Anna Kooiman: The incredible story of our dog's mystery ailment

We all love our dogs, don’t we? We fall in absolute puppy love when they’re small and the companionship grows each day. Their excitement when we walk through the door, the tail wags when it’s time to go for a walk, the cuddles and licks, the unconditional love. Puppy love is simply the best.

(Yoey Yohai)

So when our dogs get sick, we naturally get worried. When they get so sick that the vet can’t figure out the problem, we panic. That’s exactly what happened to me last week. Eight days of hell. But thank God, this story comes with a happy (yet mysterious) ending.

My yellow lab, Baxter, has been my pride and joy for more than 10 years. I am currently in my eighth month of pregnancy and just know Baxter will be a great big brother.

During my days hosting “Fox and Friends Weekend,” Baxter often came up in conversation and even paid a few visits to the curvy couch.

Baxter turned a lot of heads as a groomsman in my Central Park wedding. People couldn’t believe my husband and me when we said we were taking him on a sea-to-shining-sea road trip from New York City to San Francisco. And their jaws were on the floor when we told everyone we were putting Baxter on an airplane to come live with us in Australia.

(Emma Wand)

Baxter is all over my social media feeds and even has his own pages with the very regal handle @sirbaxterbear.

So as you can see, it’s safe to say I’m a bit obsessed with Baxter. But you get it, don’t you? Pets are simply the best!

Putting all these factors together, the conclusion from several of the doctors was that the problem was likely something that couldn’t be easily cured. Something like cancer.

So here’s the saga, and hopefully it’s a lesson learned for all of us. Baxter was sick for two days straight. He wasn’t able to keep food or water down. Unfortunately our vet wasn’t open on Sunday, so my husband and I found an alternative vet in a neighboring Sydney suburb.

The vet gave Baxter a shot to stop the vomiting but said they couldn’t put him on an IV for fluids because the office was closing at noon. We trusted the reassurances we were given that the shot would do the trick.

We took Baxter home. Sure enough, the vomiting stopped, but Baxter started getting really weak. He couldn’t even stand up on his own. We opened his mouth and he was so dehydrated that his gums were sticky to the touch. He was so lethargic and out of it. We decided we couldn’t wait until the morning for more medical attention.

We gently put Baxter in the car and shuttled him across town to the emergency vet hospital. He was immediately put on fluids, but he wasn’t getting better. Based on Baxter’s behavior we had almost completely ruled out an obstruction. He’s a mellow, old boy. He doesn’t rascal around eating leather shoes or socks. He doesn’t dig in the trash. He’s an inside dog.

Baxter is always on a leash during our coastal walks. We don’t let him scrounge.  The docs took some X-rays and didn’t see any foreign objects in his belly. They did several blood tests and ruled out pancreatitis. Putting all these factors together, the conclusion from several of the doctors was that the problem was likely something that couldn’t be easily cured. Something like cancer.

(Emma Wand)

Cancer. It’s a hard word to even say, isn’t it? We were devastated. I hugged Baxter’s neck and kept telling him he had to get better so he can meet the baby boy growing in my belly. Through copious tears, I kept repeating: “This can’t be happening. He was so happy a few days ago. He HAS to meet my baby boy!”

At home that night my husband and I shed a lot of tears, flipped through our library of old pictures, and looked at Baxter’s big fluffy dog bed, wondering if he would ever be sleeping there again.

In the morning we asked if there were more tests that could be done. What were our options? We weren’t ready to say goodbye. What if it wasn’t cancer? What if it was something we could fix?

The next step was an ultrasound back across town. We again shuttled Baxter to the emergency vet for it, but just our luck, that too came back inconclusive. A second ultrasound was recommended using a higher tech machine. We agreed it should be done by a specialist. We were incredibly worried and at a loss.

Then finally, a call that changed it all. “We think there is a foreign body in Baxter’s intestine. We can’t be sure it isn’t a tumor, but it looks to be mechanical. Do you want us to open him up to find out?”


A couple hours later, another call from a vet tech: “Surgery is going well. The surgeon has just discovered the obstruction. It looks to be a corn cob. They should wrap up the procedure soon. We think Baxter will be fine.”

A corn cob. A corn cob! What in the world! Where did he get that? We don’t even eat corn on the cob! Confused, but overwhelmed with joy, my husband and I started grinning ear to ear, hugging one another. We were finally waking up from this horrible nightmare.

We got to pick Baxter up 48 hours later. It felt like Christmas morning. Way better. actually. What a journey!

Baxter’s usual nearly 100 pound frame had been whittled down to a shadow of his former self. He was weak. Despite this, his tail wagged and seemed very excited to see us. And we were pinching ourselves.

Of course we had to see the corn cob the surgeon had recovered. It is still so bizarre. It wasn’t even that big and it was black in color. I wonder how long it was knocking around in his belly!   The mystery will remain. We’re just happy it’s out.

(Jolanta Opiola)

Baxter is now at home and sporting one of those funny, bell-shaped collars to keep him from disrupting his stitches. It’s bright blue and quite the fashion statement for quite the incision. Almost a foot long!

Baxter’s skin and bones at the moment, but his classic Baxter smile has already returned. We are still cursing that damned, mysterious, corn cob – but our Baxter is on track for a full recovery. Oh happy day!