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It all started with a cat learning how to use the dog door and ended with an expensive vet bill. Well, that may be bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

Pippin has been slowly checking out the dog door for coming into the house. He likes being out in the backyard, and he likes his luxury kitty apartment, but sometimes he also likes to come in the house. He expresses this desire by using the barbecue grill as a stage; he gets up there and yells and yells and yells until we open the door for him.

Then he just stands there for a minute, as though he isn’t really sure he wants in or not. He just wants the option to come in. Once he is in, he hangs out for a while before sitting at the back door and yelling again to be let out.

He sort of reminds me of this.

So we started encouraging him to use the dog door instead of just yelling. I’m not sure whether or not this was really such a good idea, but file it under “it seemed like a good idea at the time.”

He might have figured it out anyway since his cat apartment also has a pet door installed, but it is a smaller, lighter one. The dog’s door is big to accommodate the standard poodles and it has two flaps to better keep out cold air. Still, once he got the hang of of the kitty door, it seemed likely that he would figure out the big dog door too. He’s certainly watched the dogs go in and out often enough.

Distracted by the Cat!

So Monday night we decided to run over to Noodle Express for a quick dinner. There are a few quick tasks we always do on the way out the door to make sure the dogs don’t get in trouble. The most important one is to lock the kitchen trash can in the bathroom to keep the dogs from getting into it. They are very good at knocking it down and having their own personal doggy feast. Usually they like to drag all the trash into my office to munch on. I’m not sure why my office is such a great place for trash eating. Darwin’s crate is in there, so he has to sit there and watch them chow down right in front of him, which always struck me as sort of mean on the part of the other dogs.

Anyway, we started getting ready to head out. I grabbed a coffee mug and a glass off my desk to put in the kitchen (just in case), intending to put away the trash next. On my way to the kitchen, I saw Pippin outside the dog door, standing up on his hind legs and poking at the door with his paw. Apparently all the time watching the dogs run in and out was starting to click. You could almost see the wheels turning in his little head.

We both stopped what we were doing and watched him examining the door. He didn’t try going through just yet, but he was definitely thinking about it.

An Express Exit from Noodle Express

We were getting pretty hungry for dinner, so we left Pippin to continue figuring things out and we headed on out to dinner. Ordered our usual rice bowls (I think they recognize us there) and two slices of their terrific chocolate mousse pie.

I’m not sure what made me think of it, but about halfway through dinner, I said “Did we put away the trash?”

Renee looked up from her rice bowl in horror and shook her head.

“Oh crap.”

We quickly realized that Pippin had distracted us during our normal pre-leaving tasks.

We got “go” boxes for the rest of our rice and had them package up the mousse pie to go. Renee drove like a maniac to get home. I hoped that the dogs hadn’t had time yet to notice the unguarded trash can.

When we pulled into the driveway, we knew we were in trouble. No dogs in the window watching for us. That was never good news.

I hurried in to the house. Sure enough, the can was knocked over and trash spewed all over the dining room carpet. Abby was in the bedroom; she doesn’t usually get involved in this. Strangely, the usual suspects (Sirus and Myka) were not in the room. Cricket, on the other hand, was standing right in the middle of the mess.

Not Innocent Dogs

These dogs are not innocent in matters of trash

Despite her small size, Cricket is not innocent when it comes to trash. I used to have a lightweight plastic trashcan, and she could grab the bag in her teeth and pull the whole thing over. I switched to a heavier metal can like we have now and she couldn’t do that anymore, but she could still sometimes get on her hind legs and grab at any items up near the top. She’s probably the one who taught the poodles to even notice the trash can in the first place.

Sirus and Myka were out in the backyard for some reason. Maybe they had eaten enough and just weren’t interested. Or they were startled out of their feast by Pippin actually coming in through the dog door, for he had finally managed to do it. I looked in my office to see if they had hauled any trash in there, and saw Pippin sitting comfortablely on my desk. He had also left a light paw-print on the lid of my closed laptop.

Here’s Where the Story Gets a Little Scary

We cleaned up the mess (the vacuum was more than Pippin could take and he bolted back through the dog door) and tried to relax the rest of the evening, but we were concerned. The trash had contained two quart-sized bags of old gorp leftover from our summer backpack trips. Peanuts, raisins, dried cranberries, and M&Ms. All things that aren’t good for dogs.

Sure enough, at three in the morning Cricket got up and started vomiting. Cleaning up dog vomit is never pleasant, but this was especially awful smelling puke. We stewed for a few minutes. Could we wait till morning, or should we just accept the cost of going to the emergency vet clinic? She sat uncomfortably in the bed and shook, not wanting to lie down and relax.

We decided it was emergency and got up to take her in. I was still on the phone with the vet clinic when she threw up bloody bile in the kitchen. Definitely an emergency now.

It was $95 up front at the emergency clinic. After a quick exam, the doctor said they would do an x-ray to check for any foreign objects, then provide some sort of charcoal treatment to bind up the rest of the trash and keep her from absorbing it, and then set her up with IV fluids so she doesn’t get dehydrated. We had to leave her there. We went home and went back to bed, although I really didn’t sleep all that well.

Cricket stayed at the vet hospital all day Tuesday. They told us she vomited again in the early morning (around 7 and again at 7:30). They didn’t want her to come home until she had kept food down for several hours, so she had to stay there Tuesday night as well. They told us we could come visit with her, but we figured that would just get her stirred up and then upset her more when we had to leave her there again.

Darwin wasted no time taking advantage of his sister’s absence; he tried to squeeze into her spot on the bed. This was OK at first because he curled up small. As the night went on, he sort of uncurled and stretched out and hogged a large portion of the bed.

Did She Learn Her Lesson? We Sure Did!

Finally this morning she was ready to come home. Apparently she was actually pretty good in her kennel and did not bark and cry as much as I would have expected. The doctor did say she started yapping at her when she didn’t get as much food as she wanted.

She was happy to see us when we picked her up, but then turned her head away to shun us. She was very angry that we took her to that place and left her there. She seems to have forgiven me more quickly than Renee; I’m not sure why. Maybe she expects less from me?

It would be really nice if Cricket learned a lesson from all this and would stay out of the trash from now on. After all, getting into trash just leads to bad things like vet clinics in the middle of the night, IV fluids, and sitting in a kennel all day. Unfortunately, I’m sure she has made no connection between the trash and the hospital stay. If she had the opportunity, she would do it all over again.

Hopefully we’ll do a bit better at staying vigilant when it comes to dog-proofing the house on the way out the door.

On a final note, I do know that the other dogs enjoyed some of that gorp as well. I’ve found plenty of evidence when poop-scooping the backyard, mostly in the form of undigested peanuts. But they seem to be doing OK and suffering no ill-effects, at least so far (fingers crossed that it stays that way).

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