I asked the stars what to do. They, being giant burning balls of gas, did not answer. Or they did, but I don't speak Twinkle. Instead, the leash in my hand pulled in the direction of the street. That was Remix telling me that what I should do was go for a walk with her. It was 7 PM and dark and 40 degrees, but we went for a walk. My neighborhood is safe, and I had a flashlight and a pitbull.

Just a few hours earlier, we had both been sitting on the futon. Her stomach started heaving. I knew she was about to throw up, and I tried to move her off the futon, but she was not inclined to relocate. That's the thing about big dogs. You require their cooperation and obedience more than a dog you can simply pick up.

This is not a big deal. She's thrown up before. The pile smelled like dog food and was mostly chunks, with a few tiny green leaves mixed in. You wanted to read a description of my dog's vomit, right? Now I could get her to move and so I let her out into the backyard. Whatever else she had to do, she could do out there. Then I went back and cleaned up the futon. The poor, poor futon, which before we got a dog probably could have been passed down to another member of my family like it was passed to me. But no, it will die in my house at the paws of a pitbull.

I looked out the back window to check on her. She'd made another pile of half-digested dog food and was now lying next to it, looking pathetic. I kept peeking out the window at her to see if she was done dumping her stomach contents out, so I could let her back in. I could imagine my reaction if my mother made me go outside in the cold when I was sick. If only I could teach Remix how to use a vomit pan. She wasn't moving at all. And then at one point I noticed another little pile she had made, but this one was sitting at her back end. She hadn't even gotten up to poop.

That scared me. Vomit we've dealt with before, but the not moving and the passive defecation were new. My dog was sick.

Josh said we should wait and see. I was not comforted by this. We threw some towels on the futon to make a little sick bed. Then we went out to get her. She didn't raise her head at all, and getting her up was out of the question. So Josh picked her up, all 60 pounds of her, and carried her inside. We set her up on the towels. She lied in her new position, just as still as she had been outside. Josh felt her nose and verified that it was cold and wet. Thus our canine medical knowledge was exhausted.

I called the vet, because an expert would know whatever step came after touching her nose. They told me to bring her in. Josh said of course they did, because if they said to just wait and see and then our dog up and died, we'd hold them responsible. I heard him, he sounded reasonable, but then again, my dog was sick.

We drove to the vet. While we had carried Remix out to the car, when we got to the doctor's office, she hopped out of the back seat and sniffed around. I was torn between relief and wishing that she'd go back to acting sick, so I wouldn't look like a hysterical pet owner.

We waited for the doctor in the examination room, where they advertised specials for your pet's annual physical, which included all kinds of shots and tests and even x-rays. "These animals have better health care than a lot of people," I said. "Like me?" Josh asked.

The doctor examined her and told us that she had a cold. She was coughing in the doctor's office, and he asked if that's what she had been doing when she threw up. Apparently coughing will activate a dog's gag reflex, which can cause them to vomit. You can tell the difference by watching whether they cough or heave before it all comes out. I thought back, and I'd thought she'd heaved before upchucking, but since she was coughing now, I couldn't be certain. Again, I felt relieved, but also disatisfied with the answer. A cold would not make her lie down and look like she was waiting for death. He perscribed an oral antiobiotic to give her at home and also gave her a shot of penicillin so that she could start getting better quicker.

We can all agree that it was probably a waste of $123. Because my dog was sick, but not that sick, and I really should have just listened to Josh. I listened to him on the drive home from the vet's, as he told me how I should have listened to him earlier.

We got home and Remix drank her bowl of water to the last drop. She seemed fine. I sat on the futon, feeling utterly defeated, because somehow you can fail at owning a dog. She came over to the befouled futon covered in towels and sat down next to me.

She smiled.

No, really. When she's panting, her mouth is so wide that it looks like she is smiling, but this was different. Her mouth was closed, but the sides of her mouth were stretching stretching stretching back to her ears. It looked like a commercial where they digitize a dog's mouth to smile after delivering the punchline. We'd never seen anything like it. What is it, girl? Why are you smiling, puppypants?

She threw up. On the towels, on the futon, on me, a whole bowl of water and a couple of kibble chunks for good measure. There was no coughing, this was no gag reflex, this was projectile vomiting. So much for a cold. I told you, my dog was sick.

I had to go run a couple errands and Josh had to go to work. We put her in her crate, so that if she were going to be sick, it would be contained to a limited area. Again, it seemed like punishment. I went off, imagining myself coming home and finding a dead dog all locked up in a crate, in a pool of her own vomit.

But she did not die while I was out. She stirred as I came in, and she got quickly to her feet as I unlocked the crate. We had a snuggly reunion. She kept putting her paws over her face, like I'd seen her do after walking into a spider web. Something was bugging her. I held up her face to get a look at her.

Her face was comically swollen. Her lips and jowls were red and puffy. One eye was unable to open all the way. I guess my dog and my boyfriend are allergic to penicillin.

