It was an ordinary Saturday night for 18-year-old Aramiah Diggens and her beloved nine-year-old pooch, Baxter — before things took a turn for the worse.

Key points:

  • A red kelpie-Maltese shih tzu cross is recovering from surgery after eating a whole kebab
  • Veterinarian Phil Taylor opened his clinic out of hours to perform emergency surgery on the dog
  • Dr Taylor said if ignored the skewer could have perforated Baxter’s vital organs

Baxter, a red kelpie-Maltese shih tzu cross, keeps the Diggens family of Port Pirie on their toes with his loving but mischievous personality.

But this time, his shenanigans put him in a life-threatening situation.

Ms Diggens had picked up some kangaroo kebabs on her way home from work and, after cooking them on the barbecue, Baxter decided to be, well, Baxter.

“He’d tipped the plate, two of them had gone on the ground, I quickly stepped on one so he didn’t grab it, picked up the other two, and, there were four in the packet, so there was still one missing.

“We scoured the lawn and the whole backyard for easily 20–30 minutes — just to make sure that if he’d picked the meat off, he’d left the skewer somewhere.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Somehow, Baxter managed to swallow a kebab stick within seconds.(ABC North and West: Shannon Corvo)

Vet ‘removed the stick, left the meat’

Ms Diggens called the local veterinary clinic, but it was closed so she was referred to a 24-hour clinic near Adelaide, about two hours away.

Desperate for help, she contacted veterinary surgeon Phil Taylor from the Port Pirie Veterinary Clinic, who agreed to open the clinic to save Baxter.

He found an available assistant to perform the anaesthesia.

“People might think that they are [obliged to help], but they [vets] are under no obligation to help anyone on a weekend when they’re closed.”

Baxter in his “cone of shame” after his surgery.(ABC North and West: Shannon Corvo)

Dr Taylor said the Diggens family carried Baxter into the clinic to limit the potential for injury from the skewer stick.

He carefully felt the dog’s stomach.

After the pooch was prepped for surgery, Dr Taylor then began the delicate surgery.

“A skin incision was made and … I just moved the stomach, made an incision there, removed the stick — left the kangaroo meat behind in the stomach for Baxter — stitched him up, washed him down and stitched up the abdomen,” he said.

Baxter will have the scar to prove his extraordinary feat.(ABC North and West: Shannon Corvo)

More than just a dog

Two hours later, Ms Diggens got the call from Dr Taylor she was hoping for.

Baxter had been her “baby” for nine years, since she was a child, and he continued to have a calming influence on her.

“I so badly suffer with anxiety,” Ms Diggens said.

She considers Baxter her own unofficial emotional support dog.

“All I have to do is come outside and he’s in my lap and he’s making sure I’m OK,” Ms Diggens said.

She said at about 8pm Dr Taylor called her to say that the surgery went well.

Baxter is Aramiah’s “baby” and helps her cope with anxiety — usually.(ABC North and West: Shannon Corvo)

A warning to pet owners

Ms Diggens has warned other dog owners to be vigilant with their dogs around food.

“You may think that you’re holding it high enough, but trust me, you’re not,” she said.

Dr Taylor opened his clinic outside of hours to perform the emergency surgery.(ABC North and West: Shannon Corvo)

“If your dog wants that food enough, he will knock it out of your hands, and it will be gone.”

Dr Taylor said the sooner a pet could be treated in situations like this, the better.

“Baxter may have bled to death from that or a secondary infection.”