Before we moved to the house we live in now, we lived in North Park, in a house that was right behind a 7-Eleven convenience store. We used to walk up there with Penny several times a week to get snacks, check the RedBox for new movies, and keep up with Ben’s almond milk addiction. It was just a nice reason for the three of us to get outside for a few minutes in the evening or something to do if we were bored on the weekends. I say all this to reinforce the fact that we walked the route from our house to that 7-Eleven too many times to count. One random Saturday night over a year ago, Ben and I were just hanging out, drinking at home. We walked, with Penny, up to the 7-Eleven to get snacks or more alcohol or whatever it was, then came straight home and got in our hot tub. It was already late and very dark, and Penny wasn’t super interested in being outside while we weren’t paying attention to her, so we left her sleeping on the couch while we were right outside the door in the hot tub. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
I came inside alone to go to bathroom or something and gave her a little love as I walked past her. She didn’t really respond to my touch or voice… which instantly freaked me out. I lifted her a little to pick her up and she started to shake so hard it was almost a full-body twitch, still not making eye contact or generally looking normal. At this point, I start screaming for Ben to come inside. I knew something was wrong and that we needed to get her to a vet, but as I started to wrap her in the towel I’d been wearing, she peed all over herself, while still shaking and still not making eye contact. Now I’m completely freaking out, fully convinced she’s having a seizure. My childhood Dachshund, Sophie, had a few violent seizures towards the end of her long life (one of the main reasons we decided to put her down) and I was having awful flashbacks of that.
It was after midnight on the weekend and both Ben and I had been drinking, but we knew we had to take her to a vet. Even though I was the most physically distraught, I was in the best position to safely drive us, so we quickly changed out of our swimsuits, wrapped Penny tight in another towel, jumped in the car, and headed to the closest 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital. Luckily, it was late at night so there was hardly anyone else on the freeway and the hospital wasn’t far from our house. Unluckily, as we approached our exit, we saw tons of flashing signage saying the northbound exit was closed for overnight construction. At this point, I’m sobbing uncontrollably while trying to drive I know how much time a detour would take. Ben was holding Penny and trying to keep both of us calm, but he was freaking out too. We took the southbound exit and began our detour (which was only a few miles but felt like FOREVER) and finally got to the emergency vet.
I ran into the lobby with Penny wrapped in the towel in my arms, sobbing as I put her on the counter and said, “please help, I think Penny is having a seizure! She’s not responding, she’s twitching and shaking, and she peed all over herself without seeming to notice…” The tech at reception looked at her for a minute and said, “She’s not having a seizure… I think your dog ate some marijuana.” They took Penny to the back anyways and asked Ben and I to wait in the lobby while they triaged her. My mind was racing and I just sat in the lobby and cried. After a few minutes, another tech brought her out wrapped in a towel and handed her to me. They said someone would come out and talk to me in a minute because some critical emergency patients had just arrived, and then walked away. Ben and I were sitting there holding a dazed and shaking Penny, trying to convince ourselves that if it were a real emergency, they would’ve kept Penny in the back and acted with more urgency.
After what felt like hours, but was probably only 10-15 minutes, a vet came out and apologized for the wait. She said that Penny displayed all the classic signs of marijuana toxicity and that she would be okay by the next day. They took her back and gave her an anti-nausea shot and a saline injection under the skin on the back of her neck to slowly re-hydrate her. Our bill was around $300. I was instructed to take her home and keep her calm in a dark and quiet room until she was acting normal again. The next morning around 9 or 10, she was still very lethargic and groggy. She slept all day and was back to her normal self by the evening after the incident.
I know you’re wondering – what exactly did Penny eat? I would give anything to know the answer to that question… My baby girl means the world to me and that was one of the scariest nights of my life. Ben and I both consume marijuana at home – we’re over 21 and it’s completely legal here in California – so I was most scared of telling my family and friends about this incident. I felt like they would never believe that Penny didn’t eat it at our house. The first thing we did after getting home from the emergency vet was double-check our supply – as expected, nothing was out of place. We keep everything out of Penny’s reach and we don’t really buy the kind of edibles that would entice her anyways.
The only thing I can really picture is that one of the vagrants who always loiter outside 7-Elevens was eating edibles and dropped a piece of candy or a large crumb that Penny couldn’t resist picking up and eating. The only good thing that came out of this, besides Penny being totally fine of course, is that we now know what to do if she ever happens to show these same symptoms: keep her calm and comfortable until the scary high feelings pass!