Saturday night we went to dinner at a Trastevere restaurant and seconds after the Chianti arrived the bread server knocked it into my lap. I was wearing a vintage dress with a cream coloured silk slip with crocheted cathedral lace. I have a hairline fracture on my left foot and the last thing I wanted to do was go tromping down a long flight of stairs again to go to the ladies room to wash it out before it stained. I had just limped back from having washed my hands.

There I sat in a wet dress and slip. Trying to enjoy my risotto gamberetto. The dress finally dried out, but I awoke on Sunday morning with a sore throat and a cold. Today it's even worse and I have a jammed calendar for this coming week.

One happy note the long awaited book review for t. wagner's book WORDS MAY GO went live on the internet this morning.

I get to stay in bed all day!

When I was a kid I once drank an entire bottle of purple Dimetapp because I liked the taste. The label said grape, but it wasn't - it was purple. For those who don't know, Dimetapp, especially the old formula, was a weapons grade cold and cough syrup that was sometimes employed as a non-prescription anesthetic for shitty kids who wouldn't go to sleep or calm down in the airport or whatever.

I don't remember most of the details of the following story, but have heard them enough times that it's hard to remember what's recollection and what's not.

My mother noticed I was being awfully quiet, and found me passed right the fuck out in a pool of purple vomit, mouth haloed with the stuff. To the hospital we went, and for once not for stitches.

I was at the time legendary at the base hospital for having broken out of a pediatric papoose. (Incidentally this answers the question "Have you always been this way?") So despite being approximately like a 1:24 scale and completely wasted Grimace, the doctors and nurses had me restrained with cuffs, just to be sure, while they pumped my stomach.

Since then, the smell or God forbid taste of artificial grape is enough to make me churn a little.

My dog is not a bad dog.

Do you maybe know someone who has a really shitty kid? And they say "He's not a bad kid, he just makes some bad choices."

My dog is not a bad dog. He just makes some bad choices.

He's a hound, OK, and there are some things about hounds that just are. He's a food maniac, it comes with the family of breeds. He can hear a fleck of onion powder hit the floor in the kitchen from the back fence. He's also weapons grade adorable, something my wife comments on frequently.

She once said, "I can't imagine what I would have done if I'd seen him and his littermates when they were puppies. Probably just laid in the box with them and died."

The current working theory is that someone bought a very expensive hunting dog and then was frustrated when he didn't have an instant killer instinct. My cousin was once devastated that the Gymnast Barbie he wanted so badly for Christmas didn't crawl out of the box and start an Olympic routine all on its own, like it did on the commercials.

So he (the dog, not my cousin) ended up in the county shelter at a year old, give or take based on his dentition. He's a good dog, a very good dog. He just makes some bad choices.

This morning at some point, while I was at the VA, he got into a 50 count tub of Ice Breakers gum, and ate the whole thing.

I have been trying to get an appointment at the optometry clinic at the VA for months. It started as a simple attempt to get my prescription updated.

So the big day was today. The appointment was scheduled for 45 minutes. I was there a little early. I stopped by the primary care desk to see about a walk-in. For the last four days I've been snuffling out what look like bright yellow gummy candies in the shape of sinus cavities, flecked and smeared with blood. So, consulting the infallible symptom priority checklist, they said the walk-in clinic would see me directly after my optometry appointment.

I walked out 4.5 hours later, the bulk of which was spent in optometry and the pharmacy. For the cartoon-like mucus problem, I was rushed into a between-appointments slot with my doctor who is the single gleaming spark of humanity in that place, eyes crazily dilated, and almost $200 lighter in the pocket for the "free" glasses.

The optometrist had about as much soul as one of those robotic arms that churn out endless automobile sub-assemblies. Graceful, fluid, and utterly without personal engagement. I'm still not exactly sure what the problem with my eyesight is save that I need to quit using my old prescription entirely and immediately or... else. Or else what? I don't know. Maybe I'll die from it.

The wait for my glasses is 4-5 weeks by mail. And how do I cope in the mean time, particularly while, say, driving? Close one eye to eliminate the double vision, and be careful because I'll lose depth perception. This is the advice of the roboptometrist.

I was several hours late getting home, obviously. I'd have spent another two or three hours in line at the VA pharmacy, save I needed to be home in time to hand off the GPS unit to my wife, who was headed to an office across town this afternoon, in an area notoriously difficult to navigate for the green.

I asked if she wanted me to grab some lunch on the way home. Fried chicken and mashed potatoes, why not? And just as I was pulling up to the house, she called to tell me I would need to be taking the dog to the emergency room.

Many artificial sweeteners have been replaced in recent years by a substance known as xylitol. It is a sugar alcohol that is about as sweet as table sugar of the same amount, but with far fewer calories and surprising effects on dental health. It actually is good for your teeth, for reasons that I do not understand, and my wife the dental hygienist does understand. All of the gum in the house contains xylitol.

In fact, every piece of Ice Breakers gum contains 1.1 grams of Xylitol.

Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs.

The dog had consumed a dose five times what is lethal for his body weight.

Counting the pieces of gum in the two small globule of vomit upstairs, and my wife's oddly precise recollection of how many pieces were still in the tub, indicated that there were still about 35 pieces still inside the dog.

My neighbors all think I'm nuts, and anyone who got a good look at me in shirtsleeves in the frosty yard, clenching the phone between my head and shoulder and shouting about chewing gum while sitting on my dog and squeezing hydrogen peroxide down his throat does too.

As with the time he ate a box of chocolate dipped cookies, he refused to vomit. He's a hound, with a stomach of iron. Once food is found and ingested, it is retained at all costs.

Foaming madly from the mouth from the peroxide, he dashed skittishly in circles while I did my best to convince him I wasn't going to hold him down and squeeze more of it into his mouth, which was actually exactly what I was going to do.

The vet tech on the phone did the math, and told me my dog was certainly going to die if I did not bring him in, and maybe even then he would.

Have you ever noticed the crazy variety of flavors that chewing gum has been made to have?

Why, back in my day the choices were mint, or double mint. But these days? Cherry, chocolate chip, banana split, orange cream, cotton candy.

And grape. The same exact grape that is really properly called purple.

I gave the dog ten minutes to barf in the back yard while I shoveled chicken into my face as fast as I could. I rolled up his favorite blanket in preparation for his impending overnight stay at the dog hospital, reasoning that his stinky fleece throw would be at least some comfort in the aluminum box they would be keeping him in.

I threw two days' worth of kibble into a plastic jug, knowing that it would be better for him to stay on a regular diet during his stay there, too, rather than switching to whatever generic kibble the hospital had. And I grabbed a box of nitrile gloves and some shopping bags on a hunch.

Two blocks from home, on the way to the dog emergency room, he puked.

It was the most foul substance I have ever known to come from a living thing. An admixture of fish-based kibble gruel and purple flavored chewing gum, foaming and frothing from the addition of four tablespoons of vigorously active hydrogen peroxide, churned by gut action.

Thank God for leather interiors.

I realized immediately that I was not going to be able to make it to the dog emergency room with an enormous pool of hot, foul vomit sliding around crazily in the semi-bucket backseat. The overwhelming odor of fish oil I probably could have handled, but the heavy wafts of purple were absolutely too much to deal with. I felt my gorge rising as I pulled over to the side of the road in the worst part of the 'hood, and slapped the emergency blinkers as I reached for the gloves and the shopping bag.

I hope everyone who saw me was just as horrified at what my life had become as I was. Hunched over, bomber jacket riding up to my navel, kneeling in the leafy gutter and plowed halfway into the passenger side of my aging coupe, shoveling three quarters of a gallon of dog puke into a plastic bag while retching and dry heaving in front of a burned crack mansion.

I dreaded answering questions. My pupils were still enormous. Would they accuse me of huffing dog vomit? Is this how I wanted to be arrested, on my knees in the gutter, dressed in bizarre war relics and getting high on fish oil and purple?

It had an odd coherence to it, slick and sticky and with an incredible surface tension. It was like some kind of novelty kids' substance that will absolutely ruin carpet in a way that no science or black art can remedy.

Eventually I made it an even gallon when I puked a couple slugs of fried chicken on top of his mess. Realizing I was sick, he tried to comfort me in the manner of dogs - crowding up on me and licking my face, which was maybe precisely the worst thing he could have done, given the circumstances and what his breath smelled like.

In dogs, xylitol causes blood sugar crashes (leading to trembling, weakness, reduced cognition, coma, and death) and liver damage among other things. The vet told me of a couple of naughty labs who'd eaten a five pack of this same gum between them. One of them had ALT levels at about 20,000; normal is 100.

I counted gum while the technicians drew blood and ran tests and examined him for signs of having eaten a bunch of xylitol.

After sifting through his bag of vomit, and adding the approximation to the count from the upstairs rug, we determined that he could not possibly have more than 5 pieces of gum inside of him. Given his bodyweight, this meant he was probably not going to die.

But, like the doc said, "He might not have read the book. It's hard to say. Some dogs can eat far more than that and never have any symptoms; some will go the other way. We don't really know why yet."

I took him home with strict observation instructions. The primary concern was a catastrophic blood sugar crash, leading to coma and death.

An hour after getting him home, he was moving sluggishly at best, and his rear legs were trembling. He refused to eat, something he's never done before - even after I made him throw up a whole box of Russel Stover chocolates.

A blood sugar crash.

So I force-fed him an ounce of peanut butter, wrapped him up in a heated blanket, and left him for an hour. He slept. I checked to make sure it wasn't a coma.

And when he got up, I knew I'd done right. He immediately went to snuffling in the kitchen for stray particles of organic matter, and has been eating every two hours (per the doc's orders) since then.

And what has he learned?

If I snatch the forbidden off of the no-table, I get two car rides, a walk in the park, play with strange dogs, and extra food.

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