Teeth are an interesting part of our bodies. As I was growing up my mom worked for a dentist, so I became very familiar with the large set of plastic teeth (“Mr. Mouth”) and extra large toothbrush that she would bring into our classrooms in order to teach the other children how to correctly brush. Teeth are strong, but they can also be somewhat delicate. They can be sensitive to cold or heat, yet they are also capable of tearing into meat and then grinding it up. Looking into a dog’s mouth, you get the feeling that you’re witnessing a greatly exaggerated version of your own mouth – especially when you focus on the canines.
At least once a child has learned to speak, he/she can try to explain how something feels when it hurts. Not so for our fur-friends. And one thing I also learned a great deal about as a child is that Labrador Retrievers are some of the dang toughest dogs around! They’ll almost never tell you if something hurts or if they don’t feel good, and that can be a scary thought. It’s how I lost my first yellow lab, Dawn, who at the age of seven ended up becoming jaundiced – her eyes, ears and gums were yellow, indicating liver failure. We took her to the vet who wanted to keep her overnight for observation. At 5:30 p.m. she was fine – out for a walk and had eaten dinner. At 8 a.m. my mom woke me up to tell me that they were going to pick up her body. I didn’t think I could cry as hard as I did that morning, and I didn’t know a person could hurt inside with that amount of intensity – pure loss and a deep, aching grief that was paralyzing.
I never quite forgave myself for letting the vet residents take Dawn away without me saying goodbye, so when it came time for Dr. Brown to lead Kelsy away to surgically fix her canine tooth I stopped the good doctor, called Kelsy back to me and gave her two big kisses on the top of her head – one for me and one for M.
Whether it was the kisses or not, history did not repeat itself. Kelsy’s cardiologist was able to perform his exam and based on his findings, the surgical dental team prepared an anesthesia for her. Kelsy woke up fine from her deep slumber, and was even able to take home a souvenir in a tiny, plastic tooth-shaped box:
This is Kelsy’s front right canine tooth. As you can see, only 1/3 – 1/2 of the tooth is actually present in the mouth. The rest is embedded up in the bone. Crazy, huh? The rightmost image shows the black dot that Dr. Brown referenced when she told me that Kelsy’s tooth was already dead… an injury sustained from chasing balls up the driveway many years ago. The fact that this tooth was dead might have had something to do with the fact that when Kelsy’s tooth caught on Dakota’s collar and ripped free from it’s place in her mouth, she didn’t scream. In fact, she didn’t even wimper or cry… she just looked confused, like something was wrong in her mouth and she wanted to spit it out – if the tooth wasn’t in its place then it was in her way.
When I got her home, Kelsy’s nose was quite swollen. I had a hard time getting a photo that did it justice (same with the tooth, actually), but in the above image you can see that the right side of her face (left side as you’re looking at the picture) is quite puffy compared to the other side.
It was harder to take a picture of Kelsy’s post-operative mouth than it was to take a picture when the tooth was still broken inside her mouth. But, as you can see, there is an indentation in her lower lip where her canine should be, yet isn’t. (Almost directly below the rightmost fingertip at the top of the image.)
I didn’t call to check up on her for two days (it was Father’s Day weekend and M hadn’t been home in six weeks), but today I couldn’t take it anymore. M got my message and called me back… Kelsy is doing fine! Off the pain medicine, which is good. Dakota even got to come home, and apparently when she went up to Kelsy to lick her mouth, wolf-style, Kelsy put her in her place good: “Don’t touch my face you miserable puppy, with your damn collar!”
That’s my girl. 🙂