My physician says I should eat a little aspirin every day, to keep the heart attacks away. She says I should do a few other things too, and I occasionally do some of these. But not every day. A little aspirin a day is easy, and it doesn’t mean I have to give up any of the good things I don’t wish to give up. But I take aspirin so my blood won’t clot so easily, for that is how you avoid some of those heart attacks. And that means I bleed something awful when I get bit or scratched. Like today.
One of the nice things about being a veterinarian is I have all the bandaging materials I might ever need, right there in the treatment room of my clinic. So when I do get ripped up in the course of staggering through an average day, and I need a big bandage for my arm, for instance, I just open the cabinet. As I sit here in my recliner chair, watching some drivel on the evening tube, I have a nice bandage on my arm, from my wrist up to almost the elbow. Keeps the blood off the furniture, and my better half appreciates that. And soon I will have another scar to add to the railroad map that is my forearms.
You might wonder how I managed to survive the tiger ambush, or the Rottweiler chomp. Was that an attack trained German shepherd, or a psycho Doberman that hunted me down? Or just perhaps a pack of rabid chimpanzees? Nope. Actually, my attacker was one of those beasts we veterinarians lovingly refer to as a “land shark”. Yep, it were one of those nasty evil things.
It was a Chihuahua.
A mix actually. One of those midget beasts of uncertain parentage that are all the rage these days, thanks to the tiny mutants that fill the purses of so many actresses and actors in the pages of the tabloids you read in line at the grocery store. This guy was all of seven or eight pounds, hardly an imposing monster. But you know what they say about “it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog”? Well, this little devil had his share of that fight in him.
The medical chart gave a hint to what lay ahead. New client. Puppy has had no vaccines. Age of puppy…unknown. I wandered out to the dog waiting room to fetch him in. He was a mostly grown 7 month old teenager of a dog.
Three generations of humans filled the room. The little doggie was on the floor, leash trailing behind him, with not a hint of a human hand on the other end. The snarling little darling came halfway across the room toward me as I entered, all growlbarkteeth. When the tail goes up and he stares right into your soul, he means business. And not one of those eight people made any attempt to control the dog, or correct his behavior. Great. Here we go again.
Been here before, you see. Don’t know when it happened, but it is now illegal to use the word no when you live with a land shark. You don’t want to hurt their feelings. You don’t want to break their spirit. And when the (you have to forgive me here, because you remember how when you were sixteen, and you saw an adult over, say, 25 years old, you couldn’t tell whether you were looking at a person of 25 or 60? Well, when you are my age, and the girl children dress like hookers and have breast implants and liposuction before they are fourteen, and you can’t tell if they are 13 or 35, it’s kinda hard to age some of them) young woman reaches out to hug the charming little dog into her bounteous bosoms, all those years of experience doctoring pets will tell you that this dog is going to be JUST a BIT spoiled. Because it’s that young woman’s first born.
We adjourn to the exam room, and the young woman places the dog on the table, and immediately unhooks his leash. And she turns and walks away. And the little dog air launches. My life goes into slow motion at that point. Visions of broken legs, busted teeth, bloody noses as I await the inevitable splat when he reaches the floor. The sound of his landing is chilling, but somehow he survives the equivalent of you or I popping out of a sixth story window. She laughs (?) and then plops him back on the table.
Now, I’ve played this game before. In fact I’ve played this game for decades, so I know that land sharks are generally fear motivated. They often have only lived with a few people, so everyone else is a stranger. They often live with men that follow the old rules that mandate kicking the dog after you’ve kicked the wife and kiddies, so I expect a land shark to hate men. They often have never left home, much less set foot upon mother earth, so anyplace else is an alien place to them. So I try all the tricks to put them at ease.
First, I try to put their people at ease, for if their people hate or fear mendoctorsmenvetsmen, the dogs will pick this up right away, and they’ll go all psycho on you. So I’m friendly, soft body language, baby talk the dog, high in the voice register, and don’t look the dog in the eye nice guy. Don’t approach the dog right away. Let everybody grow accustomed to the room. Tell a joke or six. Let the little beast smell the back of your hand. Pet em for a month or so before you begin any exam. You know, the usual tricks. Sometimes this works wonders.
But not today. Every single thing I try nets only growls and teeth. Fine. Sometimes the dog lays down the rules for the engagement. Well, I have my rules, too.
I expect to get to the end of the day with six fingers on each hand. This is not negotiable. OK five. Just wanted to see if you are paying attention. Two times five fingers is important, for if I run out of fingers I have to become a politician or something just to make a living. And I’d hate that. But I sure couldn’t do this work anymore, and I like this work.
So I slip my own lead around the little dog’s neck. This gives me a semblance of control of the dog without sacrificing any fingers. It gives me one last chance to pet the dog safely without exposing fingers to unnecessary risk. Sometimes this works.
But not today. The dog doesn’t like my leash. Soon I am playing him like a bass on light tackle. He pulls this way, I urge him back that way. He bites the leash. It’s not my finger. His young woman runs in tears from the room. The brilliant notion enters my head….Send the little dog home right now. Go home myself and have a drink and watch reruns of MASH. Save fingers and bloodpressure.
But no, I figure I can get him vaccinated and send him on his way and no one need get hurt, and with the young lady out of the room, there’s that much less drama to sweep up later. So I grab him by the scruff of his neck, and we tie his mouth shut and I do my exam and vaccinate him, and like always, he never even feels the injections. Everything is peachy.
Oh sure, the little dog did bit my tech as she tied his mouth, but he didn’t break the skin. And that blood all over the table is mine, from that 8 inch long incision he made in my forearm with a hind foot claw. But that’s just the dang aspirin.
Just another day in the trenches. And it’s over with no fatalities. Until the boyfriend opens his attitude.
Boyfriend doesn’t like how I handled his dog.
Ah, you have a very poorly behaving dog.
I choked his dog.
Ah, no. I know how to choke a dog. That wasn’t it. That was holding the biting end so no one was seriously injured by your dog. Well, you get paid to get bit. Ah, no. I get paid to try to help you, in spite of the fact that it is your fault that the dog is so poorly trained and socialized that he has become dangerous.
He never acts that way around us!
Well no, cause you have never made him do anything he didn’t want to do. What you just witnessed here was your dog attacking me because I tried to pet him. That is simply wrong. What you have here is a dog so dangerous that if he ever gets seriously sick, he is gonna die because no one will be able to treat him. He needs training now if it isn’t already too late.
Oh, and he needs a new veterinarian, for I will not see him again. And that too is your fault.
I work with poorly behaved dogs every day, but I have two rules that must be followed for me to do this.
Number one: you don’t laugh when your dog tries to hurt us. That should be self-explanatory.
Number two: you don’t blame me for your dog’s bad behavior. You apologize for your dog’s bad behavior. That would be polite.
I’m good at this, and I’m here to help your dog. I don’t get paid for YOU to let YOUR dog injure me or my people.
See that door marked EXIT?