It was a long evening of worry.

The day didn’t start off that way. Our dog, Stark, got sick a couple of times the other morning. It wasn’t anything too out of the ordinary or concerning — he tends to do that every so often after digging in the garbage can we’ve tried to lock down.

I had to get off to work, so I had the boys clean it up. They have the time right now, after all. I still wasn’t too worried when I checked in on my lunch break. Stark was definitely down and not acting completely like himself, but I chalked that up to him thinking he was in trouble for getting sick. You can tell in his body language when he thinks he’s in trouble.

Then I got home from work, and that’s when I started to worry. He was listless and seemed like he was having trouble breathing. He hadn’t eaten or drank the food I had put out for him over lunch. His nose was dry. We called an emergency vet line.

From the symptoms, the vet didn’t seem to think Stark needed immediate attention, but he did recommend taking him in in the morning, so we decided to monitor Stark and check back in if things go worse.

Stark, who normally follows me around the house like Mary’s lamb, pretty much laid on the couch in the sitting room all evening. While we usually need to put him in the kennel while we eat dinner so he doesn’t try to steal our food, he didn’t even move an inch as we dined.

I continued to pause in my evening activities to go over and give him hugs, pets and reassurances that we would get him help soon. I wanted him to know he was loved and cared for even if he wasn’t feeling well.

When it was time for bed, my worry increased a little more. He usually seems like he’s waiting for me to head upstairs after his final run outside and meal. As soon as my foot is on the first step, he’s up in a flash and jumps on the bed.

That didn’t happen this time. He stayed put on the couch. After about 30 minutes of being upstairs and no Stark, I decided to do something about it. I wanted him close in case his condition, whatever it was, go worse through the night.

I went downstairs, determined to carry the 70-pound fur ball upstairs if I needed to. After a couple attempts to pick him up, he got the message and got up from the couch, slowly heading upstairs. He still didn’t jump on the bed like he normally does; instead, he went right to his bed and camped out for the night.

I continued to monitor him as best as I could through the night. I woke up a couple of times and gave him some love, and did so again when I woke up for the day.

As soon as his vet was open, I called for an appointment. They were able to see us an hour later. I was nearly in tears on the drive out, the pessimist in me believing I was about to get some terrible news.

The vet informed me that it appeared he was having an issue with his pancreas that was likely caused by the consumption of some overly fatty foods. He gave us medicine to help with inflammation and nausea as well as an antibiotic and some special, low-fat food.

By the time we returned home, Stark’s manner had already changed a bit. He drank some water, took his first dose of medicine and even was half-heartedly begging for some of breakfast.

He’s still not fully himself, but I’m glad that he’s doing better. He’s not just a dog to us, he’s a member of the family. We would be devastated if anything happened to him. He truly is one of man’s best friends — and one of my babies. I plan to do whatever I can to get him through this.

— Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.

Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's features and magazine editor, leading production of the award-winning "Ottumwa Life" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.

Recommended for you