The Dog Days of Post-Surgical Recovery

I underestimated life with a Border Collie and that included her spay recovery.

A border collie in a corset, panties, and a surgical cone.

Ziggy, Ziggy, Ziggy.

Nothing is simple with this girl, I swear. She was spayed a week ago, and yet it feels like years have passed.

“Just keep her still and calm for 14 days,” the after-care paperwork read.

Our vet tech knew better. “She’s a border collie, it won’t be that simple.”

I packed her into the crate with her newly shaved and stitched parts and gathered the prescribed pain meds, sedatives, and more calming meds.

“You can double these if necessary,” the tech said, indicating the two calming medications.

“We will be fine,” I answered and instantly regretted my words, somehow knowing I would eat them in the coming days.

I’ve had dozens of dogs spayed in my lifetime between my own personal pets and rescues. Most just needed a couple of days of quiet and they were good to go. Still, we had prepared for Ziggy to be high maintenance. After all, why should this be any different than any other milestone in her first insane year of life?

We bought an XXL cone (when a medium should have sufficed) and custom fit it because we knew her long noodly body was capable of tying itself in a knot to get at her stitches. We bought an even larger crate to make sure she had plenty of room for her and her XXL 10-gallon cone to be comfortable for the next seven to 14 days if necessary. I bought hanging water bowls to ensure that she always had fresh water available. We set up a quiet recovery den and I cleared my calendar for the week. I was prepared. What could go wrong?

Day one. This dog is capable of admitting the most heartbreaking cry you’ve ever heard for 12 hours straight. I’m not talking just a little whimper here or there, I am talking Oscar-nominee-for-a-Nicholas-Sparks-movie mournful wail that you could hear three counties away. When she grows weary of the crying howls, she channels Janet Leigh in Psycho and screams like a Silver Screen movie banshee.

Oh yeah, that hanging water bowl? Stupid. The only thing left hanging is the half a dozen towels I used to clean up the mess and my wet pants after slipping in the puddle and landing soundly on my rear.

Day 2. The wail has been downgraded to a low moan that is somehow just as loud. It cycles every few hours on, 15 minutes off. We have to leash walk her to potty outside so, of course, it comes up a torrential downpour for several days. I break out the crate games for kibbles (and entertainment) and grind up treats to add to the water she will no longer drink except out of my cupped hand. I know now why recorded screams are used by foreign countries for torture.

Day 3. No one has slept in days. I can’t even tell any longer if the whining and sharp yips are coming from her or from inside my head. I tried at 3 a.m. to crawl inside the crate with her to see if she would quiet down. It seemed to work until the cone of shame swung at my face and busted my lip. I then immediately jumped up and back, which didn’t work as I was inside a dog crate with a 30-pound dog and her 10-foot wide cone. I limped back to bed with my mini concussion, torn lip, and warned my husband not to laugh or ever mention the incident again.

Day 4. My husband told me this morning at 4:45 a.m. that he doesn’t understand why people have kids if this is what it is like. It was mostly because it was his turn to get up with the “baby.” Every time we open the crate, Ziggy all but cartwheels out the door and has the nerve to act happy to see us.

When the vet tech called to check in, she reminded me I could double the calming meds and use a little ointment to help with the frenetic scratching at her incision. Upon checking the incision, I realize she has somehow managed to use her back foot to reach all the way into her lower abdomen and pick at her stitches. I inched up her meds, not quite doubling them yet, and prayed for a good night’s sleep.

Day 5. The ointment apparently makes the itching worse. I cut up a blanket and made Ziggy a snazzy corset to keep her toenails from ripping the stitches out. I tried to firmly explain to her that if she caught a toe on the incision she would effectually disembowel herself. She belched and licked my nose.

I am quite impressed with my handiwork on the corset and it seems to be working. She seems slightly calmer with the meds… until she launches into some form of canine breakdance inside the crate. This evening she is almost too calm on the double dose of meds, so we are upping her water intake to ensure she doesn’t get dehydrated. I feel like I’ve aged 10 years.

Day 6. Holy crap. The corset is working. Know what else is working? The meat water. That dog is so full of pee that it defies physics. We are taking turns sleeping and taking her outside multiple times a night like a new puppy. After doubling the meds, however, it seems to have solved the problem. Now, she just pees on herself while sleeping.

In addition to her fancy fleece corset, Ziggy is now sporting saucy pink panties to control the leakage. I have discovered Victoria’s Secret is that owning a border collie makes you a raging alcoholic and may induce temporary narcolepsy.

Day 7. Know what my aspirations were a year ago? Get a border collie and train her to run agility. Nowhere in my fantasy was there undressing that puppy 10 times a day to go potty, replacing her wet maxi pad, re-lacing her corset, snapping back the cone, and getting a few minutes to prepare new meat water to keep her hydrated. But it’s fine because I accidentally took her sedative this morning and I’m feeling much calmer now. One more week to go.

Woman, mother, lover, writer. I was once a journalist, and freelance writer, but now I am retired early and writing for myself.

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