Voices from the Backseat
A Preponderance of Caution
April 23, 2018
The other day our 60 pound, one-year-old Goldendoodle Obi ate a grape. Despite being a novice dog owner, I was somehow aware of the fact that grapes are toxic to dogs. Everyone seems to know the chocolate thing, but grapes are a problem too. The girls were also aware of this, and I have to say they’re pretty good about keeping concerning foods away from him. Other items (slime, paper, underwear), not so much. But they’re pretty vigilant on the food front.
That Friday morning Obi had been particularly...spirited. He snatched up anything that the girls dropped or had recently held in the hope that they’d give chase and a fun time would be had by all. So when Natalie dropped a single purple grape while packing her lunch, the dog was all over it like a cheap suit. “He’s got a grape!” she screamed, and I joined the chase while her younger sister immediately devolved into hysterics. I caught him, and heard an almost cartoonish “gulp,” as he swallowed the grape and knocked the entire day off kilter.
I was supposed to drive the carpool to school and then immediately pick up my mother-in-law from the airport. Instead I found myself on the phone with my vet and then Animal Poison Control--it’s a thing! I mimed for the girls to find another neighbor to drive the carpool and texted my husband, asking him to inform his mother that I’d be late. I soon learned that the professionals are unable to identify the minimum toxic grape amount with any degree of certainty. They could not simply write this one off. So, as a preponderance of caution and fear of litigation, they advise the same measures whether your dog was getting greedy in a vineyard or fell victim to a single grape temptation: make the dog vomit with hydrogen peroxide and call us back.
This plan assumes having hydrogen peroxide in the house. Or should I say, “good” hydrogen peroxide. Come to find out, my 15-year-old bottle had lost its kick. I scooted the girls out the door to school (they’d found a helpful neighbor), and raced to the drugstore. My mother-in-law called while I was en route and cheerfully informed me that she was waiting because. Of course my husband hadn’t called her and her flight was right on time. I tried to give the condensed version of the story over the phone with moral being: I’m going to be late. Given my frantic mood and her status as a non-native-English-speaker, I’m pretty sure she didn’t get much other than “wait there.” So then I felt guilty AND worried, and so I called up another neighbor, the Best Neighbor Ever (BNE). Because, well just you wait.
I got the first dose of peroxide / bullion / peanut butter slurry mostly down the dog, and then handed him over to the BNE. She was still in her pajamas, but proceeded to walk him around the yard while I raced to the airport to collect my husband’s 80-year-old mother. The BNE kindly waited several days before letting me know that she'd thought that I was crazy. She gently suggested that her veterinarian sister had said that less than (I don’t remember how many) grapes per pound weren’t likely to be a problem. But I pressed on. I’d called Dog Poison Control and committed to a course of action! And if I remembered one thing from human medicine, it’s that Poison Control has got their shit together and are to be ignored at your own peril. So I told the BNE that her job was to find a an entire grape in whatever vomit Obi produced. If this didn’t happen, repeat the peroxide. Buh bye.
I managed to find my tiny Asian mother in law waiting patiently in the central concourse of the Mitchell Airport. During the drive home I told the story as best as I could. She’d owned dogs, and the whole grape situation was new to her. In fact, her oft-repeated refrain that weekend, uttered whenever the conversation lagged, was “one grape? Who knew that!” As we pulled into the driveway, my pajama-clad BNE handed over a chagrined Obi.
“Let me show you what we’ve go,” she said, and led me through the woods to his...results. There she proceeded to dissect through a pile of the dog’s breakfast (h.t. Ina Garten!), partially digested treats, and a completely intact pair of girls underwear. But no grape. True to her word, she’d actually sifted through the...results and hadn’t found a grape. So, she repeated the peroxide, forcing it down with a syringe. The dog has studiously ignored her since, turning his back if she appears. “I don’t know, but I’d be a little more concerned about that underwear than a grape…” the BNE opined, and headed home to put on some clothes and be glad that they don’t own a dog.
My follow up call to the Poison Control was reassuring, and the vet on the other end deadpanned that if he'd brought up the underwear, the grape was probably the least of our worries. Obi was pretty subdued the rest of the day, but he eventually perked up and started wreaking havoc again. The girls have sworn off grapes entirely, my mother in law has a great story to share with the relatives, and I have invested in magnetically closing laundry hampers. Did I mention that this was Obi’s fifth pair of girls underwear that he’s vomited up, intact but partially digested, in his short life? So, yes. Grapes are toxic, but underpants are the forbidden fruit.