The One Where Rubin Goes to the V-E-T

Last time, on ‘Oh My Holy Hell, Will Amber Ever Learn to Write Concisely?’:

1. I had gone to the optician to find out whether or not I had a brain tumour

2. Terry had gone to visit a friend

3. Rubin was being a bit of an ass, to be completely honest

Well, as you all know by now, I went to see the optician, and was given a clean bill of health. Unusually for me, I managed to resist the lure of the mall after my appointment, and drove straight home. It was at this point that things began to go horribly, horribly wrong.

Upon entering Rubin’s lair, I noticed that while Rubin greeted me with his usual exuberance, he was moving kind of strangely. In fact, rather than continuing to turn in circles for 20 minutes, going “AMBER’S HOME! AMBER’S HOME!”, he bounced around for a mere quarter of this time before lowering himself to the ground in an awkward, three-step fashion: first his back legs, then his belly, then the rest of him.


I offered him some doggie treats, just to be sure that he was OK, and he gobbled them up as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks, and then begged for more. So far, so good. My attempt to get him to chase after one of his toys, however, met with complete failure: Rubin did stand up, and took a few steps towards the unfortunate “White Pup”, but I noticed that his body was hunched over, in the canine equivalent of someone with a really bad stomach ache trying to walk while clutching his stomach.

Hmmm, again.

Rubin had already passed the Food Test, so I decided to put him to the Ultimate Health Test.

“Rubin,” I said, standing up. “Would you like to go for a WALK?”

Now, ordinarily, these words are met with utter hysteria. Rubin will bust into a volley of barking, and will run downstairs to stand by the door, where he will spin around in circles until his harness and leash are attached, barking the whole time. On this occasion, however, he merely gave a high pitched yelp, and ran silently downstairs. Following behind him, I found him crouched at the door, in a posture which, if he were human, I could only have described as “doubled up in pain.”

I tried to coax him to move, but there was nothing doing. Rubin remained crouched at the door, staring up at me mournfully. I had a good look at him: checked his paws, gently felt his belly etc, to see if there was anything obvious causing him distress… then, when I hadn’t found anything, and he still seemed reluctant to move, I ran upstairs and called Terry’s mobile with one hand while Googling the vet’s number with the other.

Luckily, Terry apparently learned more from my whole “lost in the woods” episode than I did: not only did he have his phone with him, it was actually switched on. AND HE ANSWERED IT. (Sorry for the caps lock, by the way: it was the first time this had ever happened in my living memory.)

“TERRY!” I shrieked as soon as he picked up. “COME HOME! DOG SICK! CALLING VET! FREAKING THE HELL OUT! HOME! COME!”

Then I hung up without waiting for him to answer, just like a person in a soap opera, and went back downstairs, where I carefully picked up Rubin and carried him back to the office with me. I’d just resumed my search for the vet’s phone number, when a car suddenly drove into the street outside, and Rubin reacted in his usual manner: by running downstairs, barking his head off.

I just had time to think, “Well, THAT has to be a good sign…” when suddenly things turned Very Bad Indeed. Halfway down the stairs, Rubin’s barks turned into high-pitched yelps of pain. Rather than just the single, short yelp he’d made the day before, however, the yelping went on and on and on: it sounded like he was screaming in pain. His momentum carried him down to the bottom of the stairs and into the living room, where he instantly dropped into an awkward sitting position, and continued yelping. I’d jumped up and ran after him as soon as the yelping stared, and I got down on the floor to try and comfort him, but he just couldn’t seem to stop.

It. Was. Horrible. It was one of the most horrible things I’ve ever seen: he was so obviously in a lot of pain, and I had absolutely no idea what to do to help him. I guess the yelping probably lasted for thirty seconds or so, but it felt like an absolute eternity, and when it was over, Rubin continued to crouch on the rug, huddled over in obvious distress. Well, once again, I checked him over, and once again I could find nothing to explain what was actually causing the problem. I knew Terry would be arriving at any second, and I was scared that when Rubin heard the car he would jump up to greet him and hurt himself again, so I picked him up carefully and held him in my arms, trying to soothe him while I waited.

Luckily I didn’t have long to wait. Terry arrived about a minute later, and, of course, as soon as I set Rubin down on the ground to demonstrate how ill he was… Rubin behaved absolutely normally. “Um, he doesn’t really seem THAT ill,” Terry pointed out, while he took his turn at examining every inch of Rubin’s body, and I desperately tried to explain that “No! He was SCREAMING!” complete with my impersonation of the aforementioned “screaming”.

