Tag Archives: dogs

My Elite, Top 5 Favorite Patients

9 Mar

I love the majority of patients that come into the clinic. Of course, mean cats and misbehaved dogs are par for the course, but in general, I love animals, and I love working with them. However, there are a few that are special. Some of my patients and I have a special bond, and I end up thinking of them as my own. It happens to all my co-workers. No rhyme or reason, the heart wants what it wants. I started referring to my beloved patients as an elite top 5.

ELLIE MAE

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My darling Princess. One of the owners of the clinic, Dr. S, has a special affinity to pugs. We work with a pug rescue organization and have become known as the premier pug veterinary hospital in New York. Therefore pugs have a special place in my heart. Ellie Mae is one of the greatest pugs, and for us, it was love at first sight. Those tiny black ears, her feminine cankles, the grey fur on her chest. She has back issues and walks with an odd little strut that drags her back legs. I think she is perfection. I’ve become friendly with her owner and take care of her when she’s out of town. And despite the fact that she pooped on me once when I was putting booties on her feet before we walked in a blizzard, she’s still a special, special dog to me.

RAJA

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I took this picture of Raja, because it is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. I often refer to her as “My Cranky Darling.” She has horrible allergies which cause her to have scabby pustules on her body and horrible, goopy discharge from her eyes. She is also VERY protective of her owner. Whenever I go into the room, she growls and snarls at me. Her owner and I laugh a little as she hands me the leash. Raja trots along behind me, willing to walk, but growling with displeasure. Once we are in the treatment area and away from the owner, she is a sweet, loving dog. This was after Dr. N changed up her treatments and recommended special grooming. I think it’s her sass and chubby waddle that stole my heart.

MR PHELPS

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Blurry picture, because he’s so squirmy! At heart, I’m a dog person, but cats play a huge role in my work life, so I had to squeeze one in. Mr. Phelps was born with a genetic abnormality. He’s about half the size of a normal domestic shorthair, he’s missing an eye, and he has a deformed front leg. But all his flaws add up to perfection in my eyes. He comes in every couple of weeks for nail trims, and I love going to the front area, throwing my arms up and joyously announcing, “It’s Mr. Phelps!” His owner does it right back at me as we have a duet of announcing Mr. Phelps.

RAFFEE

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Raffee is a classic rags to riches tale. His owner was summering in Florida when she saw Raffee alone and running around on a tennis court. Once she was back in New York with him, he seemed off to her, so she brought him in. During the routine exam, I noticed he felt cold. We took his temperature, and it was something in the 93, 94 range. A dog’s normal temperature is 101.5, so something was very wrong. We ran bloods, and Dr. L racked her brain trying to figure out what was going on. I did all a technician could do. I heated up some water bottles and plugged in an electric blanket. I bundled him up with the warming aids and held him close to me. With that temperature, he was only a couple of hours away from dying. He kept staring into my eyes, and it was the first time as a technician where I could sense the gratitude of a patient. Dr L figured out that he has Addison’s Disease which is a manageable adrenal disease. Within a couple of days, he was fixed. He’s so very special to me, because I’m convinced that he remembers me from that time. When he comes in for his steroid shot (that’s why he’s so fat), he runs straight to me , tail wagging. He’s a perfect example of why I love my job and why it feels good to do what I do.

MELVIN

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An underbite is the quickest way to my heart. And I have encountered no finer underbite, than that of Melvin. An amazing puggle that boards with us occasionally. He’s such a great dog and always down for a belly rub. He can shake hands, dance, roll over. Swoon! His owner is one of our more difficult clients, but she is tickled by my adoration of her dog. She started calling him my boyfriend and making a big deal of bringing him in to see me…his girlfriend. I mean, I’m at a point in my life where a relationship doesn’t really fit, and I’m enjoying being single and focusing on moving myself forward. BUT, Melvin is a real catch, and I could definitely could see myself settling down with him. Total boyfriend material.

 

Foreign Body Stories

26 Oct
Not a foreign body, but the largest bladder stone I've ever seen. Pretty impressive!

Not a foreign body, but the largest bladder stone I’ve ever seen. 

