Dogs are stupid expensive jerkfaces

By Mir
September 25, 2014

I guess I can offer up a small bit of further explanation as to why I hate everything and everyone right now, though this is just the tip of the iceberg, or—as we prefer to say in my family—the tiniest sliver of the crap cake.
140921_Duncan_tie_0058Hi there! My name is Duncan. I enjoy wearing jaunty neckwear, scaring the crap out of my family, and costing a billion dollars while I do it. Also, I have a toe fetish. Please walk over here barefoot so I can lick you.

So hey, FUNNY STORY: Remember when Duncan got all sick and weird and possibly tumor-y and had to have surgery? And I was worried he was going to die, but then everything was fine (after we paid the vet a billion dollars and put Duncan in the Cone Of Shame for two weeks)? Those were some good times, man. I mean, sure, it was scary, but then he was fine. SILLY ME for being worried.


Duncan started having… seizures. Maybe-seizures. We didn’t really know. He would be fine one minute, then the next, his back legs would twitch and give out, and he’d fall over, and he didn’t appear to be in any pain, but he was definitely confused, and it was hard to watch. It would happen every few days, and we of course took him to the vet, but we were never able to take him WHILE it was happening, so we were taking videos of him falling over and twitching and being bewildered and then curling up and sleeping it off. The vet was perplexed. We were perplexed. Duncan was super perplexed. But he wasn’t in any obvious pain and he kept passing the neuro exam and he’s sort of old and arthritic and we were all in wait-and-see mode.

The thing about epilepsy is that it doesn’t just spontaneously develop in an older dog. And the thing about a brain tumor is that if he had one, he should be failing a neuro exam. And the main thing about Duncan is that he is a lovely soft smushy pile of fluff who mostly wants to sleep but is not shy about letting you know if he’s displeased, so given that he was mostly still sleeping and begging for bits of banana and occasionally chasing a ball for 30 seconds and acting fine except for the falling over and twitching thing, the vet kept saying “follow his cues” and his cues mostly said “Hey, NBD, but if you really want to do something for me, I would not be opposed to more snacks.”

Then it started happening every day. And then sometimes more than once a day.

Otto took Duncan back to the vet while I was in Boston. (Yep, I went out of town while my dog continued to deteriorate. WORST DOGGIE MOM EVER. I’ll put the trophy next to my WORST HUMAN MOM EVER one.) He’d lost some weight. He was, at this point, lethargic even for him (that’s saying something, as Duncan typically sleeps about 20 hours/day). The vet decided to do some blood work.

Then the vet called us and said, “Hey, this is probably just a lab error, but… how would you feel about leaving Duncan here for a day so we can do some glucose monitoring? A couple of things were just slightly off, but his blood glucose was so low either something is very wrong or the test was faulty.”

As we still had a few nickels left and WE LOVE OUR SMUSHYKINS, we brought Duncan in for a day of glucose monitoring. We weren’t allowed to feed him that morning, either, so he was SUPER THRILLED when we dropped him off.

At this point the vet suspected hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), but apparently good ol’ Dunc was the star of the office that day, first prompting them to try several different blood glucose monitors and then to resort to testing some other animals because surely all of their monitors were malfunctioning because according to their readings DUNCAN WAS NOT ALIVE.

Cool party trick: Sit patiently in a room full of medical professionals, wagging and begging for treats, while your blood sugar level continuously registers at numbers which are—and I am quoting the vet, here—“incompatible with life.”

Apparently humans are considered hypoglycemic at anything under about 70 mg/dl, and the vet said he worries when dogs dip below 60 mg/dl, with levels below 50 mg/dl considered life-threatening. Duncan never made it above 40 mg/dl the entire day, even after they fed him. He was, at times, as low as 20 mg/dl. The vet was completely flummoxed. Those “seizures” were bouts of diabetic shock.

Now our vet is consulting with another specialty vet for next steps, as subsequent tests suggest Duncan has a pancreatic tumor. Because of course he does. No insulin regulation for Duncan! His pancreas is all “Insulin? Consequences? HAVE ALL THE INSULIN I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S HAPPENING HERE LOLOLOL!” I suspect his pancreas has been talking to my children.

The good news is that now we have bragging rights as our dog is apparently undead, plus he probably won’t die from this because he’s already dead. Or undead. I’m unclear. (Also apparently it CAN kill him, but he’s already dead so I refuse to believe that.) The other good news is that we’re doing a round of steroids to maybe halt/shrink that tumor, and as Duncan is also arthritic and generally plagued by any number of allergies, within a day it was clear that Steroid Duncan is a happier, perkier, carefree-and-young-again version of himself. He’s AWAKE and bouncing around the house and snuggling with us ON PURPOSE.

