Cone Head

I am looking at one sad looking dog. Max has a plastic cone around his head and he is not very happy. He has stitches in his side and is not allowed to lick himself, which is what dogs do. A lot.

While I was at home all last week, recently quarantined from my regular life, Max got out of his routine. You wouldn’t think that “routine” would matter to him, but it was obvious that he was confused. Imagine in your best inner dog voice.

“Why are we not getting in the truck and riding out to the tree farm?”

“What are you still doing in your PJs at 8:00 in the morning?”

“Why are you taking naps in the middle of the day? I’m the one who takes naps.”

These are the things on Max’s mind as he ponders the change. You can see it on his face. He walks over to the couch and places his chin next to my leg. He’s got that what-the-heck-are-we-doing-look in his eyes.

I never really thought that a quarantine would be hard on Max. I thought he would adjust. Actually, I didn’t think he would even notice much. But his days were messed up and it affected his mind. He started watching Zoloft commercials and whining for a prescription.

Somewhere along the way Max decided that he needed some adventure in his week. Hanging around the house with a slightly delirious, fever-ridden old guy was not cutting it for him.

About day two of quarantine, Max went out the kitchen door and disappeared. He has friends at the neighboring houses. I get that. I used to ride my bike into Hampton as much as I could to play backyard baseball or just to hang out and eat fried bologna sandwiches.

But this time, by evening he had not returned home. I went to the kitchen porch, whistled and call for him. No Max. An hour later, the same thing. By 10:00 I was thinking stupid dog.

“What are you going to do?” Beth asked.

“Nothing. He knows where he lives.”

The next morning he was back on the porch around 9:00. He barked once, which is his way of saying I’m home and I’m hungry. He ate and took a looong nap.

After lunch I went out to my truck to get a pair of plyers out of my tool box. Max followed me, doing what I call his happy trot. He thought we were going for a ride. He stood by the door and I had to block him from jumping in.

“Sorry boy. We’re not going anywhere.” He sulked off around to the back of the house, and an hour later we realized he was gone again.

A couple hours passed by, and then my phone rang. I didn’t know the number but answered the call anyway. It was my neighbor, George, from down the road toward Hamilton about a mile or so.

“Hey, I think I may have your dog, Max, here at my place. I’ve got him on a leash if you want to come get him.”

Max had run off before, but that was during a thunderstorm. He goes to see the neighbor a few hundred yards down the drive because she gives him treats. But this business of roaming off over long distances just for the heck of it was something new.

My stay at home quarantine had given Max new opportunity. He went galivanting nearly every day that week. And since my phone number is on his collar, my phone rang from different quarters of Pine Mountain Valley. I met new people I didn’t know. Max made friends everywhere he went.

“No, he’s no problem at all. He can stay here as long as need be until you have time to come get him.”

Max is a hit with the kids. He’s a short hair black and white 45 pound ball of calm spiritedness, no jumpy feet, waggy tail, nudge up against your thigh, big brown-eyed, 8 year old, non-barking puppy. What’s not to love.

Well, somewhere in his travels he got a gash in his side that was pretty nasty. It was down low, almost under his belly, so it took me a few days even to notice it. And I only noticed it because he was constantly licking at his side, and that made me take a look.

I’ve never been much of a Vet guy for small animals. I guess because we never had pets while I was growing up and Vets were for cows. But I knew this was gonna require some attention.

I took Max to see Dr. Rachel this past Monday. Even the Vets office has a Covid protocol for office visits. Meaning no one comes inside. Period. You pull up in your vehicle, call up the office (which you are looking at 100 feet away while you dial up the number), and you get a curbside visit from someone in a mask while you stay in your vehicle.

“Ooooh, that’s a nasty looking cut. Poor Max.” These people are pet people through and through. Nothing about this is just business. It’s personal. They get to know the dog’s name before they remember yours.

So, I sat in my truck and watched Max being led away. I did feel a little tug. Just a small one. I felt like I should go with him.

Dr. Rachel came out to talk to me. “We’re going to have to sedate Max. He won’t let me touch his wound. We’ll get it all cleaned up and sutured, but he’ll need to stay overnight because of the anesthesia.”

Tuesday morning when I went to pick him up, he came out in his happy trot. But this time with a plastic cone stuck over his head. He is shaved on one side and has ten stitches. I could tell he recognized the truck and he winked at me to let me know he was okay.

The cone, however, is a problem for Max. It’s like this extension of his head that he doesn’t realize is there as he tries to make it through doorways, or jump up in the truck, or just turn around in tight spaces. He bangs into everything.

He doesn’t fight it. He just doesn’t quite know how to handle it. And he’s got about 5 more days to wear it. Cone Head Max. He’s laying over there right now. Head and cone over the edge of his bed.

That’s one sad looking puppy.

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