Veterinary medicine amounts to a lot of detective work, a lot more so than in human medicine. People can tell you where it hurts, what funny thing they ate recently. Animals can’t. As a survival mechanism, in fact, many animals do their damnedest to not show pain or weakness. This means we have to look at other clues that might demonstrate what is going on.

The last month or so, we have seen a lot of foreign body cases, more so than normal. Almost as if some astrological alignment is causing dogs on the Eastern seaboard to ravenously eat whatever is handy. They come in with the symptom of unproductive vomiting and lethargy. Sometimes these foreign bodies show up on x-rays, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we induce vomiting, and the dog produces whatever it is it ate, sometimes we have to perform abdominal surgery to remove whatever is obstructing.

These cases become party anecdotes I tell people with office jobs who seem entranced and fascinated by my non-traditional job. Some of the more interesting ones:

  • The Shih Tzu that ate a used maxi pad….out of the next door neighbor’s garbage.
  • The Labrador Retriever that ate a tennis ball, had to have surgery to have it removed, then ate another one a month later. Owner was not pleased.
  • Same story, smaller dog. And instead of tennis balls, it was baby socks. And instead of doing it twice, the dog ended up having three surgeries.
  • A Standard Poodle that ate a Timbaland boot! All we could see on x-rays were round metallic circles in the intestine which turned out to be the shoelace holes. The vet had to pull out a large amount of shredded canvas and leather. Once we looked it over, Dr. N found the small tag with the tree logo.
  • An adorable King Charles Cavelier that ate an acorn. How cute and lady-like!
  • The Portuguese Water Dog that got into the owner’s hamper and vomited a pair of her underwear at home. The owner brought her in to have her checked out, and after inducing more vomiting, she vomited in four small piles, four socks. A pair of the owner’s and a pair of the husband’s.
  • The beagle that ate a wine cork. According to the owner it was a choice wine too. So, at least the dog has taste.
  • My favorite, though, is a story Dr. S told us from when he was a new vet, some 30 years ago. He did a foreign body surgery on a dog and found a pair of panties lodged in the intestine. When discharging the dog, he handed the owners the underwear in a plastic bag. The woman looked down at them and said, “Those aren’t mine.” Dr. S had no choice but to slowly back out of the room.

Any techs out there have any good foreign body stories?

Petra

4 Aug

Summer is a slower time of year at our veterinary clinic. The majority of our clients are at their summer homes either on Long Island or somewhere more exotic like Turks and Caicos. But we still have our steady flow of the regular ingested socks and injured paws. We also have a lot of boarders.

Petra is an heiress Maltese. Her owners passed away and left a giant trust-fund in her name. I have never seen her board with us until last weekend. She came in on a Thursday along with her special food (complete with instructions on how she likes it served) and a fluffy silk pillow that she likes to sit on. We set her up in a cage, and she perched herself on her throne.

The next day, I noticed that she had green/yellow eye boogers crusting on her face. She had even scratched her top knot ponytail trying to fix her eyes. She ended up looking like emo llama.

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This gave me the giggles all day, and my co-workers and I kept making fun of her as she moped on her pillow. When we got a break in the day, I took her out of her cage and along with Dr. N we cleaned up her eyes…and I fixed her ponytail.

The next day, she had her emo llama look back on, along with fresh eye boogers gooping her snowy white fur. So when I got a moment (late in the busy day), I took her to Dr. N and asked if maybe we could examine them. She did a Schirmer tear test which checks for dry eyes caused by immune-mediated issues. Her eyes were bone dry. So once again, we cleaned them up, and this time Dr. N prescribed two different eye ointments which we applied to her dry little orbs. I fixed her ponytail (girl’s gotta look good) and put her back in her cage.

When I walked by an hour later, a whole new dog greeted me.

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She was all smiles, doing twirls around her cage, making polite little yips. All the emo gone from her. I went to get Dr. N. We stood in front of Petra’s cage as she twirled and twirled.

