“Last Saturday, she just wasn’t quite right,” says Donnell Hansen of her family’s 2-year-old rescue mutt. “She didn’t have her normal joy. She seemed a little down.”
Crickett was in good hands, though. Hansen and her husband are both veterinarians. Hansen is a specialist in dentistry and oral surgery at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Blaine and Eden Prairie; husband Brian Hansen is in private practice at Rice Creek Animal Hospital in Lino Lakes.
“My husband took her into work for an X-ray,” Hansen says. “Everything was pretty fine, although her spleen seemed kind of big. Nothing dramatic, though. We decided to give her time.”
Crickett, thought to be a cross between a pitbull and a French bulldog and weighing about 25 pounds, is the smallest member of the Hansen menagerie. The vets and their children, 4-year-old Duvall and 6-year-old Eli, also share their home with two Labs, Cody and Scout.
“About a year and a half ago, after my coonhound had passed away (from kidney cancer), my husband texted me a photo of Crickett and said, ‘This little dog is in our clinic right now,’ ” Hansen says.
When Hansen learned the little dog was available for adoption through Fur-Ever Home Rescue, she was ready to open her heart again.
“She had these adorable little bat ears,” Hansen says. “She looked like a little bat dog. Plus, I have a soft spot for bully breeds.”
Hansen grew increasingly worried about her little bat-eared dog.
“She was pretty good on Sunday — running around, playing, eating — but she was still off and she threw up once,” Hansen says. “By Monday, she seemed more in pain than ever.”
At this point, Hansen took Crickett for a checkup at her office.
“She had an ultrasound, which showed a big spleen and some fluid in her belly,” Hansen says. “Whenever that happens, you wonder, ‘Are they septic? Is there a cancer?’ There was inflammation but no obvious obstruction like apple cores or corncobs. We decided to give it 24 to 48 hours.”
Crickett’s condition continued to deteriorate.
By Tuesday, another symptom had popped up — literally.
“On Tuesday, some swelling — a bump — popped up on her belly,” Hansen says. “She didn’t like us touching it. We rechecked the ultrasound and found no changes, but she was in so much pain that clearly something was wrong.”
After conferring, the Hansens asked a non-family member, veterinary surgeon Andrew Jackson, to conduct exploratory surgery on Crickett.
“Usually, when you do exploratory surgery, you have an idea of what you’ll find,” Hansen says. “In this case, though, we weren’t sure, other than maybe cancer of the spleen.”
The surgery took place on Wednesday. The good news: It wasn’t cancer.
The bad news: It was a 7-inch wood skewer. (Unlike metal objects, wood ones don’t show up on X-rays.)”My first thought was, ‘That’s why she was in pain,’ ” says Hansen. “My second thought was, ‘I recognize that.’ ”
Hansen had seen the skewer six days earlier.
“I had gone to Amazing Thailand in Lyn-Lake for a wonderful late lunch with a girlfriend, no kids,” Hansen says. “I was feeling a bit guilty about that, so I decided to order something to bring home for the kids to eat that night.”
Somehow, in the happy chaos of family life and family dinner, no one noticed that one of the chicken satay sticks had disappeared.
“I’m sure Crickett swallowed it whole,” says Hansen. “It went down her esophagus and through her stomach, intestines and spleen.”
After the skewer was removed, the surgeon cleaned and stitched up the area.
By Friday, Crickett was home and feeling much better — even with her post-op pain.
“Even though she had just had surgery and there was pain from the incision, she was immediately better,” Hansen says.
The Hansens were already aware of how important it is to keep leftovers and other objects away from dogs. In just a few seconds, so much damage can be done. There’s another lesson here, too.
“Even when you have the best of intentions, dogs can get into mischief,” Hansen says. “It’s important to trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right.”
Also: “Forgive yourself.”
This incident has also helped the family realize how important Crickett is to them. Upon her homecoming, Eli made his dog a promise. Recalls Hansen: “He said, ‘Crickett, I will protect you and love you with my whole heart.’ ”
Share your turning point with Molly Guthrey at email@example.com or 651-228-5505.