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Monday, March 12, 2012

Spoiler Alert: Jasper is Okay

Scene I: At the Movies
I am a movie fan; I love a good flick. Though I tend to enjoy independent films and those not made by the Hollywood machine, I try to be open to other movie experiences. That said, there is one type of film I studiously avoid: any movie where there is a dog--and the dog dies. I simply cannot sit through something like that; I get too emotionally involved. (I have the same rule regarding books, and it's not just dogs either. The only exception to this is the novel The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which I read twice.)

At this year's Academy Awards, The Artist took home the best picture honor, among others. Usually, I've seen the film that wins, and usually I like it--though sometimes I think other movies might have been more deserving. But I really, really didn't like The Artist. At. All.

I had gone to see the movie because I kept hearing about Uggy, the little Jack Russell dog featured in the film--and after seeing him do a few tricks at the Golden Globes, I decided the movie would be worth a shot.

But I didn't do my normal research ahead of time. While I hate spoilers and work hard not to expose myself to them (I didn't know the ending to the Sopranos TV show for years, until I watched the whole series), I make exceptions in movies with animals. I ask, "Does the dog die?" And base my decision on whether to watch on the answer to that question.

I don't know why, but I didn't ask that question before I went to see The Artist. Maybe because the movie wasn't about the dog per se, so I just didn't think it would matter.

But it did. Because the story is about an actor slipping into depression as he sees his career and livelihood disappear during the transition from silent films to talkies. And as he withdraws, and cares less and less about himself, only his butler and his dog stick by him. Until he barely even acknowledges the dog. Which, in my opinion, puts the dog at risk.

I know, I know, it's just a film. But I was so uncomfortable during that movie because I didn't know what was going to happen to the dog. It would be just like a screenwriter to use the death of a dog to kick a character into action. I sat there, watching the film and pre-emptively seething in anticipation of what I was ever so sure was going to be the needless on-screen suffering of an animal. My husband, who was sitting next to me, stopped counting my sighs--never a good sign.

Of course any of you who have seen the movie know that nothing bad happens to Uggy. But here's the thing: I think I might have actually enjoyed The Artist at least a little more had I known that small fact going in. Uggy is ok. He was never really at risk.

Scene II: Jasper Visits the Vet
All of this is a long-winded way of introducing the real topic of today's post. And let me begin by saying: Jasper is fine. He is okay. He was never really at risk.

Giving away the ending: Jasper relaxes happily in the yard with Lilah and Tucker.

It all began last summer, when Jasper was running around in the yard, and I noticed there was an open wound on his rear. I thought he had somehow hurt himself--maybe sat on something? Obviously, we brought him right to the vet, who told me that his anal sac had ruptured. Most dogs would have shown signs of this impending health issue; sacs that fill with fluid and become infected are quite uncomfortable, and you'll often see a dog scooting his or her butt along the carpet when there is a problem. (Usually it's your white carpet, or your oriental rug. Just sayin'.)

Jasper had none of those signs. However, it was easy enough to treat. Antibiotics, something for the pain and swelling and off we go. Until the same thing happened two days later to his other sac. Which the vet said was incredibly rare; she had rarely, if ever, seen that happen before. For poor Jasper, it took about a month to recover, as he wound up rupturing the first one again as well.

After that, our vet, the wonderful Christine Newman at the Harlingen Veterinary Clinic, said we might consider surgical removal of the sacs. Just like with tonsils in humans, if you remove them, you cure the problem and will never have tonsillitis again. Remove the sacs and the dog is cured. But surgery is a pretty dramatic solution for what may have been one long--though extended--incident. So we decided to wait. If he developed the same problem even one more time, we'd take 'em out.

And of course, a few months later, we were back at the vet, with the same problem. First one sac abscessed, then the other. The decision was made; we need to fix the issue or Jasper would have chronic, painful infections.

We had to wait until the area was back to normal--no swelling, no infection--in order for the surgery to take place. In February, we finally got the all-clear. Jasper was healed enough to for us to schedule the procedure. The operation was to take place on the 14th.

As you may have gathered from The Artist-themed introduction, Jasper had a few post-surgical complications. And, you already know how it all turned out. He's fine. He's okay. He was never really at risk. However, his story turned out to be way too long for a single post, so go get some popcorn during intermission. And come back to read the rest of Jasper's story next week.

Jasper, after--and okay. You can see the shaved area on his right front leg, where he had his I.V.

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