Twinkle at the vet
Our summer stay in France is underway. We arrived mid-week after an uneventful night-drive down. We opted for an overnight drive as it’s been so hot recently we thought the dogs would appreciate the cooler night air at their pee-stops. Just before we left the UK, Twinkle managed to pick up a bug and travelling with an upset tummy meant more stops might be needed, so the night-drive proved welcome.
As it turned out, she was fine on the journey, but Thursday was a day of concern as she swiftly went from a loose tummy, to passing blood, vomitting it up and peeing the red stuff. All highly alarming and off to the vet we headed tout de suite.
Now visiting our local vet here is nothing like our practice back in the UK where we see the same, wonderful vet most of the time, the nurses are familiar faces and show genuine compassionate understanding and our relationship is long-standing and reliable. I know I can always ask for explanations of what is being suggested, what the diagnosis is and options are always openly discussed. It’s how I like a vet-client relationship to be. Here, in France, we go regularly, more often than the UK as we have to in order to satisfy the requirements of the UK Pet Travel Scheme, but the relationship is as different to the one at home as the French are to the English. Funny that. We often see different vets, consultations are brief – thankfully they are normally only giving routine worming treatment and signing the paperwork but over the years, there have been occasions when something more serious has been required – and it’s an altogether different experience than at home.
One vague worry I’ve always had about us being in France so often is that if one of the dogs was seriously ill here, I would struggle a lot with the differences, not that I ever doubt the excellence of treatment, it’s more subtle than that. A lot is my own fault for not being fluent in the language and relying on Michel (who is) to translate my concerns, my need to understand any issue with the dogs and their treatment. Not only are our vets different, Michel and I are like chalk and cheese, or the French and English, when it comes to this. He will always trust what is being said and suggested, he doesn’t feel the need to ask questions, or know the options. He rarely worries about things, doesn’t see the point in knowing what may or may never happen, takes each moment as it comes. It’s an admirable state of mind in so many ways and it contrasts spectacularly with my need to know everything about anything, to assess all possible options, to have a perception of control (even if false) over matters. We balance one another and somewhere in the middle, we muddle through happily most of the time.
So, Thursday, knowing we had an emergency on our hands as Twinkle passed a stream of blood from her bottom and then promptly pee’d blood, I knew there was a very good chance the vets would want to admit her for treatment. Before we set-off I asked Michel to be sure to translate fully for me everything that was being discussed before agreeing to anything. My language skills are enough to function in regular situations and my comprehension gets me by, but I knew I’d be way out of my zone of understanding and control once in the clinic. For me, the biggest worry was not having Twinkle being given the best care possible, I trust the vets to do that, it was that they would not appreciate that she is not a normal dog. Her rehabilitation is slow-going and fragile and the wrong situation, or handling could set her back months. The thought of her being admitted and in the hands of strangers coming and going, each not knowing just what a peculiar set of needs she has made me deeply concerned. But, I also recognised that her physical state required urgent treatment and what I had to rely on Michel to do, was to put across that her emotional needs were also to be taken care of should they admit her.
As it turned out, the vet we saw was brusque, to the point and immediately focused on her symptoms, matter-of-factly taking her temperature before I had time to blurt out my basic “elle a peur des humains”. As he firmly inspected ears, eyes, mouth – all completely terrifying to Twinkle whose skin still reflexively ripples away when touched if she’s not prepared for it – I tried to show the need to handle her gently by standing up straighter, as he pulled her back end towards him, I caressed her ears with a tut, trying to stay calm and not add to her stress by me being dismayed at the terse examination. I tried using my body language to make him pay attention to what Michel was telling him regarding her, not only her symptoms. I huffed and puffed and attempted to make him slow down with the exam. Which he did. After the snippy start, as he proceeded and my huffs and puffs took effect, Michel’s words were heard and Twinkle’s racing heartrate got noted, he softened his manner, even giving her rump a gentle rub of Gallic affection before beginning the injections.
It’s not fair of me to be irritated by an efficient professional doing the job expected: faced with a dog with the symptoms we described, that is what his focus was, and should have been. But, what the whole episode showed me again was how hard it is at times for Twinkle to function in the world of humans. There we were, all there to help her, but she couldn’t possibly grasp this as she was manhandled, prodded, poked, jabbed. And because strokes and cuddles do not reassure her, normal displays of affection we rely on to comfort our dogs are of limited use to Twinkle. But, I did it anyway, I held her while the vet did his injections – a whopping 5 in total – I massaged her big floppy ears and whispered in them that it would be all right.
It was decided that as she was so stressed, treatment at home for 24 hours was the best option but if it didn’t take effect by the morning, she would be admitted. The vet, to give him full credit, didn’t need me to tell him this was the right course of action, he recognised her stress after his stethoscope left her chest – heaven knows what her heart rate was. And, I hope that he did hear Michel’s words explaining just what our funny, special, peculiar Twinkle has been through in her life and why days like Thursday are even more traumatic for her than most dogs.
We were sent home with a pharmacy load of pills which we had to force-feed yesterday as she had no appetite and wouldn’t take them in food. That alone was awful, forcing her to do anything is terrible, but seeing her wild-eyed, clamping her jaws down in terror for a second or two was particularly distressing, albeit we knew it was for her own good, trouble is she wouldn’t.
But, the treatment worked thankfully, the vet knew what he was doing. Not that I ever doubted it, I just needed him to recognise the individual dog on his table, not just the set of symptoms and she hasn’t been admitted to vet hospital. She is well on the road to being back to her normal self today. Whatever normal is.