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September 16th, 2012

Dead ‘n Berried

Posted by GerrysMom in Uncategorized    

Hi all,

Gerrysmom here, because I’m pretty sure ol’ Ger still doesn’t get the seriousness of this issue, so he can’t be trusted to blog about it. ūüôā¬† I believe it was Rene I stole the title for this blog from – thanks!

I’m going to show you some pictures now and want you to stop and think to yourself EVIL for each one, ‘k?¬† Alright, here we go:

Apologies – not all would focus as well as I wanted, but using some of them anyway because they show the hole in the middle of the berry-like structure that holds the seed inside.


Alright, so what you’ve been looking at are my former yew bushes from my yard.¬† Not sure if¬†they were¬†the Japanese or Canadian variety.¬† Used to have them at the house I grew up in too, but never knew what they were called.¬† I had a vague memory of either my mother or my grandmother telling me those berries were for birds only and would be poisonous to me.¬† My brother and I had our GI Joes collect them for food instead.¬† A couple weeks ago, I realized I had better try to find out¬†what kind of bushes they were,¬†when I caught Gerry pluck a “berry” (it’s not technically a berry, but since I’m not a botanist, I shall keep calling them that) off one and swallow it.

It seems obvious in retrospect that I should have worried about him doing something like that.¬† I don’t call him Gerry Berry just cause it rhymes.¬† He’s been snatching¬†other sorts¬†berry-like fruits¬†off the sidewalk in my neighborhood since I brought him home.¬† I discourage it as much as possible and fortunately whatever he managed to get never made him sick.¬† (I really should look them up now that we’re between catastrophes though).¬† He never seemed interested in the yew bushes in the¬†almost three years I’ve had him¬†though, except for hunting the chipmunks that tried to hide among them.

So googling a description of a plant and trying to find them that way, not so easy, so it took me a couple days.  Once I had the right name, the ASPCA website is the place to go for quick answers!  Or for really quick help, I expect you can call their emergency poison hotline too, but by the time I knew I found the right type plant, it was pretty certain that we had dodged a bullet.  (This is the number for the hotline: 1-888-426-4435).

How did we dodge a bullet, when according to one website usually the first symptom of yew poisoning is “sudden death”?¬† Well, from what I’ve read, every part of the bush is poisonous, even when they’re dried up and dead, except for the red fleshy part of the berry.¬† Inside the berry though, the seed is still deadly as hell.¬† But if the seed remains in tact (is not chewed), it will generally pass through undigested and then no harm done.¬† So, as with most things, pretty sure Ger just sucked it down.¬† Phew!

Now, Gerry had a freaky disturbing two days over Memorial Day weekend, which you maybe saw me post about a while back.¬† He had 4-6 bizarre episodes and that looked to me like he was having terrifying hallucinations.¬† And they seemed to scare him more each time they happened.¬† Maybe if I had them test for toxins right after the first episodes they would have seen something, but instead they checked him over, told me it really sounded like more of a behavioral event than a physical one, and so I don’t think we did any blood tests or anything that visit.¬† Then the incidents continued and when the same thing occurred 60 miles away out of the blue (but at the same time of day as his first episodes) I figured calling this something behavioral (that something external was scaring him) was ridiculous and then they did the works as far as testing (blood test, MRI, abdominal ultrasound, chest x-rays, etc) and found nothing.

Then, they never came back.¬† Which has been great, but also very unsettling to not¬†know what they were.¬† When I came across this description of symptoms of yew poisoning (the ones that can occur if the eater doesn’t just straight up and die), I thought, “Oh my God, this is it”:

Signs: “Found dead” is the typical presenting sign. Very rarely dogs will show signs up to 2 days later: trembling, slow heart rate, respiratory difficulty, stomach upset and diarrhea. Yew is exceptionally toxic, with one mouthful able to kill a horse or cow within 5 minutes. Dogs may be poisoned accidentally when yew trimmings are thrown into the yard or when yew is planted as an ornamental within their reach. There are infrequent reports of stomach upset, diarrhea, seizures and aggressive behavior occurring after dogs chew the leaves.

( )

BUT I probably won’t ever actually know for sure.¬† I was pretty confident for a time that exposure to my housemate’s dog Vectra 3D had caused Gerry to have those weird seizures.¬† However, while I saw a lot of disturbing claims about Vectra 3D, it took a lot of digging to find any that sounded close to what happened with Gerry.¬†¬†This sounds closer.¬† And while¬†I don’t think the bush had any berries at that time,¬†the bushes had recently been¬†pruned.¬† If he had¬†picked up and carried a branch around (he loves to carry things, though not often branches) – I’m sure I wouldn’t have thought anything of it.¬† And apparently, that could have been enough.

So, hopefully all your pups love only the thigns you give them, but if any of them are munchers and grazers like Gerry take a little timeout for a botany lesson and figure out what plants you have around.¬† Got those yew bushes dug out.¬† I’m still a little paranoid that there could be a stray berry or branch somewhere that Ger will stumble upon.¬† Sure don’t want to test our luck any further!¬† When I stop and think about it, I can hardly believe I didn’t lose my Gerry Berry to those bushes.

Gerry here!  Enough obsessing, Mom.  Give the people what they really want Рmy birthday pictures!  I allegedly turned 5 over Labor Day weekend.  My presents were a new stuffed beehive with squeaky bees inside Рfrom my Auntie Jen in Virginia Рand a walk through this really cool woodsy trail mom found not very far from our house:

That yew berry was tasty by the way… uh oh, think I just lost my Internet privileges for a month…¬† I take it back!¬† Yew berries are yucky!!¬† Yew = Ewwww!




  1. Hahaha good title guys!

    Gerry, silly dawg, don’t you know there are better things out there to eat? Horse poop. Moose turds. Deer pellets. Geez, do I need to come on up and give you a lesson?

    Hoppy birthday old man! I can’t believe you are five!

      wyattraydawg — September 16, 2012 @ 3:40 pm   

  2. I hope there are none of those killer berries down under. Yikes!

    I have to tell you Gerry, you have a huge tongue! It’s almost as big as your head. I ain’t seen anything like it (sorry, don’t mean to be rude but I had to say it).

    Wyatt Ray has the right idea. Poop is much safer than plant stuff. I’d stick with that.

    Spirit Magnum

      princess — September 25, 2012 @ 10:28 pm   

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