The Abbotts came in town Wednesday afternoon, right after Mom and I spoke at the Mother Daughter Cherished Lessons Webinar (which went very well, by the way).  It was an anticipated visit that was certain to advance our mediocre yet thoroughly entertaining film project, along with usual fun and fellowship.

Thursday morning was spent filming.  Thursday afternoon was spent knitting and taking a tour of weaving, etc. at Mrs. Nancy Lee’s home down the street.  Thursday evening was spent with the guys at the SCV meeting with a 19th century weapons display, while the girls where at home chatting.  A cookout at home soon followed (Dad’s cousin Nathan came over for that too).

Friday morning, Dad came inside and said that Rex looked sick.  I stepped outside to see our dog looking perfectly happy and normal, but then have a strange coughing/wheezing/gagging fit that lasted a few seconds and then disappeared.  This showed up roughly every 10, 15 minutes or so.  He didn’t seem terribly ill, but just had a horrible asthmatic sort of respiratory attack routinely.

At first I worried about the worst possible scenario: heartworms, which has coughing as a symptom.  But Rex, three years old, had never been sick in his life and was rarely in the company of other dogs which might have their disease spread by mosquito bites.  His collar wasn’t too tight, so that wasn’t the problem.  I wondered if perhaps he had swallowed a toad, since he often taunts toads for sport, only to gag himself on their toxic excretions.  I then wondered if perhaps someone had sprayed him with pepper spray.  He did have a lot of grease on his head, but we assumed that he got that from sticking his head under the grill while the hamburgers were cooking so he could lap up dripping grease.

I knew that one of the ladies who routinely stop by to check the meter is deathly afraid of dogs, and even though Rex is the most obnoxiously sweet and gentle dog anyone could ever know, his well-rehearsed “Who goes there?” salute would throw the woman into a frenzy.  But we didn’t even know if she came by that morning, so he could have come in contact with dangerous chemicals in some other odd way, such as crossing someone’s property.

I got out Juliette de Bairacli Levy’s book on natural dog and cat care to find respiratory remedies.  Mom, Ms. Lindy and I tried giving him various remedies – everything from our horseradish/ginger/garlic/apple cider vinegar, etc. super tonic to eucalyptus to honey/minced garlic/apple cider vinegar on bread.  I started asking questions on the internet regarding Rex’s symptoms.  When I asked on Yahoo! Answers I got quick responses telling me, “We can’t diagnose your dog online. You need to take your dog to the vet.  Get off your computer.”  That wasn’t particularly helpful.

The Abbotts were scheduled to leave early that afternoon.  Angela (age 10) asked and prayed to stay longer, but the schedule seemed pretty much set.  We all said our goodbyes, and the Abbotts drove off, leaving us Reads with our poor dog’s condition still unresolved.

Awhile later Mom got a phone call from Ms. Lindy.  Ms. Lindy said that while they were on the road she happened to touch her finger to her left eye and it began to burn.  The allergic reaction spread over her whole face and respiratory system, so much so that she didn’t think should could make the drive back to Tennessee (Mr. Abbott didn’t come for this visit).  She traced the cause of the reaction back to when she pet Rex before getting in the car…meaning that the pepper spray theory was very likely after all.

I stroked Rex’s fur again and upon closer examination noticed that the greasiness left a red oil on my fingers.  Abigail, Mary and I decided to go ahead and bathe Rex.  Mom wiped him of with a white towel, and the process left pink and red stains on it.  He apparently had an intense pepper spray dumped on his head and kept reinhaling it whenever he licked his fur.

The Abbotts returned and we had a nice extra evening eating a delicious dinner and munching on cookies.  It was a happy ending to a mysterious homestead style suspense.


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