The bad news is that he can’t stay on steroids forever, as much as I wish he could. The other bad news is that all of those times that we were all, “Oh, we can’t stay out for 10 hours straight, THE DOGS” and had a momentary pang of wow-that’s-kind-of-an-inconvenience are about to become a distant memory, because—are you ready for this?—Duncan needs to be fed every few hours to try to regulate his blood sugar. It could be worse, of course. I work from home and most days this won’t be a problem, but… sometimes we want to leave the house for more than 3 hours. LIKE JERKS WHO DON’T LOVE THEIR DOG. Also he is not allowed to have ANY people food at ALL and now I have to sneak off and eat bananas in private because WHY YOU NO GIVE ME DELICIOUS BANANA TREAT BITS LADY, I THOUGHT YOU LOVED ME AND I AM SO HUNGRY. We have stopped having popcorn at night, because Otto said, “It just seems mean if we all get to have it and he doesn’t.” Yes, we gave up our favorite snack because POOR PUPPY.

(Also, um, tumors are bad. Tumors have a nasty habit of growing and doing all kinds of mean things. But I’m not thinking about that part. Nope. Leaving it to the vet team to make a determination about whether we’re looking at something operable or not. Because “it’s complicated,” and not in a Facebook relationship status kind of way. LALALALALA I can’t heeeeeeeaaaar yoooouuuuuuu.)

Duncan is now living the high life of breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, first dinner, second dinner, bedtime snack. But while I was writing this I realized I was late with second breakfast, so the one thing that hasn’t changed is that I still suck. (He was sleeping. Probably because his blood sugar was too low. GO ME.)

Anyway. That’s been a super fun diversion. It is never, ever boring here.

140921_Duncan_tie_0077I don’t always pose for pensive photos, but when I do, I’m an adorable zombie staring off into the distance while wearing a tiny, ridiculous tie.

[Note: Photos courtesy of Otto and the photogenic Undead Dog. Tie courtesy of the good-humored folks at Wellness who recently sent the dogs a care package for no particular reason other than that apparently we were lacking in excellent dog accessories.]


  1. Wendy

    So, I read here lots but rarely (as in, probably never) comment, but this requires a couple of points to be made.

    1. Dogs should not wear clothes. Ever.
    1a. Unless that dog is Duncan wearing a jaunty tie. That is simply too adorable to be believed.

    2. I’m sure you’ve thought of this, but could you maybe get one of those dog food dispensers with a timer? You can set it to dump out food when he needs it, which would mean you could be gone for at least 6 hours. Of course, I don’t know how you keep Licorice from eating it too, but I know friends who have used this to give their dogs small meals with medication while they’re at work (the friends, not the dogs).

  2. Mir

    Yeah, if we’re willing to crate one or both of them separately we could do a food dispenser for longer absences. We’ll figure it out eventually.

    • Karen.

      Baby gates? Friendlier than crates, maybe.

  3. HeatherG

    My shi tzu had seizures too. Older dog – his were always brought on when he was fighting with other dog or really excited when someone came over. I figured out if he got his heart rate up really high he’d have one and if I could get him calmed down we could avoid a bad one. It’s so hard to watch them go through that.

  4. el-e-e

    I’m sorry for laughing. These things are not funny. But… undead! Doggie necktie! And you’re so good at writing dog-ese. And, we now know, pancreas-ese!

    Poor Smushykins, though. :(

  5. Jabberwocky

    I had an undead cat for several years, only his blood sugar problems were of the opposite variety. Duncan seems to share a trait with the late great Spaz–he’s the energizer bunny of dogs. He takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Spaz lived to be a very happy 17. May Duncan continue to perplex his vets and be as happy and long-lived.

    • Ann Garniss

      Like Jabberwocky, I’ve been there but with a cat. Fortunately, AJ developed his issues while I was on maternity leave, so at least I was able to keep an eye on him, deliver insulin, and clean up the many, many pees he gifted me on the kitchen floor. We never did manage to get him regulated, but he was just a mess of issues by the end.

      Best of luck with Duncan!

  6. Aimee

    Who knew zombie dogs were so FREAKING CUTE? Since he’s a zombie, does that means you are feeding him BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINS every few hours?

  7. Average Jane

    Poor Duncan. I feel you on the aging pet/mystery ailment/almost no pennies left front. Our oldest cat is worth her weight in gold after this year’s vet expenses alone.

  8. Kim

    You do have a knack for making bad news funny. And he is the cutest walking corpse I have ever seen.

    Poor puppy.

  9. JennyA

    Have you tried BRAAAAIIINNNNSSS?

    I’m sorry — I know how terrifying it is. But he is an adorablly dapper wee undead laddie.

  10. meghann @ midgetinvasion

    “Duncan is now living the high life of breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, first dinner, second dinner, bedtime snack.”

    So what you’re saying is your dog is actually a hobbit. A zombie hobbit at that.

  11. Karen

    :-( Just that.

