Day Four: Scottsdale, AZ to El Paso, TX, um, I mean Las Cruces, NM
When last we left off, our little crew had made it across the desert in the heat dome, and we were enjoying Scottsdale, Arizona. On the morning of Day Four, we woke up in our hotel and headed straight to the pool to get our slide on. In the hour and a half we were at the pool, we hit that slide HARD. We all had a blast, and it was the perfect end to a perfect, although HOT, few days in Arizona.
After we cleaned up and packed up, we were on the road again. We stopped in Tucson for a late lunch, and to check out the city’s newly revitalized East End. We had a terrific meal at Maynard’s Market, and met the owner, Richard Oseran. When we asked if we could bring our dog into the market, he was so lovely and so gracious, and found us the perfect, out of the way spot in the market. It was so hot outside (111 degrees!), and we were so grateful for a cool place with a cool floor for our Obi.
Our next stop was the Pima Air and Space Museum. The museum was both air conditioned and dog friendly, so it seemed like a great place for Obi to get a little exercise and for my boys (especially the 52 year-old one) to get in some plane excitement. The museum was awesome, with giant hangars full of all kinds of aircraft. Harry was in heaven, and the boys had a blast. Obi loved meeting everyone in the hangars, and seemed almost surprised that he was allowed in there at all.
Now, the museum's gift shop was ice-cold, but the hangars were a bit warmer, and as we walked around, Obi started to pant. At one point, he just spread out on the floor – like he was trying to get as much surface area as possible on the cool, concrete floor. I quickly took him back to the gift shop to soak up more of their a/c. I wasn’t surprised when he didn’t want to leave to go back out into the heat and toward the car, but what worried me was that he didn’t want to drink. At all. He just flat-out refused. Hopeful that he was just tired and ready for another car nap, we got him in his crate, in the car, and then we were on our way again.
Along the 10 freeway in Arizona, there are dozens of billboards for something called, “The Thing.” I had no idea what it was, but before we left California, a few people had told me that it was a classic roadside attraction and not to be missed - 100% kitsch and right up our alley. I called ahead to see if pups were welcome, and we got an enthusiastic, “Yes! We love dogs!” So we decided to stop and check it out. And here, in the parking lot of "The Thing," our day took a frightening turn.
When Harry and I lowered the crate from the car, Obi refused to come out. Then, as he tried to stand, he slumped over to the side of the crate. He didn’t look tired or sleepy, he looked sick. Now I was really worried. I went inside and asked if we could bring in our entire crate, and the ladies at the counter could not have been more understanding. They said, “Of course! Whatever you need to do!” So in we came, with our giant crate, our peaked pup, and our worried boys. I finally coaxed Obi out, and he perked up a bit as folks came by to give him some love – meeting new people is his most favorite thing ever. Since he seemed a little better, Harry took the boys to see “The Thing,” while I stayed with Obi in the gift shop.
After they walked away, Obi laid back down. I sat on the floor with him, as the concerned staff looked on and new visitors arrived, stepping carefully over and around us to get to "The Thing." Everyone we met was so concerned, and, of course, they had a million contrasting opinions. “He’s clearly hot, but it’s weird that he’s not panting.” “He might be dehydrated, but his gums still look good.” “He’ll be fine, but you need to get him to a vet right away!” All of this while we were sitting in the middle of the floor by the cash register.
The boys come out almost as quickly as they had gone in and insisted that I go see “The Thing.” I left Obi with Harry and our eldest, while our youngest and I headed through the door and down the path to “The Thing.” I won’t give it away, but it was indeed a classic, kitschy, roadside attraction. A little scarier and hokier than I would have imagined, but, hey, it was only 75 cents. Of course, all I could really think about was Obi, so I practically sprinted my way through.
When I got back to the store, nothing had improved. Obi was still refusing water, still lying listlessly on the floor. I asked if there was a vet in town. No one knew of a vet for miles. We were supposed to stop that night in El Paso, but that was another 3 hours or so away. I was not about to wait that long. After a final goodbye from the lovely ladies in the gift shop, we loaded our sick pup back into the crate, and as Harry drove, I researched. First, I called our vet at home, but they were closed. Then, I called our vet’s 24-hour hotline, and while they were kind and supportive, they said that without seeing Obi, it was impossible for them to make any kind of diagnosis. I knew Obi had to see a vet, and fast. I found a 24-hour veterinary clinic in a town called Las Cruces, New Mexico. When I called to explain what was happening, they could not have been more kind. They said they’d be ready for us, and they would do everything they could to help Obi. So, I cancelled our hotel in El Paso, found a new one in Las Cruces, and on we drove.
