I plucked a Gala apple off the two-year old tree, and action that caused the five-foot skinny adolescent trunk to sway. Lucy sat at my feet, watching, “yes, yes, you’ll get a bite,” I told her as I bit a chunk of apple and held it out flat in my hand. She gulped and waited patiently for more with a single drool stretching off her lip and a low moan of anticipation. “Oh you make me giggle, Lucy.” We had shared apples in kitchens, on walks, during breaks in Dogsafe classes, but this was the first time directly from a tree, a moment that created a wave of gratitude for Dogsafe’s new Head Office location and a dog to share it all with.
Later that night, the bed-turned-trampoline bounced with the weight of a 72-pound Labrador, Lucy’s tongue on my cheek and in my ear finally pulled me from sleep. I swished her tail out of my eyes and stared at the clock: 12:19am. “Really? Now?” This was too weird, was everything okay? By default, my brain reviewed part of the Dogsafe curriculum -- the four changes in dogs that may indicate an illness or injury.
She ate normally at breakfast and dinner and I hadn’t changed her food, plus she isn’t heaving or showing any pre-vomit cues or sounds, so the first -- Change in Appetite -- isn’t the problem.
“Do you have to pee?” That’d be weird. Did she drink more than normal yesterday? I don’t think so but that’s hard to tell. Having to pee in the middle of the night could be an indication of the second -- Change in Thirst.
She dashed off the bed, ran down the hallway, boomeranged and jumped back onto the bed and body slammed into my side – all normal for her when she wants me up. “Alrighty, definitely no Change in Energy, number three.”
And then there’s number four – Change in Behaviour. It was normal for her to bounce around and lick me to wake me up, but it wasn’t normal in the middle of the night, that was highly unusual, definitely a change in her behaviour. Something was wrong.
Trust the dog.
I crawled out of bed and barely opened the door before she pushed through the crack and bolted into the dark – the benefits of a fenced yard -- while I stood in bare feet and pajamas, peeking out the window for her return.
A few minutes passed.
“Luuuu-cyyy!” I yelled out the door.
A few more minutes passed.
“Darn it.” My feet jammed into their slippers as I pulled down my jacket to protect against the autumn chill. Where was she? I grabbed a flashlight, opened the door again and there she stood on the deck in the spotlight -- leaves camouflaged her face as the tree branch longer than her, stuck out each side of her mouth, as she munched on three apples till attached to the middle.
Now, a rottweiler – namely, my Monty -- would’ve taken the same opportunity but would’ve hid his crime by eating them out in the darkness, but Lucy being a retriever, brought it all back to me.
A large amount of crunched apple seeds could potentially release toxic cyanide, but the quantity contained in a few apples is not a quantity of concern. But I didn’t want this to become a habit as the trees grew so I exchanged a handful of liver treats – treats and poop bags are in EVERY pocket, aren’t they? -- for the apples and picked the last three apples on the tree as well.
While I thought we had a moment of connection when we shared that apple in the yard, she was taking notes on how to score food.
“You’re worse than a deer,” I said while hiding my smile. “Will I need to create special Labrador fencing?”
We want to be mindful of, and document, all Changes in Behaviour as sometimes the change may signal an underlying illness or injury, but other times it’s only an indication of the midnight munchies.
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© 2015 Michelle Sevigny, creator of DOGSAFE Canine First Aid. www.dogsafe.ca. Text may be shared with full copyright intact.
Photo by Michelle Sevigny