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Sadie's Bad Trip



At 3:43 a.m. on a Sunday I am sitting on the sofa in the dark, flanked hip-to-hip by Sadie and Stella, our two Labradors, who joined me when the monkeys woke me up, as they do most nights.

The monkeys are an image from a yoga instructor named Cynthia, who told her students to tune out the monkeys in their brains while working toward the Zen state necessary for yoga bliss. The monkeys often distract me, and also wake me in the night.

On this night, the monkeys that got me up are dogs, vet bills and marijuana. The other day, our 5-year-old chocolate Lab, Sadie, started wobbling and drooling and falling down after our usual morning on Indian Beach in Trinidad. It looked to me like a stroke: She couldn't walk, her bladder let go, her eyes couldn't focus. What the heck was happening to our dog?

We loaded her into the car and rushed to the vet in Sunny Brae, where the lab tech asked matter-of-factly if Sadie could have gotten into marijuana. It looked like marijuana toxicity, she said.

What?! First, we don't have a stash. And, second, what?!? It could be something Sadie got into on the beach, the tech said. They would do some tests and put her on an IV.

Turns out that Sadie probably did get stoned from something she scarfed on the beach Friday morning (hey, she's a Lab, and they eat everything). It takes as little as the butt-end of a joint to put a dog into a life-threatening downer, says our veterinarian.

This is not that uncommon, according to news reports from Seattle, Denver and elsewhere. Pot is not good for dogs. In Seattle, KOMOnews.com reports on a vet who says, "More marijuana means more poisoned dogs." Seattle emergency room vet Jennifer Waldrop told KOMO TV news that cases of marijuana toxicity in dogs are becoming more common — quadrupling nationwide in recent years.

"Stoner dogs on the rise," is the headline on one YouTube video that cites Colorado cases since the legalization of medical marijuana there.

A Michigan veterinary group says, "Almost all exposed animals will exhibit neurological signs (depression or alternating depression and excitement, falling over/uncoordinated, hallucinations with barking or agitation, seizures or even coma)."

In the Seattle case, KOMO reported, "Last month, Seattle resident Katherine Evans took her dog Abby on a long walk through the Arboretum and Montlake Playground. Three hours after the walk, Abby was vomiting, stumbling and twitching. 'I was pretty scared,' Evans said."

Yup. Us, too. Two hours after Sadie apparently found some MaryJane on the beach in Trinidad she was falling down and peeing uncontrollably. We thought she was having a stroke.

Our wonderful vets at Sunny Brae say they get three cases like ours every week. The dogs get into marijuana and are wiped out, sometimes unconscious. It can be dangerous.

Our vet told of one case of a vacationing couple and their dog driving up Highway 101. They stopped their RV for lunch in Garberville, where their dog apparently found something in the rest area. By the time they reached Humboldt the dog was falling down, throwing up and they were scared as hell.

The treatment for marijuana toxicity in dogs is to induce vomiting, an IV flush and charcoal to help absorb the THC from the pooch's bloodstream. "Death occurs rarely" when dogs get into weed — only 2 percent of the time, according to a Colorado study.

But it ain't cheap — after about $400, another $8 gazillion in owner anxiety and a full 24 hours later, Sadie was back to normal, thank Dog.

The other costs are how we and our dogs get to play on the beach. Sadie and Stella won't roam and scarf crab parts and other delicious stuff anymore. We'll yell at them a lot more as they do what Labs do — cruise the seaweed line, play with kelp and check out yummy tidbits.

They'll have to stay closer now, which is going to be too bad — because what's more joyful than a Labrador retriever on a beach? But the costs to our dogs of even a fragment of somebody's doobie are too high. Days later, poor Sadie is still acting a little weird and baffled.

As I sit on the couch in the predawn dark, two snoring hounds on either side of me, I'm realizing I'm not going to risk them again if I can help it. No more bad trips for Sadie.

Ted Pease is a journalism professor, dog lover and photographer who lives in Trinidad. He can be reached at [email protected].


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