  12. Full Spectrum Mama

    Has your vet considered syncope? My soulmate UNDEAD dog had that and it sounds quite similar.

    I swore, after having kept a cat alive through credit card debt and feeding tube and pulling out her poop during graduate school? that i would never put another animal through such shenanigans because *I* wanted him or her to live (said cat died the MINUTE I said, “You can go”) but there I was at the Canine Cardiologist, so go figure…


    Sending love, and, not, money.Sorry about that part. And your pookie.


  13. Mom24_4evermom

    I’m really, really sorry. We took our dog to the vet one day in February because, super pet owners here, the boy suddenly mentioned that, “hey, Zippy hasn’t eaten in four day…like, at all.” She was laying around a bit, (you think?) and we figured she probably had a virus. Well, she was the opposite end as Duncan, her blood sugar levels were so high they weren’t sure how she was alive. Diabetic, in ketosis, there’s a mass on her side, and, “Oh hey, there’s something wrong with her pancreas”. Long story short, they projected $20,000 to keep her alive for the first week and there wasn’t going to be a happy ending even if we had planted the money tree. I still miss her so much. Praying for a happy outcome for you and Duncan. You don’t need any more icing on the crap cake.

  14. Brigitte

    All sad now, because last week we had to put down our 18 year old, asthmatic, arthritic, diabetic, kidney-failing, tumor-ridden kitty. All the stuff he had done over the last year or two, our wallets will take until the next tax return to recover. But I still miss him.
    Thinking of you, Duncan, and your family. :-(

  15. Bobbie

    I know someone who has two cats, one of whom is on a special diet. They have some kind of collar that the ‘special’ cat wears that opens her food dish when she approaches it (magnets, maybe?). Anyway, thought I’d mention it.

  16. Jeanie

    Hoping (and praying) that Duncan will be okay. He is absolutely adorable! I’m so sorry about the $$ aspect. I spent … shh … $6,000 on my German shorthair pointer last year trying to get rid of or at least control inflammatory bowel disease. She got better, then took a turn for the worst. I lost her anyway. It’s been almost a year, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. Anyway, sorry, this isn’t about ME, is it?

  17. pharmgirl

    First – OMG. So cute!
    Second – Could the little guy’s vision be related to his diabetes?

    My sister in law calls me Ellis Mae. The heart over rules the head with regularity.

  18. Dawn

    Aw. Poor, wee, adorably dapper Smushykins. I feel the vet bill pain. What we won’t do for our furry little munchkins, eh?

    Fingers crossed the vet gets Duncan straightened away and he gets to enjoy many more years as an undeed hobbitses.

  19. Karen R

    So sorry. I managed the frequent feedings with a cat with kidney disease for over a year, so I feel your pain there. No auto-feeding, either — do you know that dry food is the worst thing you can give a cat with kidney disease? If we had to be out and a neighbor wasn’t available I used a frozen bowl with frozen food in it that would last her 4-5 hours.

    I hope that Duncan-the-undead-dog improves.

  20. Elizabeth

    I didn’t have time to read everything… but my dog had a pancreatic tumor and I bought an automatic feeder called the super feeder– it was originally for fish tanks but then modified– and worked great!… I’ll read the rest of your post and see if I can be of any more use.

  21. Alice

    Poor Smushykins. I’m really, really glad that he ended up with your family, though. I *completely* feel you on the whole feeling tethered to home bit, though – that’s no fun. Here’s to Duncan enjoying his ‘roided up state for as long as he can!

  22. OnlyThis

    I didn’t read through all the comments, so I’m unsure whether this has been stated already, but we bought this: for our cat. If the kibble you feed Duncan is small enough, I’m sure it would work for him, too. They may make a dog one, I’m not sure. Anyway, you can program it to feed at whatever intervals you’d like. It’s very convenient.

    Or, if you feed wet food:

  23. Aska

    Your doggie looks like a tiny Ewok. Props to Otto, those are awesome photos!

  24. theresa.

    I laughed out loud at your title because I had JUST come home from a very expensive trip to the vet myself.

    Good luck!

  25. Kristin

    This is one of the finest pieces of writing I’ve read in forever. Maybe because I have a small white dog that requires specialty diets, homemade gluten free dog treats, Dinovite, daily meds…etc. But man, this was hilarious!

  26. Stimey

    Duncan! That dog. He is very lucky to live in a house full of suckers—I mean, excellent pet parents like you. (For the record, I am also one of those suckers. Although I’d still eat the popcorn.)

  27. 12tequilas

    If I went back in time to when we were informed that our newly-acquired doggie had to be treated for heartworm (which also can do very bad bad things), I would have asked you write the FB post. Mine was just pissed off and sad, but somehow you can say funny things like “I think his pancreas has been talking to my kids” and not make it seem even for a second that you are making light of it.

    Hope this is resolved very soon!

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