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Cricket Had To Get Her Teeth Cleaned

            Cricket had to get her teeth cleaned, and I was scared. The doctor first mentioned to us that Cricket’s teeth needed cleaning around two years ago, I think. It’s possible he’d mentioned it earlier, but if so, I blocked it out. We were able to put it off at that point, because Cricket was dealing with other health issues that were more pressing, but since she’s been doing better the doctor’s insistence has been growing. Both Mom and I have been concerned about putting Cricket through such a procedure, because of her age and because we’ve heard so many horror stories about dogs dying from regular teeth cleanings, because of the anesthesia. The doctor has tried to reassure us, and at Cricket’s most recent checkup he gave her a battery of tests to make sure she would be safe undergoing anesthesia, and the doctor said that he was confident Cricket would be fine. I wanted to be as confident as he was, and I wasn’t, but Mom and I decided to go through with the procedure anyway, because Cricket’s quality of life was in the balance. The pain in her mouth, especially when she was eating, and the bacteria running through her system, weren’t doing her any good. But I was still scared.

            Cricket is fourteen and a half years old, and as of her latest checkup she was three pounds lighter than the fourteen pounds she’s weighed for most of her life; also, her eyes are a bit blue from cataracts, she’s on medication for incontinence, she seems to hear things that aren’t there, her hair is thinning, and, of course, she has bad teeth. When we first adopted her, I saw a chart that said that a Cockapoo her size would live around 20 years, but given the way she’s been aging lately, I’ve had to recalibrate my expectations. But even so, I’m nowhere near ready to lose her.

“I am a puppy. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

            Cricket is a difficult dog, she demands what she wants in life and never tolerates no for an answer. She is prickly and feisty and temperamental and adorable, and she has only recently discovered the joys of play (with a Golden Doodle puppy named Kevin who lives in our complex). And no matter how often she gets on my nerves, I can’t imagine my life without her.

            But I trust her doctor, and he was getting more and more insistent that a teeth cleaning was necessary for her overall health, and I could see his point.

Ellie was still skeptical.

            I didn’t want to think about the small chance that she wouldn’t come back from the doctor’s office, but that was all I could think about. Cricket has never been a good patient. She resents both the illness and the treatment, and she absolutely blames me for whatever awfulness she’s feeling. I couldn’t even check her teeth myself, to see if the doctor was exaggerating about how bad it was in there, because she’d bite my fingers off. I wish I were exaggerating, but she recently bit me, hard enough to break through the skin on my thumb, just because I dared to try and wipe the goop from under her eye.

            We made an appointment for the dental procedure for during the winter break and I crossed my fingers – or braided them like a challah – in the hopes that Cricket would come back from the vet, and come back in better shape than she’d been in for a while, ready to chew and bark and play for all she was worth. That was the result I wanted, and I did my best to follow Cricket’s lead and refuse to accept no for an answer.

“No is my favorite word, but only when I say it.”

            The night before the procedure we had to put the food and water bowls away at nine pm, but Cricket barely noticed. Ellie on the other hand found the whole thing upsetting. And so did I. I had nightmares that whole night, and when it was time to leave in the morning, Ellie and I were wrecks, but Cricket was still fine. She was thrilled when Mom took her out to the car (so that I could put the food and water bowls out for Ellie), but Ellie was freaking out. Instead of eating or drinking, she stood by the door and cried as I left to catch up with Mom and Cricket.

I wasn’t freaking out, Mommy. I was just expressing my opinion.”

            Cricket was her usual anxious self in the car, shivering behind my neck, because she knew she was either going to the vet or the groomer and both are horrifying. And, of course, I had a hard time handing her off to the vet tech once we arrived, especially after signing the card that said I knew she would be undergoing anesthesia and recognized the risks. I watched the vet tech carry Cricket inside (the vet still doesn’t let people in the building, only pets, because of Covid) and tried not to panic.

“What are we doing at the vet?”

            By the time we got home, Ellie had pooped up a storm in the quilting area, and even after three treats and a lot of cuddles she still couldn’t settle down, shivering and breathing heavily in my lap. We both tried to take a nap, but the anxiety made it difficult.

            The call came around Noon that Cricket was “Great” and that we could pick her up between three and five pm. I watched TV and did jigsaw puzzles and tried to believe that Cricket was fine, but I had convinced myself so thoroughly that her life was at risk that I really couldn’t take in the idea that she was okay.

We got to the vet at 2:45 pm, but the vet tech understood. The vet came out to give us the bill (oy), and told us that they’d had to remove 7 rotten teeth, and that Cricket would need to take antibiotics and painkillers for a few days. And then there was Cricket, trying to jump out of the vet tech’s arms to get into the car. We thanked the vet and the vet tech and Cricket climbed all over me and her grandma, ready to get the hell out of there. She may have been a little high from her painkillers, but she was herself, and kept climbing all over me, and around my neck, and back down to my lap through the whole drive, until her leash was wrapped tight around my neck, twice.

