From the Dan’s Archive: My Dog and the Doctor

Dan Rattiner's drawings for "My Dog and the Doctor"
Dan Rattiner's drawings for "My Dog and the Doctor"

Like our human children, dogs have a tendency to overreact when it’s time to visit the doctor, and assuring them, “It’s for your own good,” proves unsuccessful more often than not. In this charming story from the June 13, 1978 issue of Southampton Summer Day, former Dan’s Papers contributor Maria Parson tells of her all-too-relatable experience at the veterinarian’s office with her beloved pooch.

One of our local veterinarians has a sign in his waiting room which reads, “The next time you call your pet a dumb animal, take a look at who he’s got supporting him.” HOW TRUE.

Me, I never go to the doctor’s. Maybe if I broke my leg or something I might consider it. But let one of our dogs appear sick or injured, and it’s off to the vet’s office quicker than you can say, “$20, please.”

Most vet’s offices are pretty much the same. You ring the bell and walk in. Usually there are several other patients and their owners waiting. Most animals I’ve known go into immediate hysterics at the threshold. After all, they’ve been there before, and they know more or less what to expect. There is nothing to compare with the experience of pushing and shoving and finally carrying a hundred-pound dog into the vet’s office while trying to maintain your own dignity as your pet screams and twists and begs for mercy.

Once in, the receptionist asks, “Name please?”

“Amos.”

‘‘Yes, Mrs. Amos, now what seems to be the problem?”

“Oh, I ’m not Amos,” I tell her. “He’s Amos. I’m Mrs. Parson.”

The receptionist gives a weary sigh. “Yes, Mrs. Parson. Have you been here before?”

“Yes…I mean Amos has been here before.”

“Shall I look it up under Parson, then?” she asks, pulling out a file cabinet drawer.

“I guess so.”

Amos, meanwhile, is contorting himself on the floor. A small poodle sitting in a lady’s lap growls at him. Amos lunges at it, yanking me across the floor in the process. The woman is horrified. Her poodle barks and bares its teeth. I slowly drag Amos back across the waiting room floor.

“Oh yes, Amos,” the receptionist says knowingly, while scanning his medical history sheet. “He’s been in here quite a few times.”

“Yes,” I answer. “There have been a few problems. You see, he’s a farm dog and…”

“Well, what seems to be the problem today?”

“He’s itchy. I mean, not just itchy itchy. I mean, really, really itchy. He spends half the night scratching himself and making a racket. It’s driving him and us nuts,” I whisper confidentially.

“Well, have a seat. The doctor will be with him in a few minutes.”

I make my way to a seat and Amos follows, head down. He lays his muzzle in my lap and salivates. The woman with the poodle goes in next. Her dog snaps at us as they go by. Amos does not react. He is too busy trying to play on my sympathies.

A few minutes later it is our turn. The vet’s treatment room smells of disinfectant. A stainless steel table stands in the center of it. The doctor is waiting

“Oh yes, Amos,” he says, as I coax, cajole and push my brave watchdog in. “What seems to be the problem?”

“He’s itchy, doctor. Not just itchy itchy. He spends half the night…”

“Yes, yes, well then, let’s get him up on the table, shall we?”

There is no way that Amos is going to jump up on that stainless steel pallet. The doctor does not look inclined to help. I wrap my arms around Amos and heave. His splayed legs miss the table. I heave him back in the opposite direction and bear down hard. He is finally where the doctor wanted him, but threatening to jump.

The vet uses his fingers to comb through Amos’s unruly coat. “No fleas,” he says musingly.

“I wouldn’t think so,” I tell him. “After all, he is wearing a flea collar.”

‘‘Yes, quite,” the doctor agrees. He takes out a small knife. Amos watches him, panic in his eyes. “I’m going to take a small scraping from his coat. This will determine whether the problem is mites or something else we’re dealing with.”

The scraping takes only a few seconds. Amos seems to feel no pain. The doctor disappears into another room with his specimen. He is back shortly after.

“No mites, Mrs. Parson. I would say the problem is an allergy. Probably to dirt.”

“Dirt?”

“Yes, yes. We see it quite often, really. Now, can you keep Amos off the dirt?”

I stare back at the doctor. “Look, doctor, I love this dog and I ’d like to help him, but keep him off dirt…You mean always in the house?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Well, I’m afraid that’s impossible. I mean we live on a farm, and Amos is a farm dog who’s used to being outside…” My mind is reeling back to the time we locked Amos in the basement for an evening and he ate a hole through the cellar door. There was also the afternoon he leaped through a closed window, shattering the glass in his effort to escape. We are lucky if we can get him in to sleep at night. Amos is definitely not a house dog.

“No, doctor,” I say, looking him straight in the eye. “I’m afraid that’s impossible.”

The doctor is disappointed in me and shows it. “Well then, I suppose I could prescribe a shampoo. It may not help all that much but…”

“I’ll take it!” I tell him.

Once home, there is the immediate problem of where to give Amos his bath. The water in the hose would be too cold. With sinking heart, I realize that my beloved claw-footed bathtub is the only place. Needless to say, Amos is none too eager to climb into it. With superwoman effort, I lift him over the side. Amos cringes as the water hits him. I squeeze out the shampoo and lather up his coat. It takes only a few minutes. After he is rinsed, Amos does what comes naturally and gives a good shake, showering me and the bathroom with water. I towel him off and after he is dry, let him out where he immediately rolls in the dirt.

The shampoo has had two effects. Amos is less itchy, and it has also removed the entire top layer of skin on both my hands. There is little time to feel sorry for myself. The cat is throwing up. I have to take her to the vet’s.

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