The day I saw my dog’s brain

We have two dogs. One is a black lab with a sweet–though a trifle needy–disposition and big brown eyes. He loves me and is in my orbit all the livelong day. He also weighs over a hundred pounds, probably, so occasionally (like, always) gets in my way. But I love him too. His name is Ollie.

Bea is an Australian Shepherd, and she’s been wiggling and whining and gyrating, all at a very rapid pace, since the day she was born. She’s twelve years old but you’d never, ever suspect that fact. We used to say “When she grows out of her puppyhood, she’ll settle down.” We don’t say that any longer, because she’s no more settled down now than she was when she was a pup. She’s nervous and competitive and very fast and a little mean. To Ollie, anyway. She also is frequently (like, always) in my way. She is a herding dog, so she is constantly herding all of us, all the time.

This is Ollie. See how he watches my every move. Those are adoring eyes.

This is Ollie. See how he watches my every move. Those are adoring eyes.









Because Bea is an escape artist extraordinaire, any time we leave the house we have to lock her into a kennel. She will dig out of the fenced-in yard that Ollie stays in when we are gone, and then she will open the door to the house–any door, mind you–and enjoy the crumbs on the floor and rummage through every trash can for little bits. If there’s a pie on the counter top cooling (as there so often is–ha!) she will gingerly pull it down and eat every bite. She’ll do all this as if we gave her an invitation to do all this.

Which, of course, we didn’t.

Here's Bea. Another animal ENTIRELY.

Here’s Bea. Another animal ENTIRELY.

“Bea,” we might have said, “sweet energetic doggy, please just make yourself at home while we are away. Clean up the floors of all the good crumbs, and then help yourself to any of the scraps or disgusting tissues or whatever you like in the trash cans, and then if you’re still hungry there’s fresh pie on the countertop for you . . .” except that we didn’t say that. “Make yourself comfy on the couch or wherever you want to be, and for Pete’s sake there’s plenty of food in the ‘fridge at your disposal, too.”

Because of this . . . we lock Bea in her kennel, and we attach three (three) clasps because she can force herself outta there if there’s only one, or only two, even. Actually during a thunderstorm she can force herself out of the three-clasped kennel, but only just. It takes a bit of doing, and after all, she’s no spring pup.

So we stick with three. You might think us mean if you saw the kennel. It’s just a big basic wire cage kind of a kennel, with a gate (and three clasps) on one end and a piece of plywood wired to the other end, because she tore out that end once–no, I think three times now–and we (meaning Bryan) had to rebuild it. And there’s nothing in the kennel: not a pillow, not a blanket, not a scrap of rug to lie on, because if there was, she would make a mess of it, tearing it and chewing it and twisting it until it is a pile of shreds, all probably in less than an hour.

Bea is getting restless, since I have asked her to sit still for approximately 15 seconds so I can take her picture.

Bea is getting restless, since I have asked her to sit still for approximately 15 seconds so I can take her picture.

One day the kids and I were getting ready to run errands, and one of the kids called Bea. “Bea! Kennel!” Bea doesn’t mind her kennel one bit. She jetted right into it and sat her wiggly fanny down and sat there, grinning and panting and whining up at me, as is her wont.

I leaned over wearily–as is my wont–and started to slide and buckle the clasps, so she’d be where I wanted her to be while we were gone–in her kennel.

And then I stopped, mid-clasp. What was that on her head? Something. Something was wrong with the top of her head. There was blood and a sort of gash, with her fur matted down against it. I leaned down closer. Bea whined a bit and grinned even harder and started to do cartwheels in her kennel, admittedly not an easy feat. “What’s happened to you, Bea?” I asked, and then with a sigh I started unsliding and unclasping the clasps.

the day I saw my dog's brain

I’ll tell you this much, Gentle Reader: I wish I had all these minutes back–surely all the minutes that I’ve spent locking her in and taking her out of her kennel add up to several years, by now. If I had them all back I’d do something really amazing. Or maybe I’d just settle down and work on my large pile of Books-To-Read that I never get to. Sigh. “Read any good books lately?” A friend might ask. “No,” I sigh. “I’ve been busy,” that is, busy clasping and unclasping Bea’s kennel door. Over and over and over and over . . .

Bea jetted out, excited and happy that this particular kennel confinement was mercifully short, and started wiggling and twisting and whining and nudging nervously against my leg. I commanded her to “SIT!” and waited for her to finally settle down and sit.

Another several moments passed as I waited for her to sit.

Tick, tock . . . tick, tock . . . my life ebbed even closer to the end . . . as I stood and waited . .

Finally she was sitting relatively still, and I reached down to move the fur away from the suspicious, bloody area on her head.

And I gasped. I really did. Because between the clumps of blood-matted fur and the blood, I saw . . . I saw my dog’s brain. There was a big hole in Bea’s skull. There was a hole in my dog’s head. I think I shrieked a bit, too, because the kids came running. I saw the brain of my dog. I couldn’t get over it.