“I really don’t think he needs to see a vet,” said Terry. “I mean, sure, he’s a little subdued, but I think he probably just ate something that disagreed with him.” (Rubin eats a lot of stuff that isn’t sanctioned by Terry or I, so this is always a possibility.) At this, he rolled Rubin gently onto his back, to check his belly properly… and instantly Rubin exploded into another bout of the terrible yelping. By the time he stopped, I was in tears, and Terry was holding his hand out for the phone. “Get the vet’s number,” he said, “He’s definitely going to the vet’s…”

Well, we called the vet (who seemed pretty sure from our description of the problem that Rubin had probably hurt himself on something while on his walk the day before) and got an appointment in an hour’s time. We tried to keep Rubin as quiet as possible during that time, reluctant to do anything that might provoke the “screaming” again, but Terry did manage to get a closer look at his, er, undercarriage, and found a small graze that didn’t LOOK like it could be the cause of so much pain, but which we pinned our hopes on, because any alternative explanation we could come up with seemed so much worse. During that hour, Rubin barely moved: he had obviously learned that movement = pain, and he seemed terrified to move unless he hurt himself again. He also, however, became super-clingy, and wanted to be as close as possible to us at all times, so Terry and I spent most of that hour sitting on the floor with him, until it was time to head to the vet’s.

By this point, I was feeling sick with fear. Clearly something was very, very wrong with Rubin, and I just couldn’t bear it. And I was reminded of all of the times I’d had to take Chico to the vet: times which had almost always resulted in Bad News. This visit, I thought, would surely be the same. Even Terry was grim-faced as he carried Rubin into the consulting room and placed him on the examination table.

The vet was absolutely meticulous in her examination of Rubin. Every bone in his body was checked, as were his paws, ears, eyes and every other part of him. He was poked and prodded in places he previously hadn’t even known existed. The graze we’d noticed was closely examined, and the vet agreed that it probably wasn’t something that would be causing Rubin a huge amount of pain. Finally, she rolled him over onto his back, and felt his belly and groin so thoroughly that even the toughest dog around would have had a little whimper.

Not Rubin, though.

During the time we’d spent waiting for the appointment, Terry and I had done everything we could to avoid making Rubin yelp again. The vet, on the other hand, did everything she could to try and provoke exactly that reaction, so she could try and establish what it was that was hurting him. Nothing she did seemed to bother him, however: Rubin simply stared up at her placidly, enjoying the attention, but slightly puzzled by it. Eventually, she placed him on the floor, where he bounced around in excitement, the very picture of a healthy animal.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this dog,” said the vet. “That’ll be £28 please.”

Terry and I were absolutely amazed by this. We KNEW there was something wrong with Rubin. We’d SEEN the pain he was so obviously in, and the entire sequence of events was related once again to the vet, in meticulous detail. She said that while she had no doubt this would all have been very distressing, both for Rubin and for us, there was definitely no serious cause for it: her best guess was that he’d pulled a muscle, or had perhaps picked up a wasp sting, or some other minor injury that we couldn’t see because of his fur, and which was hurting him occasionally when he moved. “There’s definitely no internal problem,” she reassured us, “So really the best thing you can do is just keep an eye on him. In fact, maybe try taking him for a walk, and if it happens again, bring him back and we’ll perhaps give him some painkillers.”

There happens to be a huge park right behind the vet’s office, so after I’d ponied up the cash for the appointment, we took Rubin out there… where he proceeded to run around like a racehorse, leaping over obstacles, whirling around in excitement, and generally behaving ABSOLUTELY NORMALLY.


He did yelp another couple of times that afternoon, always when he was trying to jump up onto things, but by dinner time, he seemed to have completely forgotten his ordeal, and was simply basking in all of the extra attention and treats he was getting. Since then, he’s been absolutely fine. We, of course, have watched him like hawks, but there’s been no more yelping, no strange movements, and no sign at all that Rubin feels anything other than in the best of health. In fact, if anything, he’s been even more hyperactive than usual over the past few days.

We did, however, buy him a walking stick:

And, well, he ate it:

(Note: Actually a rawhide chew, known in our house as ‘Rubin’s Great Big Chew’. He loves it.)

In conclusion: as far as we can tell, Rubin is absolutely fine. Terry and I, on the other hand? Well, let’s just say we’ve had better weekends…

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books by Amber Eve
  • I would have been terrified too, you poor things x

    September 8, 2010
  • I'm so very pleased to hear he's ok – and you must be very relieved too! What a horrible ordeal for you all to go through. xxx

    September 8, 2010
  • Oh, I could totally empathise with this post all the way through.