            I’m sure it was unintentional. Or, I hope it was.

            When we got home, Ellie had to check Cricket out and sniff her everywhere, while Cricket kept pushing her sister out of the way so she could get to the water bowl (though she was only allowed a few sips of water at a time). And then Cricket spent the rest of the afternoon barking and complaining, as usual, because she wanted more water, and she wanted treats, and she wanted…everything.

            After all of the anxiety, and really expecting to get bad news from the vet, the idea that my fourteen and a half year old dog came through anesthesia with flying colors, and almost no after effects, feels like a miracle. And now she seems to be eating more and even starting to gain some of the weight back, and giving me hope that the original chart that said she would live to age twenty, might not have been so far off after all.

            I really needed a miracle right about now, to keep me going. Leave it to curmudgeonly Cricket to make it happen.

“I’m looking cute.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

102 responses »

  1. We actually never got our elderly dog’s teeth cleaned at the end because of the risk of anesthesia, so I completely understand your anxiety level. I am very glad that Cricket came through this ordeal. If she needed to lose seven teeth, the infection must have been pretty bad. Love on her for me and Happy New Year(American style.)

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  2. Link is 7 and I’m pretty sure the vet will get after me to get his teeth cleaned. I’ve heard the same horror stories about anesthesia. I’m glad Cricket is ok!

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  3. i am so glad that it all turned out ok! i well understand how you feel from my own past experience🙏🏼❤️🙏🏼

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  4. Cricket–you are looking adorable! Whenever one of my cats has to go to the vet, the other cats won’t go near her when she gets home. I think it’s that ‘vet smell’ but it’s brutal to watch them like that. Ellie–you are such a sweetie to be that worried about Cricket. Can you talk to my cats, please?

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  5. Happy New Year to you and yours ( ear rubs for your fur babies) .

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  6. Happy new year! Glad to hear that all went well with Cricket. 🙂

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  7. When my senior dog got her teeth cleaned and had 10 tiny teeth removed, she pouted around the house for three days. Then on the forth, she became very happy! By then she knew that she would be okay and her mouth had stopped hurting. She was SO grateful. I know that Cricket will, too.

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  8. I’m so glad to hear that Cricket’s dental went swimmingly. I unfortunately lost my cranky, neurotic 13 year old ACDx to oral cancer last Monday, so I empathize deeply with your fears. My 5 year old dog seems mostly unaffected by suddenly becoming an only dog, but I suspect she’s missing a canine friend. I just need a few weeks to grieve.

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    • Grief is a process and it’s different for everyone. I still grieve the loss of Miss Butterfly, years later, but over time there’s so much sweetness in that grief.

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      • I’ve been here too many times before (4 other dogs and 4 cats plus ones that belonged to other people in my life), but I know that it will get better. We were able to take Indi to a crowded park today, something that would have been impossible with Patience (she would have melted down massively). And we’ll get to save another pup as Patience’s legacy. 🙂

      • Good luck with all of it!

  9. Don’t you wish you knew what was going through Ellie’s head the morning of the dental? It’s great to hear that Cricket got her teeth all fixed up and is putting that weight back on!

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  10. You write with humour even when you are worried and stressed. I love reading your blog; every post is its own short story. 💕 My heart always goes out to you.

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  11. I’m glad Cricket is doing well. My vet told me Maya (age 7) would need teeth cleaning soon. She’s already had 6 teeth pulled before I adopted her (she’d been hoarded and neglected) and I don’t want her to lose any more teeth unnecessarily. I’m very attached to her and am nervous about it, but just recently I decided to go ahead and make the appointment. Reading about Cricket has made me feel better. Thanks! (I wish I could attach a picture of Maya, but I think you’ve already seen one on my blog. She looks a little like Ellie.)

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    • Ellie has to go for dental cleanings every year or two, and it scares me every time. But her life is so much better with a healthy mouth, and she’s such a foodie, it’s worth the anxiety.

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  12. So glad Cricket did well! I’ve been giving my eight month old puppy Dentastix in the hope of keeping his teeth clean. So far, so good… but it is early days.

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    • The vet said that some dogs are just prone to plaque, like Ellie, but she’s enjoyed all of our attempts to find teeth cleaning treats. The current favorite for both dogs is something called Oravet, but I have no idea if it’s helping.

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  13. I remember going through the same thing with Geordie. When he came home, he demanded – DEMANDED – a meal and ate a whole bowl of soft food before stomping off to bed. (That was the beginning of our gassy misadventures with soft food.) I am so happy that Cricket did so well and is eating and even gaining weight!

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  14. Dogs need clean teeth almost as much as we do. Glad it went well.

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  15. So glad she is ok!!!! That is fabulous news!!!!

