Premonitions are quirky things. Often we miss them completely, then after something happens we think “Ya know …” Skeptics could chalk that up to coincidence, though I prefer Jung’s synchronicity which sees relationship in seemingly coincidental events. Other times, however, we actually feel a vague sense of something impending. While I’d prefer to get those sort of messages about dating fabulous women, my own experiences more commonly signal more mundane things, like death and dying. I had one of those this week, and it wasn’t much fun.
Saturday night I went to see some old friends play a gig at a small British-style pub in Kensington (California). These guys have been professional rockers for decades, and for fun they put together an occasional power trio called “The Hoo”, a tribute to the famous British band “The Who.” I’ve still got my old vinyl records, but this is as close as I’ve ever been to their live shows. It was loud, true to the original music, lots of fun. They started with really old stuff and worked their way up.
The next to last song they did was the hit “Behind Blue Eyes” which includes the line “and if I swallow anything evil, put your fingers down my throat.” Now I’d been grinning and singing along with lots of the music (hey, it’s “my generation”) but when they did that line, I got a really funny feeling. I started singing along with it and stopped, and yes, I noted it at the time.
Fast forward to Monday afternoon. An old friend called to take me to lunch. I put my dogs out in the back yard and I cut a large rawhide chewie in half to keep them occupied while I was gone. Now one of my dogs is young and loves to chew, so she’s good to work the thing for days. My other dog, however, is an old food hound (15 years, but still with her teeth) and I had a bit of an intuitive flashback to the song. I wasn’t sure about giving her a piece of rolled rawhide, though she’d been chomping on them for years, so I gave her a slightly smaller piece, something about the size of half my forearm.
When I got home the young dog came running to show off the progress she’d made on her chew toy. The older dog didn’t come and I got an uneasy feeling. I went in the yard, and she was ok, still chewing on the rawhide and so didn’t want to come. I thought of taking it from her at that point, but knowing her obsession with food, I figured I needed a bribe to get her to let it go.
I went in the house, and a minute later she came running in, but she was making a really ugly choking, gasping sound. I immediately realized she must have either tried swallowing too big a piece of the stuff, or inhaled it by accident coming up the stairs. I ran into the living room after her and saw her trying hard to cough up the obstruction. It took me about half a second to realize she wasn’t having any luck, and in fact things were quickly accelerating out of control as she was starting to foam at the mouth from the exertion.
I ran over and stuck my hand in her mouth to see if I could pull the rawhide out. I could touch it, but unfortunately it was well chewed, so it was soft and slimy, plus now it was getting coated with the foam and phlegm from her efforts to cough it up. I simply couldn’t get a grip. I ran to a toolbox and grabbed some hemostats, but those didn’t work either, and the rawhide seemed lodged further back in her throat now, where I couldn’t see it, even holding her jaw open. By now she was getting desperate and starting to thrash a bit, so I was now attempting to immobilize a 60 pound dog while holding open her jaws and reaching down her throat.
A couple of times I managed to get my hands out of the way just in time as she bit down, either in desperation or to try to swallow to clear the phlegm building up in her throat. She finally chomped down on my left thumb, at which point I grabbed a tennis ball and put in her teeth to save myself. It as about this point I realized I was bleeding from numerous cuts to both hands.
Up to this point was phase one, but now we entered phase two as she collapsed on her side. The sound of her desperate attempts to gasp air was horrible. I realized how badly things were going when her bowels let go; that was when I started to really fear I was going to lose her. The sounds of her breathing were getting weaker and the object seemed lodged even deeper. I tried Heimlich on her, but it didn’t work either. I tried the hemostats again, but I just couldn’t feel where I was going. At this point I actually had to reach deep into her throat and press the rawhide down on her tongue several times just to clear enough room for any air to get in at all. Her eyes started to glaze and her tongue became flaccid and started looking purple. She’d been struggling almost 10 minutes by then, and I realized I had only a minute or so left before she’d be dead.
Perhaps it was because her muscles were relaxing as she started checking out, but at this point I began massaging her throat, trying to push the rawhide up, and darned if it didn’t work. Suddenly I could see enough of it to grasp with my fingertips, and pinching with all my strength and a prayer, I pulled the slimy rawhide tube out!
The poor dog was so exhausted she just lay there. I cleaned up her mess and washed my bloody, slimed hands, then brought her some water. She couldn’t even drink at that point so I just wet my fingers and put some water on her lips. Finally she rolled over onto her belly and began drinking, which was the point where I began to hope she was ok.
The upshot is she was able to eat dinner that night, though she was too weak to get up stairs without being carried. Today she was up and about as though nothing had happened, managing a good walk. The scratches on my right hand are already healing nicely, but the lacerations on my left thumb are deeper and will take more time. I’m grateful I had the knowledge of how to control her jaws enough to even attempt the rescue, and that I had the fortitude to stay with it. There have been many occasions in my life where I had to dig down to persevere through a difficult time, and I credit martial arts to helping me stay focused. I also appreciate my teachers (especially John Wong, my Tai Chi teacher) for introducing me to the healing side of the arts. Without that, there is no balance, and at times like yesterday, there would be a tragic ending.
As for the rawhide, I’m throwing the rest of the package away.