By late September, Shotz was healing well from her dual surgeries, but she still had one more medical surprise for us. In early October 2001, we drove up to our vacation home in Taos, New Mexico, to check on the house and to winterize it.
On a prior trip we had ordered bar stools for the kitchen, and they were ready to be picked up in Santa Fe. We would’ve loved to have taken Shotz with us, but there was not enough room in the hatch area of my SUV for both her and the stools. In preparation for the drive down, we crated her. And since she was a master escape artist, we secured the crate door with a clasp at the top and one at the bottom, the kind you see on the end of a dog leash. We would’ve preferred her to have the run of the house, but the last time we left her uncrated she destroyed most of the blinds, along with half of the window screens. They weren’t even repairable as she had chewed the metal frames into numerous bite-size pieces and left the mesh in piles throughout the house.
Twenty minutes after we arrived in Santa Fe, we had loaded the stools and were on our way back to Taos. The moment we opened the door into the house I knew something wasn’t right. Even when crated, she would greet us with a bark, but the house lay silent. I rushed into the master bedroom and stopped in midstride, surprised by the scene before me.
She had rocked her crate onto its side and had wedged one corner of it into the drywall. The bedspread had been yanked off the bed, and she had pulled about a quarter of it into her crate and shredded it, the down feathers everywhere. But neither the drywall damage nor the torn bedspread concerned me as much as the sight of her mangled wire crate. We had to cut the door open with wire cutters to free her. I felt terrible that she was so stressed about being left behind that she had caused this kind of destruction. I vowed then to never crate her again.
Extricated, Shotz appeared physically drained and immediately settled onto the bed for a nap while I began cleaning up. Halfway through vacuuming pile after pile of down feathers, I stopped to run my hand over the rug, puzzled by the sound of gravel being sucked into the vacuum cleaner. Then my heart sank when I saw something white lying on the carpet.
I hoped I was wrong, but when I gently pried open Shotz’s mouth I was upset to see the truth. In her attempt to escape from her crate she had chipped several teeth and fractured her canines. How badly, I wasn’t sure, except for one of her upper cuspids, which she had fractured at a sharp angle. The crack ran from the tip of the tooth, and from what I could see, up and under the gum line.
When we returned home to Texas, our vet recommended against extracting any of Shotz’s canines. The roots, he informed us, are usually twice as deep as the tooth is long, and extracting these teeth can cause serious nerve damage or even loss of eyesight. I took his advice after I did some research of my own on the potential side effects of tooth extractions in dogs.
The ultimate decision was an easy one. I would never do anything to jeopardize her vision, so with a referral from our vet I made an appointment to see an oral surgeon in Dallas to get her opinion and to hear her recommendations.
The dental vet informed me that Shotz had chipped at least eight teeth in addition to having minor fractures to two of her canines. These didn’t need any work. However, the third canine, the one I already knew was badly fractured, would require either extraction or a root canal. It had cracked about a sixteenth of an inch into the gum line and could become abscessed at some point. So I opted for the root canal.
After she recovered from her oral surgery, I informed Shotz that she had maxed out her credit card and therefore couldn’t pay for another medical procedure. She groaned, but fortunately she had no additional mishaps and went on to live a long, healthy life.
We said our final goodbyes to Shotz on June 16, 2009, one of the most heartbreaking days of my life. It took until now, 2014, to find the emotional strength to write about her.
Next week: “FAQ Answered: Part 1.”