Thursday, September 17, 2009

Brownies, PTSD, and the Nine Lives of Red Rocket

I have a meeting in the morning with the Chief Information Officer/Associate Vice-President of Academic Affairs. He’s an amazingly energetic man who seems to perfectly balance teaching with administration, networks with zeal, and has an unbelievable ability to look with vision to the future. I know that behind every incredible man like him is an equally incredible administrative assistant who schedules, runs interference and problem solves with skill and acumen. And in the case of our CIO I’m positive his administrative assistant is a whiz because she’s one of my former students! So, this afternoon I was thinking that I should take her a little gift in the morning, something special but casual. Brownies would be good. But as I unwrapped the individually bundled squares of unsweetened baking chocolate to start the batch I was seized by a wave of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And this is where I must confess that another reason for my long hiatus from the Red Rocket Report is that a week after Emma died Red Rocket ate a half-pound of baking chocolate and nearly died too…

It never would have happened if Emma were alive. She guarded everything with a vengeance: the house, me, food left out on the counter, Edward, the cats, food left on the coffee table – she was more formidable than the Berlin Wall, Fort Knox and Area 57 combined. So, without her to stand guard, while we were at work and Edward was at school one morning, Red Rocket hopped onto a dining room chair, onto the dining room table and unpacked a large grocery bag of non-perishable items I had left on the table. Kleenex (not tasty enough), macaroni and cheese (too crunchy), can of green beans (too difficult to access), large bags of pecans and walnuts (a possibility but looks too much like dog kibble), hmm…look at this lovely orange box that smells to heaven and is so easy to rip apart. This is wonderful, I will carefully unwrap each delectable ounce and consume it with gusto. All seven pounds of me eating all 8 ounces of this luscious, sweetly-narcotic, dog toxin…

I arrived home at 4:00 and immediately knew something was wrong. Red Rocket didn’t greet me at the door. He was hunched over the pillows on the sofa, shaking, crying. When I lifted him up and set him down on the rug his legs collapsed and he fell to the floor. I grabbed him, I grabbed Edward, and 30 seconds later I was speeding toward Dr. Olson’s. I called my husband on my cell phone on the way, “Something’s terribly, terribly, wrong with Red Rocket!” He confessed: he had found an empty box of chocolate on the dining room floor at Noon but everyone seemed fine. He e-mailed me and left me a phone message but I was in meetings all afternoon and didn’t receive the report. I hung up on him. I raced through Eastborough at 45 MPH determined that the cop running radar could just follow me to Dr. Olson’s – but the angels were watching and the radar gun was off. I wove erratically in and out of traffic with Red Rocket writhing on the seat beside me. Pray, pray, please Emma…make him be alright. Another sharp weave around someone awaiting a left turn. “Wheeeee!” Edward exclaims from the back seat. Hang on, baby, please Rocket hang on. Another weave to try and sail through the yellow light and that’s when it happens. Lurching car, rolling stomach, Red Rocket opens his mouth and a creamy smooth cascade of chocolate dog vomit runs like lava over the edge of car seat, down the side of my linen computer purse, to pool and bubble on the car mat. The sickly sweet aroma permeated the stuffy air of the car and the sight and smell evoked memories of a chocolate fountain on a dessert display table at a half-million dollar wedding I once attended in New York years ago. Cell phone: call Dr. Olson and prepare him for poison control. I sped into the parking lot honking my horn. Sarah came running out. “I think he’s dying!” I yelled as I shoved his limped, chocolate-vomit covered body into her arms.

Friends who have heard this tale are all in agreement: Red Rocket must have a strand of feline DNA encoded with nine lives in his genetic make-up. After four days of IV fluids, charcoal infusions, heart rate monitoring and blood tests he emerged happy and energetic as ever: but with seven lives instead of the eight he had after the car hit and amputation. We plan on making them the best seven lives of his life.


  1. Oh Annette I can't tell you how glad I am that this particular story had a happy ending!! What a scare he gave us!!

  2. Thank you for sharing about Red Rocket and especially about your recent scare. I am confident that you and Red Rocket have saved other pets' lives by sharing your story about chocolate, especially with Halloween and holiday baking around the corner!

    I'm so sorry about Emma. We used pet services as well after losing 2 of our cats.

    Thanks again for taking time to share your pictures, stories, and humor. Red Rocket and his siblings are fortunate to be in your home.

  3. That must have been incredibly scary. I am so happy to hear he's recovered and safe.

  4. Angelsmom: the guilty "bad dog parent" voice in my head hated to post this story but your comment puts our plight into a positive light: 2 ounces of chocolate (less than the size of a regular Hersey bar) can kill a dog and sadly dogs LOVE chocolate. If Red Rocket's story reminds people to put the Halloween candy in the cupboard and makes them think twice about putting wrapped Christmas chocolates under the tree then I'm glad I overcame my guilt and posted the saga!