KEEP HER in the house for the next 14 days,” the vet’s receptionist said, “and don’t let her incision get wet or the sutures will dissolve.”
She handed over my woozy pup’s leash along with a printed sheet of post-spaying instructions.
I blinked at her words. “Then I can’t take her home! My dogs don’t live in the house. They have kennels.” I heard myself whine, “I don’t even know if she is house trained.”
The receptionist gave me the “So what? You asked for it!” look my friends had been offering me since I adopted this furry dynamo three weeks earlier.
The pup had been found shivering at a gas station in January and taken in by a kindly family who alerted me to her availability when I was searching for a replacement dog.
Now it was April 12, had rained heavily all day and half my yard was still two feet deep in snow. How could I ever keep her incision dry? Every day my two young dogs spent hours mock-fighting in the snow, cooling their tummies on the crystals as they caught their breath.
Over the years, all my dogs have been males except one. The vet issued no special post-spaying instructions in her case that I recall yet she healed just fine and speedily returned to daily life with no difficulties. But that was a long time ago, and a different vet. Maybe dampness didn’t melt his sutures.
Comedians make jokes about neutering males as a swift and simple snip, snip. Things are different after spaying at least by this vet. My immediate task was hoisting my limp 50 pound furball into the truck box. She relishes splashing through puddles on her trail walks; she was in luck – rainwater had accumulated in the box channels. She folded her legs and sank down.
I glanced at the instructions before driving home:
Restrict running, jumping and playing for 14 days.
Leash walk only for 14 days.
By then both of my shoulders would be dislocated, her 4” incision gaping like a toothless zipper.
I walked her every 90 minutes, getting no more sleep than a new mother. After 72 hours, I trusted she could sleep through the night or signal if she needed to go out. She never did make a mess, but destroyed a pair of sneakers, splintered a plastic dustpan, and reshaped the corner of a floor mat.
Trying to restrict running, jumping, and playing proved the most unlikely, though I tried my best. Unleashed in the bush, my dogs explore without making contact. But the more the two dogs missed playing together the rowdier they became. Open the front door and she would launch off the porch to pounce on him, with me flailing behind. It would have taken a quarter horse to hold her back and a 2×4 to deter him.
During the day, so they could both be outside and at least see each other, I tried tethering her to the wheelbarrow and him to the garden fence while I raked.
Next I tied them to opposite ends of a 1×3 long enough so they could be close to each other and to me but not wrestle. Being bigger, she dragged the 1×3 everywhere; he had no choice but to follow. She snagged him around the gooseberry bush and wedged him under the steps.
Sometimes I let the dogs take turns going out alone for an hour, while the other one remained in the house. When she lay down in the grass to chew a bone or toy, she rested on one side or the other, never on the centre line incision, I noticed.
Day 10 I scrapped the rules, evicted her, and walked her off leash. Although I still feared she might snag her incision on a broken branch, she needed to ramble.
Anyone who fosters a rescue dog through spaying deserves more credit than I’ve given them.