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It was supposed to be a London getaway with my kids.

The dog and I had checked into our AirBnB the night before and gone for an early morning walk. I came out of the bathroom to find she had carefully removed each tissue from the brand new box and laid it out in a circle around herself.


My dog just stared at me. Well, she tried to anyway. Her head was swaying slowly from side to side. She looked like she was trying to remember my name. Or hers.

“Peri!” I tried again, sharper this time.

She staggered to her feet, took a couple of stumbling steps, and fell over. This couldn’t be good. Was it a stroke? Heart attack? I thought longingly about our wonderful vets back in Scotland, but they were 450 miles from London. I reached for my phone, and Siri connected me to the nearby pet hospital in Hampstead, who said they could see us in a couple of hours. I looked at Peri, but she was back to waving her head gently side to side, something invisible over my right shoulder claiming her attention, while the released tissues blew in a scented blizzard around the room.

My daughter texted they could take us to the vet’s office, whenever we were ready. The appointment wasn’t for hours. I looked at Peri, who was now lying on her back and drooling. “Now would be good.”

When our appointment rolled around, I watched as the vet examined Peri, lifting her paws one by one. As if she couldn’t quite remember what to do with the released paw, Peri would solemnly topple over in that direction. Frowning, the vet got out her stethoscope and listened to Peri’s inner workings. Neither of them looked pleased.  She is epileptic, I explained, but this didn’t match any seizures she’d ever had. Then I tried to watch the notes the vet typed onto the exam room computer.

  • Swaying after walking in Queens Park.
  • Known scavenger.
  • High body score (overweight)
  • Ataxia

When the vet left the room, I quickly googled. Ataxia is a non-specific clinical manifestation implying dysfunction of the parts of the nervous system that coordinate movement, such as the cerebellum,” Wikipedia helpfully supplied. Great. My dog’s head was not in charge of her other bits. The suspicious damp patches where she’d been sitting backed that up.

When the vet came back, she explained her findings so far. The symptoms, she told me, could have been caused by a number of things such as stroke or even heart attack. But… “Has she had any narcotics, especially marijuana?”

“Huh?” I stared. “My dog’s a stoner?”

“Her symptoms do match what we see in marijuana overdose.” The vet’s tone was conversational, as if telling me her symptoms matched the common cold.

I assured her the dog hadn’t been raiding my stash. The vet nodded in an I-wouldn’t-dream-of-passing-judgement-here way.

“No, really!” I wondered if I was protesting too much, and the vet was even now notifying doggy social services about my unfit pet-parenting.

We all agreed that Peri should check into the hospital for a round of tests including an ultrasound. I was a basket case as I said goodbye, but my dog was remarkably chill.

My kids wanted to cheer me up, so we went out to lunch in a famous old London pub whose window decor includes a mystifying taxidermied something (fox? badger? confused poodle?) wearing an enormous hat. We followed our server through a maze of rooms where the ceilings got lower and lower. Finally, at the back of the very last room, he waved us to a table. We never saw him again. Did I mention that we had a two-year-old in the party? It’s possible that the level of service was not actually on the scale of geological ice ages, but again…TWO-YEAR-OLD. She was not impressed with the amount of time it took to supply her with restaurant food (which, to her, meant of course french fries). We were not impressed with the equally glacial amount of time it took to get them to take our orders and muuuuuuuuuch later actually bring food.

When it came time to pay, I picked up my plate and eventually tracked down one of the waiters. “There was a stone in my pasta,” I confided, handing him said pebble.

He shook his head. “That’s not even close to being the weirdest thing I’ve seen here.”

I paid and left. As we exited, the animal in the window now looked like it was trying to escape. It had all my sympathy.

We went to the theater that night, and I raced for the lobby at intermission. There was a message from the vet. They confirmed her drug abuse diagnosis, said the dog was doing much better, and she would be ready to go home in the morning.

This morning, Peri bounced out to greet me, clearly hoping we’d go for another walk in that great park so she could score her next fix. I took a look at the vet’s bill for Peri’s marijuana party, and thought I’d need one too.

So here we are on the train back to Glasgow. The two very nice ladies sitting across the table from me—the same ones who said they loved dogs and wouldn’t mind at all if Peri sits under our table—are now both looking at me in glassy-eyed shock. There’s a cloud of audible (!) doggy farts rolling through the coach, causing grown men to look faint and a few to run for the door. Apparently, the food in the pet hospital was… potent.

Peri has just sighed in relief, and is now asleep on my feet.

Nothing like a weekend getaway to make you appreciate traveling home!

So…ever had a getaway that didn’t quite match your expectations?