Crawdad Fishing–What they Caught


First in a series

I’d arrived home, made myself dinner (at that point in my life it might have been of the TV variety), and was starting to unwind when my pager beeped. We had those electronic leashes before there were cell phones and emergency clinics. (I had a love-hate relationship with my pager. Mostly hate) I called the answering service, scribbled down the phone number and a brief description of the problem. A dog had swallowed a fish hook. Uh oh. I called the distressed mother of 3 young children and told them to meet me in 10 minutes.

“Princess” had been crawdad fishing with the kids on a North valley irrigation ditch near their home when a fishhook, baited with chicken fat, swung past this miniature poodle’s nose. Dogs, I remind you, are scavengers of the highest order – even those whose ears are festooned with pretty bows. If it resembles food, however gross, it has to be consumed ASAP.

On the exam table Princess wore a morose expression while making a series of gulping motions. A few inches of fishing leader dangled from the corner of her mouth. Chest x-rays showed the offending fishhook lodged mid-esophagus, just behind this girl’s heart. Had it found its way to her stomach we could have retrieved it with the endoscope but it had stopped cold where the barb dug in. It wasn’t going anywhere. An attempt to tug it loose would have risked tearing a hole that would leak food and bacteria into Princess’s chest.

Retrieving this ticking time bomb meant opening a space between Princess’s ribs and packing off her lungs before incising her esophagus. Thoracic surgery is not a one-person job. Once a chest is open, air cannot be sucked in and exhaled without assistance. I called Amos.

This highly dedicated young man would do anything I asked, well, almost anything. This particular evening, my seldom-socially-engaged assistant was entertaining a young lady. I explained that open chest surgery would be the only way to help this special dog. Her children were in tears. Amos had never been part of a chest procedure. He was on his way in minutes.
Next week: Midnight fishhook fishing.
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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.