This week’s ‘Stare of the Dog’ casts a glance at the difficult business of taking your hound to the vets, an experience that can for some dog owners be problematic and at times stressful. This was at least my own preconception of what to expect with Dudley, based on my memories of dragging our family pet to the surgery as a boy with my Dad.
In fact, the thought alone brings a shiver to my spine. The pair of us could be relied upon to bring cheer to the other bored pet owners waiting in line to see the vet, one of us pushing, the other pulling our uncooperative 40kilos of German Shepherd like a couple of piano shifters. The poor fella’s paws would always leave nervous sweat marks on the otherwise pristine tile floor as we advanced our progress to the practice room, inch by pain staking inch. Once inside and manhandled onto the table, an equally nervous vet would make pleading entreaties with us to ensure we anchored the poor hound’s four legs down firmly. Monty for his part stood proud, shackled like a jet fighter on an aircraft carrier and only able to offer growls by way of protest.
Eager not to repeat this performance every time Dudley fell ill or needed a jab or two, I was naturally overwhelmed with relief when I discovered just how easily he took the whole thing on our first visit as a young pup. In typical Labrador fashion, the exercise was viewed as little more than a food finding mission by the wee tyke as he set about devouring anything not nailed down. Thankfully, all subsequent visits to the vets have gone just as well, with our shameless food gathering brute happy to be bribed more easily than a five year old kid with little more than the twin attractions of human interaction and a good doggy treat or two by way of reward. So positive has the veterinary visit become in our house that the bill is usually the only thing we have to worry about, but that is not to say our trips there haven’t hit upon other non-anxiety based snags.
The premise of our first visit was simple enough, to give the little mite the once over and check his micro-chip was working, having only just taken receipt of him 24 hours prior. To begin with all was well. Appreciative noises could be heard emanating from the vet suggesting young Dud was very much in fine fettle, reason enough to exchange a proud glance and a virtual high five with my wife from across the operating table. Next up, the vet produced a hand held detector similar to those used by officious airport security staff and started sweeping methodically up and down Dudley’s perimeter like a farmer sewing rows of barley, all the while searching for the chip. For his part, the hound was only too happy to indulge the vet in in this game, not least because his spare hand was producing dog treats like a conjuror. By about the third sweep of Dudley’s pristine brown overcoat, it became apparent all was not well. “Strange,” said Ben the vet. “I can’t find a chip.” Another round of detection followed for good measure. A second vet and a second detector appeared next, but to no avail. By now our pint sized pooch was starting to attract the same level of attention as a suspicious package left at a train station. In the end, all parties conceded defeat and we booked a future appointment in for a new chip.
Other visits have been more serious, including the discovery of a nasty gash in Dudley’s front shoulder sufficiently deep and wide to necessitate taking our brave soldier swiftly to the vets for a shave, slice and stitch. Piling into the waiting room with his usual excited enthusiasm, Dud bowled straight over to the receptionist for a pat and a treat with the same sense of self-assurance as a man taking a bar stool at his local pub – despite his gaping wound. The cleaner on duty that day may not have been so inviting as the receptionist however. Though only in the waiting room a short while, it was time enough for him to pee against at least one doorway and daub blood trails across several surfaces, thus leaving the place looking like a crime scene or a crack house.
When picking him up that afternoon post operation, it was clear he bore no malice to the vet or nursing team, even managing a subdued Labrador bum waggle as he left and headed drowsily to the car. And that night, dressed in a T-shirt to help protect the wound, he lay on our lounge floor looking every bit as incongruous a sight as John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson did bedecked in Hawaiian shorts and shirts in Pulp Fiction’s most memorable scene.