As in 2011, we were hunting the ditches of Imperial Valley when Gus abruptly sat down on his butt and began licking between his toes. Within a couple of hours – after the paw had swollen badly – I knew we were in for the same agonizing and expensive journey that would end his season and put a considerable damper on mine.
We rushed to Gus’ Vet who shook his head in disbelief at the same symptoms and likelihood that we would once again be dealing with a raging infection and never learn the cause of it. The paw blows up as if it had received the bite of a rattler or scorpion, but without any physical evidence to suggest that it had received a bite or sting.
As before, Gus received injections that delivered antibiotics, a steroid and a painkiller. I received a bag with an antibiotic and a painkiller to be administered orally in the days ahead.
By Wednesday morning, the swelling reached the point that the top of his paw simply split open in two places that oozed with bloody puss and dead tissue. Closer inspection revealed a view of the bones and tendons in his swollen paw. With Gus’ regular Vet now away for the Thanksgiving weekend, we visited the office of his relief Vet who prescribed stronger and more broad spectrum antibiotics, an anti-nausea medication to help keep them down and Epsom Salt baths for his paw two to four times each day. He added that there was the possibility we might have to head for the 24 hour Emergency Vet if things got worse the next day.
Gus and I would not be joining the family for Thanksgiving. Instead of making the trip to Oxnard for the annual Thanksgiving feast at the home of our son’s fiancee, we knew it would be best to hang out at the house to take it easy, for Gus to take his medicine and for me to monitor his condition.
While Gus rested, I decided to lightly saute some dove breasts before adding them to a mushroom, onion and wine sauce I’d prepared and was heating in the crock pot. Before I was done, I received a welcome call from friends we hunted with on Tuesday. They’d be by in a few hours to check on our well-being and deliver a Thanksgiving dinner.
As the meal heated after they left, I prepared a special dinner for Gus by adding some freezer burned dove trimmings to his normal cup of dry kibble. Afterward, we watched our Aztec basketball team easily knock off their first opponent in the John Wooden Classic, gave another Epsom Salt Soak to Gus’ sore paw and were thankful that the swelling was beginning to go down.
We awoke this morning to see that the swelling had continued to go down overnight, and for that I am most thankful. I’m thankful too, that we had such a great road-trip to hunt pheasants in Montana and North Dakota and such a great start to the California season.
Any disappointment that this season has once again ended prematurely is offset by my optimism that in due time, Gus will be fully healed and we will be looking forward to next season, because hunting without the canine partner that makes your hunts so special and rewarding just isn’t the same.