What did I do? I called the vet. By this time, they were closed for the day, but the recorded message directed me to call an all-night clinic. Which I did. I said the vet had given my dog a shot and now she was swelling up like a pitbulloon. They said I should bring her in, just to be safe, since it was possible the swelling could interfere with her breathing. I was out in the driveway, with the address of the all-night clinic typed into my phone for navigation, when I stopped where I stood and asked the stars what I should do, because it was all too familiar and I didn't know how to tell how sick a dog was and she couldn't tell me either.

Remix hates the car and loves to walk. She wasn't helpful on whether this was a medical emergency, but she was pretty clear on wanting to take a walk in the moonlight. So that's what we did. Because I didn't want to make the same mistake twice, at least not in one day. Because a dog that wants to take a walk can't be that sick. Because sometimes when you don't know what to do, you should probably take a walk, and you might as well take the dog, too.

When we got back, she was still energetic and happy and Remix-y. I tentatively gave her a bowl full of water and she again drank it to the bottom. I sat with her on the pile of dirty towels and tried to decide if the swelling was any different. Twice, she burped, and I jumped up so fast to get away from the coming onslaught that I startled her. I watched her closely for any trace of a smile. Finally, I just took her out into the backyard, where she spent the time trying to find the pieces of upchucked dog food that I'd thrown out before.

After fifteen minutes, I decided that she was probably not going to hurl, so we came back inside. I started googling allergic reactions in dogs. She went back to pawing at her face. She scratched her head and rolled around on the futon, trying hard to scratch an itch that would not remain scratched. She trotted upstairs. I went looking for her, and found her with her head under the bed. I also found the hives. They were travelling up her legs, red and angry bumps that made her fur stick out unevenly as if she had a bad case of mange. They were on her stomach and her head, and they were starting to close her other eye. They had not been there half an hour ago.

Time to go to the vet. As I led her out to the car, I felt the familiar tug of a strong and resistant dog. I thought she wanted to go for a walk, but no, she was rolling around in the gravel in an effort to stop the itch.

I tried hard to figure out what lesson I should be learning. Because she wouldn't have gotten the penicillin, and thus this reaction, if I had not freaked out before, but here I was again, scared that my dog was going to die now because of what I had done when I thought she had been about to die before.

On the drive over, I lectured myself. I still wasn't sure that I wasn't overreacting again, but I wanted to stop second-guessing myself. This is the path you have chosen, and now you own it. I wondered how much it was going to cost. I asked myself how much I was willing to pay to save the dog, if it came to that. How much was Remix worth to me?

Again, at the vet, she was curious and interested and not sick-acting. But at least this time, she looked absolutely terrible. The nurse asked if they could go ahead and give her some anti-histamines and steroids, and I said yes, please. They brought her out again a few minutes later, and she already looked ten times better. The hives were not visible from a distance, and the swelling was not so noticeable. We were directed to an examination room to wait on the doctor. Remix sniffed around the empty room, then settled down at my feet.

A few minutes later, the doctor's face appeared at the window. Remix growled and barked. She's not a particularly barky dog, but she does dislike some people. As the doctor came in, Remix continued to act like a mean dog. I kept a strong hand on her collar and got a treat out of my bag to get her to be good. She sat again at my feet, eyes on the biscuit, occasionally turning around to growl. I apologized. It was embarrassing.

I told the whole story again, about the throwing up and the lying there, what the other doctor had said and done, about when Remix smiled and threw up on me. The conclusion was that the allergic reaction could have been from the penicillin or it could have been from whatever made her sick in the first place. Basically, if I was trying to learn anything from this experience, they sure weren't going to help me.

The doctor said that based on the blood tests, she really shood keep Remix overnight. I am no professional, but the gist of it was that the swelling could make the dog's blood sludgy. Remix had sludgy blood, but she was also pretty dehydrated, which is also a cause of sludge blood. So the doc was leaving it up to me, because it wasn't necessarily a dangerous situation and because Remix was so obviously unhappy. I could pay $400 to leave my dog here overnight with an IV drip, or I could take her home. I played the mean dog card and said I wanted to take her home.

So many decisions in one day. Each one felt like deciding whether my dog lived or died.

Since I was taking her home, they wanted to inject her with fluid. The nurse came in to take her back to for this procedure, and I guess the nurse passed the test, because Remix went to her like she couldn't wait to have another injection. They did a subcutaneous fluid injection, which pretty much means that they pump a bunch of water under the skin. Remix came back with a camel hump, a water pitbulloon. They said dogs had a lot of stretch and space in their bodies that allowed for that, and I just took their word for it, because it looked weird and terrible.

Finally, finally, finally, we left. $210. This time, I felt like I was getting off easy. I stopped on the way home for some Benedryl, which I was to give her if the swelling came back. She had some water and then immediately settled down for the night in a tight little ball on the futon. Her weird fluid sac stuck out at an unsettling angle.

The next day, she was fine. The fluid sac had moved to her side, but was smaller. The vet called to check on her and say he'd gotten a fax of the details of her nighttime visit. He said it was probably not the penicillin, but whatever had made her sick in the first place. I said sure, because it was free to lie. But I won't be letting them give her penicillin again. And next time she throws up, she can just watch cartoons on the couch for a while and feel bad like the rest of us.

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