“I just figured this is probably why you became a veterinarian,” I told the doctor. “You made a difference.”
“This is better than Prozac!” she said, smiling. We enjoyed the moment before we had to rush off to the next appointment. But those little moments. They’re everything.

Tulip Marie

13 May
Tulip's first day at the clinic

Tulip’s first day at the clinic

About a month ago, we had a nameless, rescue pug dropped off at the clinic. By her drooping belly, we could tell that she was far along in a pregnancy. She was shy, timid, and terrified. We dubbed her Tulip, and I figured out that all she wanted to do was sit in someone’s, anyone’s, lap. I was happy to lend her mine.

That night, after I had left, she gave birth to two puppies. One was stillborn. The next day, the overnight tech relayed to me the story of how he tried CPR on the tiny body and how when it didn’t work, he presented Tulip the puppy so she could see it was dead. He told me how she pressed on its chest with her paws, how she licked its nostrils, trying in her own way to revive the lost pup.

“I never see a dog do that in my life,” the night tech told me, pointing to the pug. “That’s a special dog.”

Despite her efforts to nurse the other puppy, it passed away the following day, leaving her with none.

Tulip with Upper East Side tulips.

Tulip with Upper East Side tulips.

I felt so heartbroken for her that in my downtime at work, I let her snuggle on my lap while I petted her and hugged her and told her it was all going to be okay. And over the course of a day or two, she became attached to me. She is a friendly dog who will like most anyone, but she had it made up in her mind that I was her one and only. She insisted on following me everywhere I went, always at my heel. When I left the room without her, she would cry and howl until I came back. And when I came  into work in the morning, she hopped around me, barely able to breathe from the excitement.

I fed into it too. I loved being so adored, so chosen by her. I continued to let her sit on my lap during my downtime. I cleaned her face folds and ears, daily, got her a pink harness and a gold-striped collar. I even came in on my day off to pick her up and take her to Central Park for the day. After all, that’s what people do with their dogs. They take them to the park and lay in the sun together. And she felt like mine. We felt like two peas in a pod. Two kindred spirits. She was my sidekick, and my partner in crime.

When I brought her back to the clinic after out day in the park, I gushed to all my co-workers about how much fun we had together.

“Look at you!” Dr. N said. “You have that great first-date, falling in love glow!”

Asleep in my lap, her favorite place.

Asleep in my lap, her favorite place.

And I was in love with her. I found myself overjoyed to head into work in the mornings. I couldn’t wait to walk in and see her snorty, lolly-gagging tongue face. But a bitter-sweetness tinted everything, because I knew we were star-crossed and not meant to be. I still can’t have pets in my apartment, not to mention my supplemental income of pet-sitting that requires me to stay at other people’s apartments anywhere from 6-12 days a month. That’s not the kind of life a wonderfully puglet like my Tulip Marie deserves. Throughout our love affair, I was well aware that the rescue organization that brought her to us already had a couple of prospective homes lined up for her.

So it hurt every time I left work, and I could hear her howling for me as I walked out the door. And I shed a couple of tears when I hugged her goodbye before leaving on my vacation last week. I knew that it was likely the last time I would ever see her. She’s such a loving, special dog that I know she’ll find a good owner that will love her and bond to her as much as I did. And I know that things are all seemingly falling into place in my life, the pieces are coming together and not too long from now, I will be in a position to adopt a dog of my own who will hopefully live up to the greatness that is Tulip. But I will always hold a special place in my heart for the Spring romance I had with her. It was special. She was special. My Tulip Marie.

Our day in the park together.

Our day in the park together.

Burnt Well Guest Ranch, New Mexico

19 Feb

In my 29th year of life, I’m attempting to do 29 new things. Full List Here. All Bucket List Adventures Here.

Overlooking the land with Candyman (my horse) and Charlie (right).

Overlooking the land with Candyman (my horse) and Charlie (right).

I found out that I had one vacation day that was going to expire at the end of February. The reasonable thing would have been to have a staycation and catch up on errands. But I felt overdo for an adventure, even a mini one. So I got it set in my mind that I was going to visit a horse ranch in a state I had never been to before (both items on my 29 before 29 list.)

