Tag Archives: Rosarito beach

Chicken Bone

13 Jan

Kuma 2

I’d grown up hearing warnings about feeding chicken bones to dogs – that the bones would splinter and the dog choke. Then in Mexico I learn its common practice. The dogs love them and I’m soon treating Kuma, Toby and Loba to leftover bones from our chicken dinners.

Everything went fine for a while, until one day I stepped out of the back door with a plate of chicken bones and began feeding the dogs.

I fed Kuma a leg bone, then Loba, then Toby. I started a second round and saw Kuma standing stock still. Then he started to hack and claw at the roof of his mouth. I thought, Fuck – he’s choking.

I was alone at the house without a car. Getting to a vet was impossible. Kuma scratched at his mouth so desperately that in seconds blood covered his paws and dripped from his teeth. I wasn’t sure what to do. I remembered the Hippocratic Oath: First do no harm, but I couldn’t watch and do nothing. I lifted Kuma up and peered down his throat. I couldn’t see the bone. I was afraid to push my finger down his throat and jam the bone even deeper. Then I wondered if a splinter had gotten into the roof of Kuma’s mouth, but a quick look told me that wasn’t the problem.

I put Kuma down on the ground and stared as he scratched in desperation at the roof of his mouth. A resigned voice came into my head. “You’re going to watch your dog die right in front of you.” It was disturbing – the voice wasn’t frantic or panicked – it was calm – too calm. What was wrong with me, that I could react so calmly, as though part of me was dead inside?

I picked Kuma up and wrapped my arms around his chest and squeezed hard in the Heimlich maneuver.

Nothing.

I figured there was only so much air in Kuma’s lungs. I might only get one more chance. I squeezed harder this time, hoping I wouldn’t break his ribs.

I set Kuma down and seconds later he spit out a jagged one-inch piece of bone. Maybe my squeezing did the trick; maybe he dislodged the bone on his own.

A minute later, Kuma was wagging his tail, the experience behind him. I washed the blood off his paws and put the rest of the bones in the trash.

I was left with the disturbing memory of my calmness in the face of my dog’s imminent death. It frightened me, wondering how far this calmness could extend.

(Rosarito, Mexico 2015)

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