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  16. I’m so glad Cricket came through her dental well, that can be so nerve wracking. I’m down to one dog now, after losing my 11 1/2 year old American Bulldog Mix Flowie in April. I was thinking the other day on the subject of dentals, and she was raised on and only ate kibble daily, and she never needed a dental in her lifetime. I’m guessing there’s a correlation there. My current dog is an overweight small/medium size rescue mutt (11 different breeds) and the pickiest eater I ever had, strangely enough. We are currently having to make his food, and he still turns his nose up. It’s crazy being a pet owner sometimes, but so worth it in the love they give.

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  17. This was a lovely read, I am glad she is okay and doing well! It has made me think twice about getting my dogs teeth cleaned. The vet also told me a couple of years ago now his teeth needed cleaning and it has just always been pushed to the bottom of my to do list! I may need to rethink now!

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  18. Well done. May she be in better moods from now on

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  19. I’m glad it turned out well. And Cricket, you are looking cute in your hoodie!

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  20. I’m sure it is still rare for dogs to die under anaesthetic, but understand your concern. Now her bad teeth are gone, Cricket will enjoy her food more, and hopefully be free of any pain.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  21. Ellie’s behavior proves once again that dogs are very perceptive about events and changes. She knew something was out of kilter regarding Cricket. I’m happy Cricket is doing well.

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  22. I understand your fears of the teeth cleaning. It sounds like it was very necessary though. I hope you have many more years together.

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  23. I’m so glad she came through the procedure so well. Sometimes, miracles occur just when we need them the most!

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  24. So glad Cricket is okay! She reminds me so much of my little girl Nibbles. She is terrified of the car.

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  25. This brings back very sad memories to me.. Tami needs her teeth cleaned now and what to do~?

    Her predecessor when taken to the vet for a cleaning was not at all well when she got back. She was like in a trance and could hardly walk or eat. Several days of this and she died.

    There was no way that I could prove that she had been over sedated while the process was done~!

    The best I could do was let others know that a small dog such as mine and yours may need much less sedation~! This was a terrible mistake on the part of the vet, but I was unable to prove it~! They killed her~!

    I know one thing~! I will be standing there when the process is done by the vet I now use, and who knows about my past problem.

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  26. Oh, the dreaded dental, glad Cricket made it through ok!

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  27. Getting medical treatments for our pets is worse than getting it for ourselves. They weather it like troopers, and we’re a mess. Kudos to both of you for making it through the ordeal!

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  28. Aw. Glad she’s OK and hopefully not in so much pain now the rotten teeth have been removed.

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  29. argh! Hit send too early……………. and a happy new year to all of you!

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  30. Glad to hear Cricket is doing well.

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  31. Glad Cricket did fine with her appointment.

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  32. Emma is like that with her toenails. If only we could explain things to them and take their anxiety away. But it’s good that the teeth cleaning is done and it went well.

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  33. So glad she did well and that is behind you.

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  34. Brilliant, Cricket!
    Your appetite for food – and life – bodes well for the New Year. Onward.

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  35. Hooray for Cricket! And you!

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  36. She did so well and is clearly feeling better now. May Cricket live to twenty tears or more!
    (We use the services of a canine dental nurse who does non general anaesthetic cleaning – she uses an ultrasonic cleaner. The dogs seem to tolerate it well, though it is of course in addition to an annual check over by the vet who also looks for loose or decayed teeth.)

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  37. I’m glad for you that all went well.

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  38. I’m so happy you got her teeth cleaned and everything went well! Our anesthetic protocols these days are very safe for senior pets. We did a dental the other day on a senior doggy who has wicked heart failure and he came through with flying colors! Cricket will be so much happier now, especially if she needed 7 extractions! Great job, (even if the anxiety was intense… you are totally normal in all of that, too!)

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  39. Glad Cricket is all better! I completely relate. Every year we have with our King Charles is a bonus since she’s lived longer than expected. She had a big fall last summer and needed several teeth removed. She’s deaf, blind, on heart medication and keeps peeing on the floor but the thought of her leaving us is just too sad. Hopefully Cricket will make it to 20!

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  40. She’s a lucky girl to have a mom who loves her so much!

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  41. My goodness, well done Cricket, and well done you! Here’s to a healthy and happy old age for her and a stress free one for you. Happy New Year. 🙂

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  42. Well, We’ve been lucky to have 2 shepherd-mix dogs make it to 16 years. And all our pets are like family. So we give them all the best life has to offer them. And we’ve been fortunate to have great vets. Sorry about Cricket’s teeth. Which reminds me how I’m due for a dental cleaning. Take care, Rachel.
    Art

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  43. To what extent does Cricket’s teeth cleaning trauma teach you about coping with life crises yourself?

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  44. What an ordeal, but it’s great that everything went well.

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  45. Rachel,
    I had to take my Sophie for teeth cleaning last week as well. She is eleven and diabetic, so I was agonizing over having to skip her meal and insulin at breakfast and go under anesthesia. But, she did fine (whew!) No extractions even. Back to our routines now, thankfully.

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  46. Sounded like those teeth needed to go!

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