Love and Protection Not Enough for Furry Family Members

Love and Protection Not Enough for Furry Family Members

Pet parents must be informed.

Danger alert- Gardens are pet playgrounds.

Danger alert- Gardens are pet playgrounds. Photo by Mercia Hobson.

    “Ha- ha, seeing the garden again makes me so happy," little Oshi, a nine-month-old Pomeranian, seems to be saying after her near-death experience. “But let’s learn what’s poisonous to me, Pom Mom.”
By Mercia Hobson 

I thought I killed my little puppy, Oshi. She was a typical nine-month-old Pomeranian two weeks ago, although on the delicate side. She weighed only 4.5 pounds, equal to five cans of Campbell's tomato soup.

I enjoy gardening in the morning, and since I always kept Oshi close by, tethered to my gardening apron, I assumed she was safe and protected. I could pull her toward me if a fox stealthily crept up on us — same for the circling hawks searching for a light breakfast. I always check the raised beds for snakes hiding under the large leaves before she bounds in.

As Pom Mom, I am responsible not only for letting Oshi be a dog while at the same time protecting her but also for being informed. I failed on the last one. It caused great pain and suffering for her.

Oshi is a highly confident dog for her size, curious, and exceptionally bold, which causes her to get into trouble when not adequately supervised. And that means me. That Saturday morning, she thoroughly enjoyed romping through the garden plants, exploring, digging, bulldozing her nose through the soft soil, tossing it in the air, and shaking the dirt off. She picked up tiny twigs beneath the plants, leaped over the raised bed frames, and strutted across the lawn, always tied to my long leadline.

It appeared to amuse my furry friend, who must have imagined herself as a large dog carrying a large stick. I continued to harvest the garden's bounty by removing the cherry tomatoes from their vines and stems. I never considered that trimming a tiny green stem, the length of my little fingernail, from the fruit and its green leaf and allowing it to fall to the ground, accessible to quick-pawed "Little Dog," could be fatal.

The morning passes. Oshi vomits a small portion of her breakfast. Strangely, its odor is spicy. But she seems fine and curls up for a nap. When she awakens, her pupils are significantly dilated. Despite having open eyes, she appears unconscious of my presence. When I pick her up and set her back down, Oshi cannot stand. She collapses and drools incessantly; her tiny body jerks. She mews, crying.

I cradle my puppy in my arms, rushing to my husband. Barely uttering a word, we dash to the car and drive three blocks to Dominion Vets in Herndon. I leap from the vehicle and enter the waiting room, saying something is very wrong with Oshi.

A technician immediately grabs Oshi and takes her to the treatment area. Another technician takes us to a private waiting area in the adjacent room. We can hear metal clanking and footsteps. I am nauseous and must sit down.

Joseph Bourke III, DVM, tells us they've made Oshi vomit, and she receives IV fluids. It appears she ate something toxic. I ask if she is dying. Dr. Bourke says he must ask a delicate question. "Do we have cannabis at home? Are we growing it? What about gummies? 

"No", I reply. According to Dr. Bourke, her symptoms are consistent.

We go through my morning. Oshi is in the garden. I cut the bounty of cherry tomatoes from the branches, trimmed the green stems and leaves, and dropped them to the ground. Oshi had bounded toward me and grabbed an itty-bitty branch before I could snatch it—tomatine poisoning.

Ripe tomatoes are not poisonous for dogs, as they're non-toxic. However, green tomatoes, stems, and leaves contain natural chemicals called solanine and tomatine.

Dr. Bourke can do no more locally. He calls us into the LifeCentre in Leesburg for emergency specialty care, alerting the team that we are coming. The Life Centre is closer to us than the Hope Center in Vienna. A tech brings Oshi to us wrapped in a green terrycloth towel. Her head lolls back, and her eyes are closed. I say her name, and Oshi blinks. "She hears you," Dr. Bourke says.

The ride down Route 7 to Leesburg is excruciating. I keep checking Oshi, who is on my lap. Her chest is ever-so-faintly going up and down. Did it stop? It crosses my mind that if we make it to the Life Centre, she may come home in a box the next time she is in the car with us. I push the negative thoughts away.

Fast forward a few hours. We are still in the lobby. A technician asks if we want to hold Oshi. The hospital campus offers a complete critical care unit and an ICU. Taken to another private room, we sit with her, softly stroking our little dog. She remains still. Her eyelids flutter but quickly close. She mews again. I go to pass her on to my husband to hold. But first, I raise Oshi up and gently press her snout against his cheek to nuzzle him — unexpectedly, one quick lick. Oshi recognizes him.

According to the ASPCA's website, four hundred sixteen plants are toxic to dogs. Learn them. I must have at least 60 in my gardens: azaleas, hostas, bay laurels, begonias, carnations, Chinese jade, garlic, onions, chives, choke cherries, and more. If you believe your animal may have ingested a poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or the APCC 24-hour emergency poison hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

Oshi is back home. We’ve been working hard on something, and she has nearly mastered it—the most critical command second to “Come.” 

"Drop it, Oshi. Good girl.”