    Shadows breed (Malamutes) suffer badly from bloat, which can kill them so we're always really careful to watch out for tummy problems and pains (probably overly so, tbh).

    Wouldn't be able to pick him up to comfort him though – he weighs 6 stone 🙂

    September 8, 2010
  • Rock Hyrax


    I’m glad he’s OK, and that the problem seemed to go away by itself. Can dogs get the same painful lower back spasms as humans? (Or do we only get them because our spines weren’t designed for walking around on our hind legs?)

    September 8, 2010
  • I’m so glad to hear he’s OK. We went through a similar experience with my beagle once. Acting lethargic, not eating, not acting like herself at all. A trip to the veterinary ER (since of course it happened on a weekend) and $500 later, we were told there was nothing wrong with her (this was a few years ago).

    She’s back @ the vet today to have a muscle biopsy done to find out what’s causing her lately to have sharp pain in her jaw, poor pup.

    September 8, 2010
      • Thank you. The biopsy is done now, but she’s not awake from anesthesia yet. I’m taking all the good wishes I can get. I just hope we find out what’s wrong, so we can treat it.

        September 8, 2010
  • Louise


    You are a fantastic story teller. So glad to hear that Rubinman was okay.

    September 8, 2010
  • Gosh what a nightmare! I’d have been frantic too. I’m so glad that it wasn’t anything serious and hopefully whatever was causing his pain is gone for good.
    I just love to see pictures of Rubin, I reckon he could even get Victoria Beckham to smile x

    September 8, 2010
  • I'm glad he's okay! I would've been panicking. He seems to be enjoying his Great Big Chew anyone. Looks so cute in those photos!

    September 8, 2010
  • Never seen him so upset, poot thing 🙁 He only yelped a couple of times after the vets visit but nothing in the last 4 days so fingers crossed.

    September 8, 2010
  • Nikki G


    I’m glad to hear that Rubin seems to be better. It does make you feel helpless when your pet is in pain but they can’t tell you what hurts, so you don’t know how to fix it. 🙁

    September 8, 2010
  • Sammy


    Awww I'm glad Rubin is OK. This is the problem with small furries, they can't tell you where it hurts. I've taken my cats to the vet several times hen they seem to be in pain with no obvious cause. Bandit had been attacked overnight and had some soreness but nothing else so he had some painkillers. Mr Franks however I couldn't find anything wrong with him but demanded he was taken to the vet whilst I was at work and the vet found a really deep 2inch gash on his side which required surgery. And then there's Trouble who I caught washing his leg who had another pretty deep cut which had gotten infected as he hadn't complained or changed his behaviour at all!

    Small furries, I love em but I wish they would walk up to you and show you the bit where they had hurt themselves.

    September 8, 2010
  • cookie


    Oh my goodness! I feel your pain completely! When our basset pup started drooling uncontrollably I called our resident vet right away and she said that even though it is most likely she ate some grass and she will be fine once it.. err. exits her system one way or another we should come in just to make sure. Naturally, two minutes before we went to the vet she tossed her …erm.. grass cookies all over the floor and was a happy cheerful non-drooling puppy again. We took her to the vet anyway, just-to-be-sure where she got plenty of cuddles and nothing much more.
    But I am always a firm advocate of making sure. I couldn’t forgive myself if something I just waved off turned out to be something serious.

    September 9, 2010
  • Oh wow, that must have been so stressful. I really hate it when animals yelp in pain, especially as they can never explain what’s wrong. I’m glad it was clearly nothing serious, though. x

    September 10, 2010
  • Itzel


    I’m glad it wasn’t something serious. I went through something similar with my dog. We went away for the weekend and left him at my parents’, on our last day out of town my dad phoned me and told me my dog wasn’t feeling well and since my dad wouldn’t call me unless it was something really bad I freaked out. Luckily we were two hours away and managed to go back as soon as we hung up. On the way back I made an appointment with his vet’s, my sister had already taken him to a local vet’s but I just wanted to be extra sure and take him to the one who knew him. I was mortified, apparently he tried to bite my mum when she tried to touch him and this was so shocking because my dog would never ever bite anyone, not even children (and he hates children!). So we finally arrived, he seemed lethargic but he let me pick him up, my boyfriend took him for a walk and we headed to the vet’s. At this point I was going mental with anxiety and finally she said that he was fine, nothing was the matter. She checked every part of his little body and no, nothing. I was so relieved, we decided that he just wanted us to come home. We watched him for a couple of days after that but he was his old self.

    July 21, 2011