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The Yankee Express

Lincoln loses his bark

Nov 12, 2020 02:39PM ● By Amy LeClaire

Throughout the years, Lincoln has lost his dog license, winter coat, our socks, and the capability to “chill” during car rides. We never guessed that he’d, additionally, lose his voice—his bark! But that’s exactly what happened following a strange summer, that of 2020.

   A global pandemic had swept our nation, bringing forth an upheaval of illness, chaos, and political unrest. Social media had opened its doors to conflict regarding the effectiveness of masks, the closing of schools, and economic stress. Loved ones, hospitalized, fought for their lives. Peaceful protests and not-so-peaceful riots paraded through cities to fight for social justice. 

   Meanwhile, Lincoln, whose vote goes out to every human being, regardless of color, breed, or sex (though admittedly he leans towards the Gas Man) developed some peculiar breathing habits. He snored more intensely while asleep, and grumbled while resting in the morning. His bark became hoarse, the voice of an older dog, and he refused his dry dog food, sniffing it with suspicion, then turning away from his dish. He even learned to mime the gesture of a bark, opening and closing his snout on the air. “Hurry up and throw!”  The invisible bark became a clever adaptation. 

   His senior issues (he’ll be ten in December) hadn’t worried us terribly at first. “You think we should have him checked?”

   “He can’t be perfect,” I said to my husband. “He’s just changing. And he’s happy.” 

   He really was. He truly is. 

   But a new lump at his throat admittedly had us concerned. 

   A local veterinarian sent me home with a thorough examination, which included anti-inflammatory and antibiotic meds (to rule out cellulitis or infection), and paperwork suggesting the possibility of laryngeal paralysis, a common older Golden condition marked by the failure of the larynx to work properly.  The abductor muscles, I learned, do not expand and open as they should, which causes panting, respiratory gasping and anxiety in dogs: they realize they need to take a deep breath but can’t exhale.

   The information pressed against my eyelids. It was too serious for Lincoln, who nudged me to play. The larynx is said to be an underappreciated organ, “the cap of our respiratory tubing and guardian of the airway.” It also keeps whatever we want to swallow out and directs air in so that we don’t inhale our food. 

   I digested the words and gazed down at Lincoln, who smiled up at me. “Lie down!” I was momentarily mad at him and the vet and the overwhelming report wedged between us. He complied sensitively and rested at my heels, head over paws. I crawled to the floor, pulled his head to my chest. “You’re breathing is fine,” I said through tears. “This is not you.”

   The next few weeks proved that I was partially right. The lump at his throat decreased significantly and Lincoln, as though firming up the best-case scenario, boasted a roaring set of barks to scare away a flock of crows. He welcomed back his dry food (mixed with beef broth) and enjoyed organic chicken, steak, rice and eggs. He played fetch, hiked rigorously and drooled for Dunkin’s Munchkins. On sunny Fall days, he sunbathed on the deck and chewed away at the occasional maple leaf. He was undeniably Lincoln—strong, robust, affectionate and up for some fun. 

   Nevertheless, my partner in crime was not out of the woods yet. A follow up exam led to more “mystery” and suspicion. The vet had me feel with my own hands swollen glands, which were abnormally located in the laryngeal/thyroid area. He will need an ultrasound exam to better detect what might be early stages of—

   “Did you see that?” He catches the ball on the bounce, one of his expert defensive moves, rounds an invisible base, and gallops back to me, his regal Golden mane blowing like wheat against the wind. 

   Once again, I learn from my dog. Focus on what you love doing. Be present and joyful. Have some fun. Live for today. The rest will work itself out.

   Lincoln’s ultra sound had been scheduled for October 19. Stay tuned.