A couple nights ago, I awoke in the middle of the night to that one sound that no dog owner can ignore: that lurching sound of an impending vomit. I leapt out of bed and saw my younger dog, Woody, standing near my bed, trembling. He looked exactly like a toddler who woke up feeling crummy and sought out his mom so he could barf in front of her. Well, that’s exactly what he did do; he and my older dog Otto always sleep in the living room.
“Oh, puppy,” I said. “What happened?” I grabbed my phone and smashed buttons on it, trying to find the flashlight option through bleary eyes. I scanned the room with the light but couldn’t see any actual puddles of vomit, so I got up and walked him outside, in case he had to throw up some more. He walked out onto the lawn and peed, went to the outside water bucket and drank a little water, and then came back inside. No more trembling. He settled back onto the couch and I went back to bed.
In the morning, with clearer eyes, I found the vomit. It was, of course, on one of the only two rugs in the house, an antique Persian carpet runner in my bedroom. In the weak beam of my phone flashlight, I couldn’t differentiate between the pattern in the rug and the small (now mostly dried) puddle. There was some slimy stuff that was most certainly just digestive juices, bits of nearly digested kibble, and . . . a blob of something. I used some paper towel to pick it up, examining the blob closely.
A mystery from the depths…of Woody
At first I thought it was a piece of bone or glass, but it was soft, with rounded edges. It was rubbery – if not actual rubber. I took it to the kitchen sink and rinsed it off. It was for sure a hunk of something rubbery and opaque. I could make out some molded edges.
If this happened two or more years ago, I wouldn’t have even blinked. Woody chewed up lots of things when he was a puppy and adolescent dog, and he vomited up everything that was indigestible, usually within a day or two. I had a few surprises – as when he vomited up a piece of something I hadn’t even known was missing – but mostly I was able to say, “Ah, that’s a piece of that old Kong toy,” or “Finally, that chunk of the flying disk he ruined.”
But this time? He hasn’t chewed up anything for ages and ages. I can’t even remember the last time he chewed up a toy or a forbidden item. And I don’t at all recall any toy that we have ever had that was this particular color, a sort of a slightly translucent, light root-beer-bottle brown.
Could this thing have been in there for months or years? Is that even possible? Perhaps, once upon a time, it was colorful and had sharp edges from being chewed up, and it has lost color and gained smooth edges from marinating in digestive juices for years?
This was the theory proposed by my husband, anyway. “What are you talking about, he never chews up anything anymore?” he asked me, incredulous. “He chews up his Squeak balls all the time!”
On the hunt for damaged toys
That is not exactly correct. Both of my dogs like to chew on their favorite toy, the Planet Dog Squeak Ball, like they are chewing bubblegum. The Squeak appears to be the perfect texture, or offers the perfect amount of resistance for their jaws. But I don’t think either dog is exactly bent on destroying the Squeak balls; they just chew the balls so much, that eventually, the balls crack and start to fall apart. And when they start to fall apart, then one of the dogs (usually Otto) will lay down with the ball and chew it up into bits. It’s a process that takes months, but that goes fast at the end.
To test my husband’s theory, I hunted around the property, looking for all the Squeak balls in various stages of repair. I did actually find one that had a missing chunk that was vaguely the same shape as the perplexing lump from Woody’s midnight misadventure. But, no: It wasn’t a credible match. The baffling item is about twice as thick as the “walls” of the Squeak.
So the mystery lives on. What is that thing? How long has it been in there? Where did it come from? Is there more in there? I might never know.