At the tender age of 6, I had changed my life’s ambition from becoming a princess to becoming a cowgirl, and unlike a lot of other childhood dreams, it never went away. After graduating college with a somewhat useless degree, I began researching dude ranches that might hire me. I wanted to spend my life in the saddle, around animals, embedded in the wilderness. Things didn’t work out that way, but I never stopped dreaming about it.

Marilyn! Their only longhorn cattle.

Marilyn! Their only longhorn cattle.

So when I started looking for a place to visit, I knew I didn’t want a hokey dude ranch. I didn’t want to be taken on trail rides and have Western culture put on display for me like a watered-down version of what ranch life is like. I’m from Nevada, after all. I’ve been to the rodeo. I’ve ridden horses since I was six. I didn’t want or need to be coddled. In my searchings, I found Burnt Well Guest Ranch which is a working cattle ranch run by a small family, the Chessers. To supplement their income, they take in guests and allow them to tag along on their day to day. It’s exactly what I was looking for.

Upon my arrival, Kim (the family patriarch) met me up at the airport in his pick-up truck. He jumped out in his cowboy hat and introduced himself with his country twang. I hopped into the truck and noticed a large, shotgun sitting in the driver’s seat. This was the real deal.

New Mexico sunset with a storm rolling in.

New Mexico sunset with a storm rolling in.

The next couple of days I spent the majority of my day on a horse, either with Kim or his son Tye and sometimes both of them. We rode through the pastures checking on the cattle, especially looking out for heifers that had recently given birth. I was in the saddle so much that all the muscles in my legs were cramping, but I ignored it as much as possible. I was elated to be back on a horse, to feel them break from a trot to a canter, winding their way around cacti. The cowboys told me that the leg pain goes away on day four. It made me want to call my job and quit, just so I could stay in New Mexico and ride until my legs had acclimated to a cowgirl life.

Jonah, my favorite of the three horses I rode.

Jonah, my favorite of the three horses I rode.

At lunch and at dinner, I went into the Chesser home with Kim where his wife, Patricia, made us amazing tex-mex meals using beef from their ranch. We would sit around and trade stories. For as interesting and different their lifestyle seemed to me, they were equally awed and astonished as I told them about life in New York City. As I told stories about dog walkers and animals wearing clothing and shoes, they sat incredulous. The more we talked about it, the more ridiculous I realized it really is. All day, I watched their border collies running alongside the horses, herding animals when need be, but mostly just running along. They’d stop to roll in the dust, chase jack rabbits. It was refreshing to see dogs being…dogs.

Snow in the morning. Melted within the hour.

Snow in the morning. Melted within the hour. Riding on Creed.

On my second day, they let me watch/help as they prepared some calves. They vaccinated them with large gun-like syringes, sprayed them down with dewormers and branded a couple of them. One unfortunate bull got castrated. I stood in awe as they caught it in a large metal chute. Tye roped its legs so it couldn’t kick, and Kim bent down with a knife and a severing tool called an emasculotome (it was on my vet tech exam last month) and castrated the bull in under five minutes. His hands were covered in blood as he tossed the testicles into the dirt and let the border collies eat it. Not for the weak of stomach. I watch castrations all the time at work, but it made me a little dizzy. Kim turned to me and asked if that’s how we do it in the city, I shook my head and laughed.

Lucy, the one-eyed border collie, resting by the branding fire.

Lucy, the one-eyed border collie, resting by the branding fire.

It was everything I wanted it to be. Fresh air, lots of horseback riding, a sample of what a cowboy life looks like, delicious food, a chance to see the stars in the sky at nighttime, fascinating stories from warm-hearted people. I know I’ll be back.

