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Deer Poop Pie

This is what “House Arrest” looks like.
Who knew that living in Iowa could be so perilous? Perilous to my dog Jack and to my wallet, I mean. One thousand dollars spent between two veterinarians in two different towns and we are still not quite sure what has caused the incessant vomiting in my little Jack Russell-Yorkshire terrier mix. The vomiting that has kept me awake for nine nights. The vomiting that has stained the sisal rug in my living room. The vomiting that has filled my car with a permanent stench. The vomiting that has caused me to take a look at my own life and ask, “What have I done to contribute to my dog’s illness?”
The first diagnosis was that Jack had ingested something that was now blocking his stomach and therefore keeping any food from entering. Thus, I learned that if there is a blockage and no food can enter the stomach this is called regurgitation, not vomiting, and yes, there is a difference. If food was actually getting into his stomach it wouldn’t come back up through his mouth perfectly shaped like his esophageal tube. Regurgitation. If the food was getting into his stomach and coming back up, mixed with overly acidic digestive juices, in a haphazard pile (on the carpet, naturally), that would be vomit. Which means it was his regurgitating, not vomiting, that was keeping me awake, staining the rug, and filling my car with a stench. And causing me to ask myself, “What am I contributing to this?”
The second diagnosis – after spending the first $200 – was that no, there was nothing blocking the stomach. But let’s do a barium series, just to make sure. Barium is a chemical element, a silvery metallic alkaline, fed to the dog through the mouth. Provided the dog doesn’t regurgitate this, too, the vet observes the movement of the barium — which shows up very clearly on an x-ray — as it travels through the dog’s digestive tract. The vet then takes x-rays at timed intervals over a period of several hours. X-rays that will set you back $678.
No. Nothing. Everything looks normal. Except for the puke on the seats of my car.
The $1,000 Dog.
Diagnosis Number Three. Motion sickness. Yes. This must be the reason my dog is sick. I have been driving too much, carting my dogs around with me, taking them on the half-hour (each way) trips to the grocery store and leaving them in the car while I shop. And, last week, taking them with me back and forth on the one and a half-hour (each way) drive from Eldon to Iowa City where I attended a three-day writers’ conference and leaving them in the car (for up to four hours at a time) while I sat in workshops. I knew it! I knew I had played a role in my dog getting sick!
Accepting this as a probable cause, and figuring I have been suffering in my own way from motion sickness, I canceled all my plans – plans to travel to yet another small Iowa town to hear a big name author give a lecture, to spend the night with friends in Des Moines, or even to sell pie at my Pitchfork Pie Stand – and I stayed home. In bed. All day. With my dog. Who was still leaving his breakfast, dinner and anything else that went into his mouth on my 130-year-old hardwood floors.
Diagnosis Number Four. The second vet, for a mere $50, suggested that Jack had eaten deer hair. Deer hair? Welcome to rural Iowa. Yes, I see dead deer daily in my life here. But only on the sides of the highway. Not in the perfectly groomed park-like surroundings of the American Gothic House. Still, I accepted the premise – and the prescription for Pepto-Bismol – and went back home with eight cans of doggie baby food (for ultra-sensitive stomachs). The regurgitation ended and the vomiting began and another trip to the vet ensued. This time I took the former contents of Jack’s stomach with me. In a zip-lock bag.
This plowed field may look innocent but it’s full of deer droppings.
Diagnosis Number Five. Your dog has become a garbage eater, I was informed. Impossible, I replied. Well, take a look at this, she said, laying the plastic bag in front of me. She pointed out the various ingredients that had come out of Jack’s stomach. Leaves. Grass. Bugs. Wood chips. And deer poop. The prescription? House arrest. And when you take him out, she warned, keep him on a leash so he can’t eat anything. That will be $50, please.

House arrest? It would be easier if she would have prescribed giant pills and daily enemas for this dog. We value our freedom to run wild outside our house. And our leash-free existence makes life so much easier. I open the door first thing in the morning, Team Terrier bolts into the Great Outdoors, I go make my coffee, and they let me know when they want to come back in. In fact, I’m not sure who benefits more: me because I don’t have to take the dogs on long walks, which frees me up to do other things, like pie baking, or the dogs because they don’t have me restraining them, which frees them up to chase squirrels. Or eat deer poop. Okay, fine. I’ll try it.

We are on Day Three of House Arrest. Amazingly it’s the leash – and not medication — that is working. I’ve yanked Jack back from piles of deer pellets several times now. And so far his food is staying down. We have managed to sleep through the night, get the rug cleaned, and air out the car. I’ve even managed to stop blaming myself for Jack’s stomach troubles. But I’m still feeling nauseous from the vet bills.