Having had it on good authority that the end of the world was coming on or about 12-12-12, Sparky decided that, what the hell, eating a large quantity of high grade chocolate was a better way to go than fire and brimstone or whatever the Mayans anticipated.
Unaware of his plans, I went out shopping. My husband came home, took him for a long walk, and when I returned, there was nothing to indicate the dog had found the Green & Black's I'd hidden for Santa's stocking stuffing. Neither of us went over to turn on the TV, or lounged on the sofa, where evidence of Sparky's crime was scattered in plain sight. Sarah Lund could have found this crime scene without her torch even, yet somehow we missed it. (We'd make lousy TV detectives.)
But that night, we should have known something was wrong. Normally Sparky settles down at bedtime, after a stuffed Kong to relax him. But on the night of the 12th, we were serenaded by a squeaky toy, while Sparky roamed the room, whining every time his toy fell under the bed. We muttered a lot about "that crazy dog", yet neither of us realized his behaviour indicated he'd ingested something odd, not even when he got up twice during the night to go pee.
I really should have known better.
It wasn't until the next morning, when I heard a noise in the living room, that I discovered the evidence of his chocolate binge. The remains of both Green & Black's packages were shredded, fortunately with the printed weight and ingredients still intact. Together they added up to 360 grams, a combination of 85% and 70% dark cocoa solids.
Now, Sparky's eaten chocolate before, with no ill effects. But that was always milk chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate buried in cookies. Not hardcore, high grade, luxury chocolate, and not 3/4 of a pound.
I had to get my husband to do the ounces-to-kg calculations, using several websites on chocolate toxicity in dogs relative to their weight. There was a lot of math involved, figuring out how many milligrams of theobromine (the toxic ingredient in chocolate) he'd actually ingested. Most of the websites were US-based, rating the sorts of chocolate available in America. I know that dark chocolate in the US is usually 60%, but even then it was clear that the amount he'd had was above the level at which 50% of patients die.
Yet unless we'd missed it in the dark, he'd shown no signs of vomiting or diarrhea, the symptoms of chocolate toxicity. Only excessive playfulness, as well as excessive thirst.
I rang the vet clinic and arranged to bring him in before they opened. His heart rate and temperature were normal, but since the half life of theobromine in dogs is 17.5 hours, the vet advised giving him activated charcoal to absorb any of the poison still in his intestines. He seemed surprised that Sparky had had no other ill effects from what could have been a deadly cocktail of theobromine and caffeine. Different dogs have different tolerances—no one should assume their dog is equally immune to the effects of dark chocolate.
Back at home, Sparky had a bad case of the zoomies—running around in big circles in the garden, a look of bliss on his face. Theobromine highs are pretty cool, as long as you don't know the danger of inhaling.
I started the day wondering if I'd be losing another dog in December, and ended the day grateful our crazy dog was still crazy, and alive.
And the world didn't end after all.