Happy Ever After

14 Feb
Crane in his youth

Crane in his youth

Almost three years ago, I wrote about a frequent boarder at our hospital, a bulldog named Crane. To recap, he’s disgusting. I wrote about him being disgusting then, and his situation has only deteriorated. His owner is a wealthy, egotistical man who takes little responsibility for Crane. From puppyhood, Crane has boarded with us for a huge chunk of his life. His owner drops him off looking unkempt and uncared for and leaves in his Escalade to fly to some tropical location, forgetting Crane.

In many ways, I can’t stand Crane. He stinks. No matter how much we bathe him, this foul odor radiates from every orifice. Is it the rotting cancerous growth growing out his paw? Is it the noxious farts from a bowel that is likely diseased? Is it the breath from his rotting teeth? He’s too old and sickly to anesthetize, so we’ll likely never know. He has chronic dry eye which causes yellow goop to seep from his eyes. His face folds easily get filled with bacteria and become infected. He’s unpleasant.

But for all his faults, he’s a good dog and wants nothing more than to be petted and snuggled. We all had a love/hate relationship with him. I’d put on gloves to pet him so as not to acquire his rotting smell. We’d bring him cookies during the day. It’s hard to not love him when there is not a mean bone in his ever-decaying body.

Earlier this week, his owner called us, because he was tired of having to pay for boarding. He told us to euthanize him. Dr. L and I agreed that maybe it was the best thing for him. He’s old and disgusting, and a life living in a cage (for as much as we try to give him attention) is not a happy existence. Selfishly, perhaps we were tired of having to deal with him, to take care of him.

Much to our chagrin, another technician, Kristina convinced Dr. S to keep him at the hospital. She has an aunt who works with rescue animals, and Kristina felt confident that they could find him a home. I was skeptical. I thought Kristina was being too much of a soft heart, and I stood by Dr. L in asserting that he should be euthanized.

Within three days, eight families had come forward wanting to adopt Crane, and on Wednesday, a lovely family from Long Island came in to get him. We were stunned. What would they say when they smelled him? We went over all his medical problems, and they seemed unfazed. The whole family (parents and two teenage daughters) came to collect him and take him back to Long Island. Crane stood with them, looking confused as they all leaned down to pet him and tell him how handsome he is.

Yesterday we got pictures of Crane in his new home. His large luxurious bed, another Bulldog to be his friend, and a family that adores him. For all of his years of being ignored by an owner who left him in a cage at our clinic, he now has a family. They gushed about how much they love him. The email read, “We can’t wait to make his golden years absolutely golden.”

I kept thinking today how happy I am that Kristina exists and that I have the honor of being friends with her. I often think of her as too soft-hearted, too effusive with affection for every patient we have. But she never fails to remind me that there is never too much love to be given. It isn’t possible to be too soft-hearted. Being strong and being soft-hearted are not mutually exclusive.

Three years ago, I wrote

“Somebody has to love and take care of the messes of the world. Right?”

Yeah, somebody does, and with a little determination, somebody will.

PUPPIES

11 Nov

When people ask me how I deal with the sadness I encounter at work, I remind them that puppies and kittens exist. Death, illness, animal abuse also exist in the world. But then there are also these teeny, tiny blank slates that I get to coddle. However, usually when we see puppies or kittens, they have been adopted by their new families and are around 12-weeks-old. Still adorable, but we rarely see anything younger.

We work closely with an Upper East Side dachshund breeder. Like most other breeders, she delivers the puppies herself. It’s not a difficult thing to do (or so I’m told). But a week ago, we were all put on high alert. One of her dachshunds was pregnant with six puppies, and everyone was nervous that she was going to have a difficult labor or need a caesarian. She ended up coming in on one of my days off, and my co-workers helped her deliver six healthy puppies. A couple of days later, mama wasn’t eating, so the breeder brought her back in to be monitored by us. It’s the most excited I’ve been to come into work in weeks.

Mama and puppies

Mama and puppies

We set up an exam room just for them. Dim lighting, heaters, and cans of high calorie food for the mama. Walking into the room for the first time, the smell was oppressive and horrible. But no one should ever get into veterinary medicine if they are offended by foul odors. As I walked toward the bed where mama and puppies were, mama dachshund lifted her head and gave me a sassy side eye before growling when she caught be looking at her puppies. I’ve never been happier to have a dog growl viciously at me. She was being a good mama.

