Two weeks after Murdoch’s surgery he still lingers over his meals. Eager to eat, he appears at the sound of metal bowls set clanging onto the counter, the crinkle of the food bag, the plink of kibble hitting Molly’s bowl.
For Murdoch we spoon rice from the cooled pot, tear chicken into chunks, peeling meat from bone. His eyes, round and alert, pierce mine from beneath his shaggy eyebrows as I turn from the counter. He stands at the ready, “Is it time? Just say the word.”
“Downstairs,” I say, and he spins on the spot, bolts down the short flight to the entryway, sits in his kennel. I feed Molly in the kitchen and carry Murdoch’s bowl downstairs, place it on the floor. He leans forward ever so slightly, glances from his dish to my face. His eyes land on mine and I hold them for a moment before I say, “Okay” and he charges for his meal.
But where he used to hit his dish like a predator taking down its prey, scooping the food into his mouth in great engulfing gulps, chasing his bowl across the floor as he polished off his meal in seconds flat, now he stops, tastes the food with his tongue, carefully plucks up a piece of chicken and chews slowly with a crinkled nose.
I watch for a minute, every mealtime hoping it will be different, hoping he will open his mouth wide, gobble down the food in two great big gulps, but he picks at it, rice falls from his mouth to the floor as he tries to chew around the sore spot where the tooth used to be, where the infection was found in his gum.
His meals these days can take up to two hours for him to finish, so I turn and leave him to his dish, close the gate at the top of the stairs so Molly can’t barge down there and offer her ‘help’ to clean his plate.
Murdoch eats in shifts. He nibbles for a bit and then returns to his kennel, lies down and eyes his bowl. I watch him from the kitchen. He looks like he is trying to psyche himself up to eat more, and after a while he does, pushing himself to his feet, approaching his bowl again, a few more bites, more rice spread on the floor, back to his kennel. Molly paces in the kitchen, bumps the baby gate with her head. “Molly,” I say, and she tiptoes away, lies on the floor, grumbles under her breath.
When I talk to the vet and tell her about his eating habits and his more than normal disgruntled attitude and how he has started snapping at me when I try to look in his mouth, she agrees there is something else wrong. He should have been back to normal by now after his tooth extraction and the antibiotics for the infected gum. It could be another tooth or perhaps, she says, the infection has gone into the bone.
So we schedule him in for another vet visit, more sedation, an x-ray that will hopefully tell us something, something repairable. In the meantime there is pain medication, there is more chicken and other soft foods, and there is space, lots of it, for a cranky dog and his sore mouth. Oh yeah, and there’s that injured leg too..