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Butterfly and the Hairball


Two days after her most recent trip to the groomer, Butterfly started to throw up. Butterfly is a ten year old, diabetic, pure bred dog, with a serious heart murmur. I check her blood sugar for fluctuations every day (still too many ups and downs), and listen to the strange rhythm of her heart, which sounds fine to me, but I’ve always liked syncopation.

I am acutely aware of her health on a daily basis.

"Mommy, I don't feel good."

“Mommy, I don’t feel good.”

The last time Butterfly threw up was when she was first diagnosed with diabetes. She’s on insulin shots twice a day, so seeing her have what seemed like a serious relapse frightened me. Her blood sugar dropped very low, and she was shaking, and she refused to eat. Butterfly ignoring not only kibble, but chicken treats, is probably one of the signs of the apocalypse.

"Mommy, I think I'm gonna throw up."

“Mommy, I think I’m gonna throw up.”

She also had a lump the size of a kumquat on her lower belly, of unknown origin. She’d had the same thing way back in her early days with us, and back then the vet thought it might be constipation or something equally unimpressive, especially when the lump went away overnight. But it was a scary looking thing and I wasn’t sure if it would go away on its own, or where it came from, and meanwhile, Butterfly could barely sit down from the discomfort.

We put maple syrup on her gums, and cocooned her in a pink towel, and massaged her back, and crossed our fingers.

Time seemed to slow down, or even disappear. I couldn’t remember what time of day it was, or how long she’d been sick. Some part of me was shaking along with her, even as I told her, and myself, that everything would be okay.

Cricket was not impressed.

Cricket was not impressed.

At some point, Butterfly asked for some time on her own four feet, and within a few minutes she threw up again: three times in a row, on the rug in the hallway. When I went over to clean it up, there was a strange dark object in one of the puddles. It looked like an elaborate hairball, made of wiry black hair, honeycombed with bile, an inch and a half long, and half an inch in diameter. Huh?

Whatever caused it, once the hair ball was out, Butterfly started to improve. Her sugar went back to normal, she started to eat her kibble again, she was able to poop outdoors, and she was even smiling by bed time. She wasn’t up to running yet; that came the next day, along with the disappearance of her kumquat lump.

"Mommy, I feel so much better!"

“Mommy, I feel so much better!”

"We need treats!"

“We need treats!”

Once the crisis was over, I was calm enough to contemplate the hairball mystery. I’d never heard of a dog getting a hairball before. The hair was dark, like mine, but unless Butterfly had been chewing on my hair each night while I slept, I couldn’t imagine how she’d get her paws on that much hair in one shot.

But, there was a big, sweet, black haired dog at the groomer the day she was there, and as we were leaving, Butterfly did try to lick his head through the bars of his kennel. They also have a black cat on staff there, and I didn’t see him when we picked the girls up. We haven’t had a phone call from the groomer yet, so, fingers crossed that she didn’t eat their cat.