Pile o' puppies.

Pile o’ puppies.

I spent the next couple of days at work obsessed with our tiny maternity ward. I fed mama. I let her growl at me, often raising my hands in the air to show her that I had no intention of touching her babies. It was hypnotizing. I never thought watching near-inanimate creatures could be as captivating as it was. I would think it had been 5 minutes, when in actuality, I had spent close to an hour watching them. Their tiny paws, itty faces, the squeal they emitted as they got trapped under a pile of one another. The beauty and simplicity of life! It’s mind-boggling to think of all the instinct involved in such a beautiful and necessary process. Mama dachshund was so great with them. I felt so proud of her.

Look at the tiny paws!!

Look at the tiny paws!!

On Saturday, as the appointments of the day ended, and I was getting ready to leave, I went to visit mama and puppies one last time. I walked into the room to find that mama dachschund had moved the puppies into a new pile and was walking around. She ran up to me, her tail wagging. I sat with her on the floor and cleaned her up a little (she had some nastiness on her tail/ladyparts still). I fed her by hand. And for the first time, she let me touch her puppies. Somehow she finally understood we were in this together. I felt so accomplished in that moment.

A bit later one of the veterinarians came in the room to also ogle the tiny puppies. Mama dachshund at this point was curled up on my lap, letting me pet her and tell her what a good job she was doing. She eventually rolled onto her back, and I heard strange noises come from her stomach.

“Oh,” the veterinarian said. “She’s offering to let you nurse.”

I laughed at the absurd nature of this offer and cringed a bit as well. It was a generous moment in what I like to think was some sort of expression of gratitude. Almost like someone offering you tea or coffee upon entering their home. I respectfully declined but thanked her for the offer.

Dr. Google

10 Mar

20140310-172047.jpgThe two simplest things I do are anal gland expression and nail trims. These are walk-in appointments that don’t even involve a veterinarian. It takes about five minutes, and technicians do many a day.

On Saturday, I went to the reception area to grab a dog who had come in for a nail trim. The owner (notorious in our practice for being over the top) hands me an article she found online about the correct way to trim nails. She showed me the diagram and told me this is the way I should be trimming nails. Included was an article about a four-part lecture series on nail trims. I don’t know who has this kind of time on their hands. But I smiled and nodded and took the pet to the back.

I showed the other technicians the article she had given me, and their jaws dropped in shock. Everyone respects a well-informed pet owner. One should feel free to read up on their pets conditions, or any medications and procedures that are involved in their pets care. But let’s all take a deep breath and try to remember that 90% of the content on the Internet is bullshit.

Things this article failed to mention are that the nail quick has nerve endings and is painful to be cut that close. It didn’t mention what to do when the dog has black nails, and it is impossible to see where the blood supply ends. It didn’t capture the experience of a dog screaming and pulling its paw away, because it is so afraid of having its nails trimmed too short and feeling that pain. Those are things that are learned from years of experience, not from some article on the Internet.

We trimmed the nails the way we always do. The dog’s nails didn’t bleed, and we got them as short as possible without doing so. In my opinion, a job well done. I accommodate a lot of silly client requests, but one that will cause their pet pain? Never.

Any techs out there experience any crazy client requests as a result of bad Internet research?

My Earl

5 Feb

20140205-233755.jpgOur clinic works closely with a house-call vet in Manhattan. Since she doesn’t have an office, we take in a lot of her patients that need inpatient care. About two months ago, we took in a rescue dog that one of her clients had told her about. A 3-year-old pug named Earl who had been found in South Carolina, emaciated and covered in fleas. We took him in.

After he was with us a week, he began having violent seizures. Two to three minutes long, full-body convulsions, foam seeping out of his mouth. It all became clear why such a beautiful dog had been thrown to the street. With a combination of medications, we got his condition regulated. But they had left him a little handicapped, mentally. He just wasn’t smart. He’d sit in his cage, kind of staring off into space. He’d chase his tail for a long time, getting to the point where he’d grab it with his mouth and stand still, unsure what to do next.