I have to tell you, the 90 miles between that moment and Las Cruces, were the longest of the trip. I was trying so hard to hold it together - I didn’t want the boys to know how truly terrified I was. But it wasn’t just concern for Obi that was racking me; it was guilt. When we first read about the heat dome, we knew that our pup would be extremely vulnerable. And yet, we kept to our plan. Before we left, I read obsessively about how to keep a dog safe in extreme heat, and I thought we had done everything right. And yet, here we were. There were so many reasons to take Obi with us – it would be great socialization for him, we’d be so bonded after this, he’d learn to be such a great traveler – but really, I just didn’t want to leave him for such a long time. I wanted him with me, plain and simple. I fought so hard for him to come with us, and now, my selfishness had put him in danger.
Finally, finally, we reached Las Cruces. It was late, 10 pm or so, and everything around the vet was deserted. The veterinary hospital had bars on the windows, but the lights were on, and I knew there were kind souls inside. And I had to trust them, I just had to. Harry and I unloaded the crate and carried it inside, with the boys following closely behind. The staff greeted us so warmly. Obi stumbled out from his crate and immediately laid down on the floor. Our eldest went in the back to the bathroom, Harry filled out paperwork, and our youngest and I did our best to comfort Obi.
Just then, the door burst open, and a woman came in cradling something I couldn’t see, and she was screaming, “He’s been hit! He’s been hit! Oh, my god!!!” Before I knew what was happening, one of the veterinary assistants swept me, Obi and my boy into an exam room and shut the door, but still we could hear her screaming and crying. We heard footsteps running, voices talking, doors opening and closing, but mostly, it was the screaming, the horrific sound of someone’s heart breaking. My youngest son’s eyes were like saucers, and welling up with tears. Our eldest came into the exam room, ushered by the assistant, who had kept him from going back through the lobby and witnessing it all. As soon as the door closed again, we lost it. The three of us cried with worry for the lady, for her pet, for her heart, and for Obi. After a while, Harry came in and told us that the woman’s dog had been hit by a car, and while the vet had rushed out to help, it was already too late. The woman’s dog was dead.
And then our oldest boy asked, with equal parts fear and innocence, “Does that happen a lot?”
“What, love?” I asked in response.
“Cars. Do dogs get hit by cars? A lot? And do the dogs always die?”
Oh, my baby. I watched as a new, painful, understanding washed over his face. I pulled him and his brother close, as if I could literally hold their broken hearts together.
A few minutes later the vet came in, and Obi slowly started to perk up. He stood on his own and wagged his tail. This was HUGE given what we had seen over the last couple of hours. The doctor gave Obi a full exam and told us, “I can’t feel anything physically wrong with him. His temperature is slightly elevated, but I don’t think he’s overheated or dehydrated.”
We all cried again, but this time with relief.
To make a long story slightly shorter, after a variety of tests, Obi was given the all clear. The vet surmised that he had probably eaten something that didn’t agree with him (perhaps that delicious duck poop near a pond in Scottsdale? Hmmmm....), and that was the cause of his symptoms. The vet gave him a charcoal tablet to help clear any toxins, and then, after hours of refusing to even look at his water bowl, Obi drank three bowls full. This time, our tears were happy ones. After hugging and thanking every single person in that building, we headed to our hotel in Las Cruces for some much, much needed sleep.
As my head hit the pillow that night, I felt like I had aged 100 years. Not the superficial aging of the heat dome, but an aging of my heart and soul. Was it even possible that this was the same day that started with us all at the pool, laughing and taking turns on the water slide? No, not at all possible. We had been put through the ringer that day, and seen and heard things that would change us forever. But in the end we were all safe. A little worse for wear, but safe. I closed my eyes and said a prayer of gratitude for all the people who had helped us and supported us when we were so scared. I also prayed, hard, for Obi to wake up in the morning and be himself again. I prayed for him to try and bite me, to jump on the beds, to steal a sock and run around, to knock over his water bowl and traipse water allover the floor. All the things that had been driving us crazy in the cramped quarters of each hotel room thus far, I prayed with all my heart for them to return.
Day Five: Las Cruses, NM to Carlsbad, NM
In the morning, I nervously opened Obi’s crate. And there he was, my little canine baby, his eyes shining bright with health and mischief. Let’s just say, my prayer was answered...and then some. Obi bolted out of his bed and literally bounced off the walls. He leapt up on the the bed and jumped from there to the chair and on to the floor. He dug into Harry's bag and tried to steal the boys' stuffed animals. Clearly, he was back, stronger and more energetic than ever.
Finally, with the crisis behind us, we packed up and headed toward Carlsbad Caverns. We drove on with worn-out, grateful, and happy hearts, eager to have all that happened grow small in the rear view mirror, and hopeful for new adventures ahead.
Where We Stayed:
Where We Ate:
Tucson: Maynard’s Market
What We Did:
Tucson: Pima Air and Space Museum
Dragoon: The Thing