see her, please? I would really just like to see my dog.” Another exchanged look.
“Let me just go check,” said the tech. She disappeared.
I put the gauze back in the ziploc.
ManlyVet came out. “She did great!” he said, all smiles.
“MY DOG IS TOOTHLESS,” I answered. “YOU HAVE REMOVED ALL HER TEETH AND NO ONE CALLED ME AND LADYVET TOLD ME HER TEETH WERE OKAY AND NO ONE WILL BRING HER OUT TO ME.”
This may be where I realized I was perhaps overreacting just a tad. Also where ManlyVet realized I was kind of freaking out. He proceeded to explain to me that “there was so much decay that when we tried to clean the teeth they just moved around” and “removing the rotten teeth is the best choice for her overall health” and “sometimes decay moves rapidly” and it was all well and good until he told me that it’s possible that the kibble I buy for her is actually damaging her teeth.
“I feed her Orijen. I feed her a 6-star no filler food because she has allergies. I feed her what your office told me to feed her! What do you suggest I feed her instead?”
“Well, you could try Purina One,” he said. And then my head exploded. Because both LadyVet and the Dog Emailer had gone to great lengths to explain to me that grocery store food is crap and unsuitable for a dog with allergies. And now ManlyVet seemed to be telling me that I could choose between a dog with clear skin and a full coat of fur or a dog with, you know, TEETH.
“Can I see my dog, please?” I asked. “My TOOTHLESS DOG who’s going to be eating PUDDING for the rest of her life?” ManlyVet chuckled and said he had to finish up with another animal but would come out and talk to me some more in a few minutes. Then he left and instructed the tech to go get Licorice.
Now. Remember how they were supposed to finish surgery early in the afternoon, keep her for observation, and then return her to me more or less recovered? Thanks to the emergency surgeries and the unexpected length of HER surgery, Licorice was barely post-op. And when the tech brought her out—carrying her in her arms like a baby—Licorice looked right at me through squinted eyes and… just lay there.
Well. Know what’s better than an unexpectedly toothless dog? An unexpectedly toothless dog who is STONED OUT OF HER MIND.
The tech transfered her to my arms and Licorice just stared and twitched and even though I knew she was okay, I started to cry because I am a dork and it was one of the most pitiful things I’ve ever seen.
I sat down in a chair with her curled up on my lap. At one point while we were waiting (and I was frantically texting Otto “THEY BROKE THE DOG!”), she kind of tipped her head back and tried to focus on my face, like, Hey, you look kinda familiar… and then she kind of lost control of her neck muscles and her head just flopped helplessly to the side while she stared into space. I repositioned her head on my lap and she didn’t even seem to notice.
Finally I screwed up my courage and gently, ever so gently, pulled her lips back and took a look. Do not look at this picture if a toothless dog is going to upset you.
We waited and waited and waited and finally ManlyVet came back out and sat down and reiterated that really, she’s FINE, she didn’t even need those teeth, she probably only chews with her back teeth, which are in great shape, no worries. He said I should maybe give her soft food for a few days, and I asked him what kind to buy, and while he was thinking about that he said, “Well, but soft food may just get all packed in there, and that’s no good, either, so maybe just stick to the kibble. And if the Orijen is making her healthy in other ways I’m not sure I’d switch away from that, either, even though we were talking about that before.” And then I looked at him and he looked at me and finally I wiped my eyes and cleared my throat.
“Um, ManlyVet? I have to tell you, I’m a little traumatized right now, and I’m worried about my dog, and I don’t feel like you’re giving me very clear directions on what I’m supposed to do be doing for her. Wet food or dry? Orijen or something else? Can you please just TELL ME WHAT TO DO FOR MY POOR TOOTHLESS DOG?”
He chuckled and said I should just “see how she does” with her regular food. I said fine. He then pointed out two more teeth which he expects to have to extract next year, and I finally said, “Okay, well, I think I’ve had all the HELP I can stand today, so I am just going to pay and take her home, alright?” He agreed.
I paid almost three times what the cleaning was supposed to cost, due to the extractions and the follow-up medicine. Licorice lay on my shoulder and drooled on me while I did so.
ManlyVet said, “She can walk, you know. Go ahead and put her down.” So I put my receipt in my purse and set her down and she took a couple of listing steps to the left and her back legs kind of swung out from under her and she fell over. I resisted the urge to kick ManlyVet in the nuts, opting instead to just pick up my dog and go home.
Last night she lay around looking stoned and pitiful, refusing to eat or pee, but she did perk up just a little bit when I hand-fed her some little pieces of the pork roast we had for dinner. (Turns out you don’t need teeth to toss back the good stuff.) After the kids went to bed, Licorice followed me into our bedroom and tried to jump up on our bed, executing a perfect Wiley-E-Coyote-esque leap and SMACK into the side, then a sickening sliiiiide and THUD as she crumpled into a ball on the floor and just lay there. After I verified that she hadn’t broken anything, Otto and I took her on the couch with us for a while, and then tucked her into bed with us later, and she left little drooly puddles of blood all over the couch and my pants and then all over the bedspread.
I didn’t mind.
Because, GOD, look at this face:
(Licorice says: Dude. Duuuuuuuuude! There was a bright light, and then I fell asleep, and then I woke up and everything was all, wavy and stuff? And my teeth were gone. Also I just want to tell you that ZZzzzzzzzzZZzzzzz….)
Apparently those crazy bottom teeth were the only thing keeping her tongue in her mouth. Now the tip pokes out constantly, and she looks a little… ummmm… special.
This morning she was much improved, able to walk and jump and pee and perfectly happy to suck down a bowl of kibble, teeth or no. She’s clearly in pain, but not so much so that she wasn’t able to make her appointed rounds to wake the kids and then hold down the floor in my office.
And I have to admit, her breath smells a LOT better.
All the same, though, I think I may stick with LadyVet in the future. Because while ManlyVet may have done exactly what Licorice needed and given her fabulous care and not blamed me for the state of the poor dog’s mouth, I am never going to be able to look at him again without seeing Licorice’s head lolling off to the side while she drools blood and stares vacantly.
So that’s what happened yesterday.
Please send stain remover and pudding.