Over the last couple of weeks, we let him out of his cage more and more, to the point where we set up a little bed for him in the treatment area, and we kept him out with us all day. Every once in a while, he’d have a day with clusters of seizures, but for the most part, he seemed fine.

This last weekend, it was a little bit slower, and we all spent so much time playing with him in the slightly warmer weather, cuddling with him indoors. He had one of the best Pug temperaments. Docile and loving, content to just be held. I fell head over heels in love with him. Even though I don’t live in a situation where I could have a dog, I fantasized about adopting him, taking him home, making him my own. At the end of my shift on Saturday, I held him in my lap, petting him, and I whispered to him, “You’re such a good boy. I promise we’re going to find you a good home.”

Then yesterday, on my day off, I get the staccato texts from Dr. L. Earl isn’t doing well. He’s having so many seizures. His temperature is 108. He looks bad. And finally, the one I was dreading, they had euthanized him. I sat alone in my apartment and wept for a dog that was never mine, but who I loved as much as if he were.

Today was a difficult day. It was busy, but in our down time, we’d look to Earl’s empty corner and talk about how much we all missed him. We do this to ourselves over and over again. We let ourselves get attached to them. I don’t understand how we keep doing it.

It’s easy to build up a wall against this sort of pain, to distance oneself from the possibility of getting attached, to falling in love. But then there are special souls out there who know how to find their way in to a blocked off heart. Earl was one of those.

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Roger

20 Oct

Our clinic has a client that I’ll call Mr. F. He’s a kind man who prefers to adopt Jack Russel Terriers (JRT). He became our client during a time when he owned two great dogs. The kind of JRT of myth. JRT’s tend to be hyper, aggressive, not the ideal breed. But under Mr. F’s loving care, his JRT’s were loyal, happy, and loving. After one of his JRTs passed away, he went to a shelter and adopted a new one. He named him Roger.

He has owned the dog for a year, but I hadn’t dealt with Roger until Wednesday when Mr. F brought him in for a dental and wart removal. The dog was strange. That’s the only way to describe it. A large “B.C.” was emblazoned on the record. It stands for “Be Careful” and is our clinic’s tactful way of saying the dog or cat is aggressive and for lack of a better term, bad. But Roger wasn’t your typical snarler or swipe biter or growling pet. He wouldn’t bite when placing a catheter or during restraint. The dog would stand there and turn to bite without rhyme or reason. He would do it in a slow, nonlogical way. The more I worked with the dog, the more it seemed less aggressive, more neurologically compromised. It reminded me of autism.

I’ve read a couple of books on autism and what fascinates me about the condition is how we don’t understand it. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the spectrum and figure out how the autistic brain works. Of course, if it is present in animals, we would understand it even less as the animal brain is even harder to interpret.

Last Spring, I spent some time volunteering with autistic children during horseback riding lessons. The variety of the conditions and their reactions to different occurrences and stimuli was fascinating. Something about the look some of them would get in their eyes made me so curious as to what they could be thinking and feeling. Roger would get a similar look. Staring at a corner of his cage or looking right at me without reaction. At home, he is difficult. He will bite people randomly, cries as soon as he goes outside and is fearful of certain toys and people. When I mentioned to Dr. L that the behavior reminded me of autism, she began to agree. But how are we to know for sure?

When Mr. F came to pick up Roger at the end of the day, I witnessed one of the most heart-wrenching acts of love. The dog meandered up to the front waiting room, looked at his owner and had no reaction. I have never seen that before. Not a tail wag, not a faster pace to the owner, nothing. Mr. F crouched on the floor, his arms directed toward the dog. “Roger, it’s daddy. C’mon, Roger, didn’t you miss me?” But the dog just stared at the walls. I felt his frustration, and I admired the love and attention this man could put into a dog that simply doesn’t respond, doesn’t return affection. It was fascinating.

Any vet techs out there seen anything similar?