Yesterday Paul had been having a bad enough day already.
Working with three different pH testing devices he finally figured out what is wrong with his new hydroponic system: the stoners from whom we’d bought our supplies on the Internet had screwed up—again. They’d sent us two bottles containing what looks like salt or sugar. One was labeled “pH Up” and the other was labeled “pH Down.” These substances are added to the water to regulate its alkalinity/acidity. Plants need to be in a pH “sweet spot” to grow.
“They’re both pH Down!” he exclaimed. “Those stoners mislabeled the bottles. I’ve lost a week-and-a-half of work and time, my solution is ruined, and all my seedlings are fried!
“I wish I were smoking what they’re smoking. Then maybe I wouldn’t care.”
That was in the morning.
In the afternoon I had just returned from a run into town to do some banking when Paul told me, “Dan, I think the puppy has gotten into some poison somewhere. Just look at her.”
The poor thing was having trouble standing on her feet. Sadie was swaying, bobbing, stumbling… it reminded me of how she had reacted a month before when we had put a tick collar on her that was apparently too much for her tiny body. She was punch-drunk then as now.
Every once in a while she issued a plaintive yelp which seemed to say, “Help me!” Sadie was scared.
I called Dr. Sam the vet, and he suggested I bring Sadie in right away. So I scooped her up and rushed her back into town. On one particularly bumpy stretch of road she went tumbling head over heels and vomited in the back of the vehicle.
“If she’s poisoned, that’s probably a good thing,” I reasoned.
Through the whole half-hour trip, Sadie’s balance seemed to worsen. She collapsed on the seat and became more subdued. Then she passed out.
I thought she might be dying, and pictured myself lifting her stiff and lifeless body out of the back seat, only to have Dr. Sam say, “Too late.” I pictured myself having to call Derek to say that the puppy he had picked out and trained had died. I imagined having to write a sad entry to share with you today.
As I neared Terlingua I placed my hand on her body to see how she was doing. She didn’t move. I was sure I’d lost her. But when I looked back at her a few seconds later, her eyes were open. No, not yet.
Maybe there was still time…
Dr. Sam was mystified. No visible stings or bites… she wasn’t licking anything. Her gums were pink, her temperature normal, heartbeat good, but her eyes were dilated.
“Set her down on the floor and let’s watch her movements,” said Dr. Sam. After a few minutes of observation he said, “It almost reminds me of Parkinson’s,” he said.
“Funny you should say that,” I said. “I was just thinking of poor Michael J. Fox.”
In case she had been stung or bitten by some venomous creature, Dr. Sam gave Sadie a shot. “This is normally the first thing I do for snakebite,” he explained.
“But I’m stumped,” he said. “Are you sure there was no rat poison or anything like that she might have gotten into?”
“Well then,” he said, “the only thing to do is to just watch her and call me if there’s any change.”
Paul was surprised when Sadie walked in the door. His day had started off so badly that he was sure it would end even worse.
Sadie stumbled over to where Otto was sleeping and curled up beside him. As Sadie slept, Paul and I began running through all the possibilities again of what might be the cause.
Then I had an idea.
“Hey Paul,” I said. “You know those Alice B. Toklas brownies (name redacted) made for us? I put them into the trash and burned them. But yesterday I noticed they hadn’t burned completely.”
Paul ran out to the fire-pit to make an inspection. A couple minutes later he returned saying, “You’re right! The end of the brownie loaf is chewed off. Sadie’s been stoned!”
I called Dr. Sam to tell him the mystery had been solved, and we had a good laugh. “There’s a lot of that going around,” he said. “Just yesterday I had a dog in here with the same symptoms. He had gotten into someone’s stash.”
Only in Terlingua, ‘where even the dogs are stoned.’
If I’ve drawn one lesson from yesterday’s experiences, it’s probably best stated in the words and voice of Francis McDormand in Almost Famous:
“Don’t take drugs!”