Bea is getting peeved that this cat, Tristan, is daring to get so close to her. Bea is not a cat person and would just as soon bite Trissy than to look at him.

Bea is getting peeved that this cat, Tristan, is daring to get so close to her. Bea is not a cat person and would just as soon bite Trissy than to look at him. But she won’t get away with biting him in my presence, and thus the curled lip.

Now before I proceed, I’ll admit that I’ve told this story many times, and there have been a few challengers out there in the audience, naysayers who couldn’t believe that I was actually privy to the inside of my dog’s head. “It couldn’t have been her brain, surely?” they ask, politely, but their eyes (impolitely) are accusing me of making the whole thing up.

But what I was looking at was glistening, and gray, and rubbery-looking, kind of, and inside my dog’s head. I ask you, Gentle Reader, what else could it have been?

To continue: Bea was still looking up at me, happy and wiggly and panting and grinning, just as if there was not a piece of her skull missing. “Geez, I think we’re going to have to take Bea to the vet,” I mumbled to the kids, numbly walking to the phone. There was a deep hole in my dog’s head. How did it get there? How was she still alive–and apparently feeling not a thing? At the very least, she should be suffering from a massive headache. But no. It didn’t appear that she even had a clue.

Please let me bite the cat, please look the other way so I can bite the cat.

Please let me bite the cat, please look the other way so I can bite the cat, oh pleasepleasepleaseplease. . .

Bea followed me into the kitchen and positioned herself by the kitchen trash can, glancing at me. Waiting for me to turn my back so she could dive in–quickly–before I looked at her again. Then she would sneak off with whatever treasure she found and enjoy it in some dark corner. This was her modus operandi on an average day. Why would today be any different, just because her brain was exposed to the world?

Our vet is an older man–in his 80s–who keeps irregular office hours, so I was relieved when he answered his office phone. “I need to bring Bea in this morning, do you have time to see her?” I asked. Faintly.

“Well, yeah, Amy, that would be fine, what’s up with your dog?”

I didn’t know how to tell him. He wasn’t going to believe it. There was a long pause. Finally I just said it. “Ah, she seems to have a hole in her head. I can . . . um. . . I think I can see her brain.”

the day I saw my dog's brain

There was silence on the other end.

“Hello? Doc Winter?” I asked. Anxiously.

“Yeah, I’m still here!” he said, apparently finding his voice after all. “Bring her in, Amy, we’ll see what we can do.” I knew it. He didn’t believe me.

At his office, Doc Winter hoisted Bea up onto his examining table and admitted that–in all his years of being a vet–he’d never seen anything like this before.
“How on earth did this happen?” he asked me. No clue.

“I can stitch her up and hope for the best,” he said. “Maybe the skull will re-grow over that spot and she’ll be okay. But we’ll have to wait and see.”

the day I saw my dog's brain

After the vet gave her an anesthetic and stitched her up, we took her home. She was unusually quiet and still for exactly 24 hours, and then she got up and acted as though nothing had ever happened.

She was just as naughty and as wiggly and as anxious and as quick-tempered as ever.

That was several years ago. She never did slow down, except for that one day, and we never did find out how she got a hole in her head. If she could only talk, she might be able to tell us. . . but perhaps she wouldn’t want to admit what happened?


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16 thoughts on “The day I saw my dog’s brain

  1. Lisa Mallis

    Holy Cow! What an experience! Your posts are so engaging and so easy to read – I truly was transported into your life for a few minutes. My favorite part of your story is when you lament about getting the time back that you spend putting your dog in and out of the kennel! I feel exactly the same way about emptying the dishwasher!!!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Yeah, Lisa, where are the inventors who would save us tons of time by inventing automatic-claspers or auto-dishwasher-unloaders?? I’d be in line to buy them!

  2. The Great Gordino

    wow! Funnily enough another friend on your side of the pond is going through dog health issues, and that dog suddenly had a massive scab peel off taking the skin with it, so the owner had a shcok at seeing what appeared to be inside organs! That sounds similar to Bea, although this other dog had been having medical treatment, so who knows what had happened to Bea, but it seems like some sort of internal thing rather than injury?
    Can’t have been a nice discovery, but good she is as restless as ever years later!
    Cheers, Gordon

  3. Chef William

    Not the happiest story I have ever read. I love my dogs so much I just don’t know how I would react. I freeze at the sight of blood on a person or animal. Tough Chef that I am, I never could kill a lobster, always had the cooks do it.

  4. Francene Stanley

    Incredible. You describe her behavior so well I can almost feel her nervous energy beside me. How amazing that she didn’t seem to feel out of shorts while her brain was exposed to the elements. I once got a fish hook in my head. Waling along a jetty beside fishermen, I felt it thump into my skull, but never felt any pain even when it was removed at hospital. So I guess our skulls don’t experience much pain.

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