A Life-threatening Game Of Catch

Sometimes what seems like a good idea may very well be downright dangerous.

I once trekked into Moanalua Valley with a bunch of high school friends looking for wild pig. Young and foolish, we were armed with pocket knives and admittedly none of us knew how to hunt pig. Did we get lost? Yes. Were we scared? Yes.

What were we thinking? Unfortunately, pet owners often find themselves facing a similar dilemma with a potentially disastrous outcome.

It was a quiet day at the clinic as we emerged from our lunch break with filled bellies and early signs of a “kanak attack.” Smiling into the mirror, I checked my teeth for stray bits of furikake. Suddenly I was yanked out of the restroom by Cindy, our head technician.

“We need you right now!” resonated in my head as I was dragged toward one of our exam rooms.

Opening the door, I was startled by the spectacle that filled the room. A rambunctious golden retriever was frantically pacing back and forth, abruptly stopping every few steps to paw at a mouth filled with slobber.

“Doc, please help Buster!” pleaded Mr. Kam. “I think he’s got a ball stuck in his throat.”

We approached Buster carefully because he looked quite agitated. Cindy attempted to restrain him, but it was no use. Buster flailed about in a frenzied panic. Any attempt at opening his mouth resulted in close calls as his jaw chomped down repeatedly. Even with assistance from Mr. Kam, we were not able to help Buster with his predicament.

The only solution was to get an injectable sedative to calm him down.

As we made preparations, Buster started to swoon on his own as his tongue turned blue. Still too strong and dangerously biting at the air, we could only stand by and watch as he got weaker. Buster was slowly suffocating. In what seemed like an eternity but was in actuality only a matter of seconds, Buster lay still on the floor unconscious.

In a heartbeat, Cindy yelled “Now! Now is our chance!” Cindy reached down and held Buster’s gaping maw open and I plunged my hand down into his throat. Everything I touched was slippery with saliva and at first I couldn’t find the foreign body. Seconds passed as I probed ever deeper, until I found the object that caused the emergency: a blue racquetball.

With the ball no longer pressing on Buster’s wind pipe, he slowly started to breathe and his color went from blue to pink.

Buster would be just fine. Mr. Kam has been playing catch with Buster for years. Today, however, instead of the usual tennis ball, he decided to use an old racquetball that he found in his closet. Everything went well at first, but then Buster started to act odd after retrieving a toss.

Who would have thought that playing catch could cause a life-threatening situation?

Worried about another choking incident, Mr. Kam decided to switch to Frisbees. Will this solve the problem? Sure it will. Who ever heard of a Frisbee getting stuck in a dog’s mouth?

Then again …

Dr. John Kaya is the director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital.