In the spring of 1992, Alex the dog (who was then just four years old) and I were newly transplanted to California, where I’d moved for my first real job in the private-sector, writing software at an e-mail startup called Z-Code. Andrea had not yet followed us from Pittsburgh. To help us get settled, Z-Code’s founder, Dan, let me and Alex live with him for a couple of months.
One afternoon I came home to find the shredded remains of a Hershey’s “Big Block” chocolate bar wrapper on the floor. It had been on a table and Alex had obviously reached up and devoured it.
I knew that chocolate is poison to dogs. I grabbed the Yellow Pages and looked up the local veterinary emergency number. They told me that I needed to induce vomiting. To do so, I needed a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a plastic syringe to squirt the stuff into Alex’s mouth a bit at a time.
A big drug store was three long blocks away. I ran. The day was quite hot, and by the time I got back to Dan’s house, panting, gasping, and sweating, I was ready to vomit.
There was Alex, looking perfectly happy, completely unsuspecting of what was about to happen to her. I took her onto the back deck with the peroxide and the syringe, sat her down, and squirted some into her mouth. She obviously hated it. When I came near her for another squirt she tried to slink away and I had to grab her in a headlock. Then again. And again. She seemed no nearer vomiting (or dying from chocolate, for that matter), but she was increasingly unhappy about the situation. For my part, I was completely miserable: torturing my sweet pup under the blazing sun, already wiped out from my dash to and from the store, sweat pouring off me, cursing because Alex won’t stay put. I took a break from feeding peroxide to Alex and we retreated to opposite corners like prize fighters. I waited for any signs of imminent vomiting but there were none, so I picked up the syringe again and resumed.
Twenty long, hot minutes later Alex’s face finally began screwing up in the familiar grimace that signals an upcoming barf — but she was still not quite there yet. I didn’t have the heart to keep pouring that stuff down her throat — I hadn’t for a long time by this point — but I forced myself to continue on the purely intellectual knowledge that responsible dog ownership required me to. (Any emotional sense of alarm I initially felt was long gone.)
Finally Alex backed away from me; her sides heaved a few times; she pointed her mouth at the ground; and out it came. Not much, and I saw no sign of chocolate in it, but I had no idea whether I should. I didn’t know if more vomiting was to follow, so we had to wait outside, the late-morning heat making everything worse. One thing was certain, I decided: whether or not Alex threw up more, I was done with the peroxide. I went inside for a big glass of water, brought it out, and drizzled it over Alex. She seemed grateful.
After a while she recovered. We both went back inside and cooled off. I hung out with her and made sure she knew I still loved her. That afternoon, by way of an apology, I took her for her first-ever visit to a dog park, the then-brand-new, trailblazing Remington Dog Park in Sausalito.