I pulled off the main road, and onto a narrow band of bitumen that went up and up along a spur. The bitumen vanished, and I was racketing and rattling along a corrugated gravel road, swaying left and right to gently miss potholes. I cracked the windows down, and a fresh smell of forest filled the van, along with snippets of bell-birds and the raucous humming of cicadas. It was sunny, and warm enough to need to turn the air-con up higher than it had been for months. Summer was beginning to flex a hot, sweaty muscle – the sky billowed with white clouds dancing in the deep, clear blue.
I drove and drove (funny how it always seems like such a long way into a place you’ve never driven to before) – and then saw the old man waving to me. I pulled up, and he hopped in, giving me directions up a very steep little driveway. The wheels spun for a moment, but I squeezed down a bit harder on the accelerator, and we made it to the top. He invited me into the bush shack he was renting, where two cocker spaniel puppies were leaping and whining in a cage, terribly excited to see us.
“She’s had a cough,” he told me, all in a rush to cut to the chase. “About 2 weeks ago she started coughing in the evening, then coughed all bloody night, then next morning she was fine. She coughed gain that night, then it went away, and now just last night she started coughing again. It;s funny, too, when her mum was a pup she had bad kennel cough, and had it for ages, and kept relapsing – but she’s been fine for years. I’ve been giving her some olive leaf extract too- will that help?”
“It can help,” I said. ‘Could you get her out for me, and I’ll check her over.”
He deposited a wriggly, licky cocker spaniel puppy in my lap. She was lively, happy, her whole body one big waggle of pleasure to see a new person. I gently palpated her windpipe, the cough test. Nothing – temp normal, lungs all clear, heart strong and clear. Seemed like a perfectly healthy pup to me.
“I can’t find anything wrong with her,” I explained. “Normally if they have kennel cough and I touch their windpipe, they cough like anything. What I do reckon may be going on is that her mum could be a carrier of the kennel cough bug, and this little one has picked up a mild dose from her. I’m really not worried about her though, I think she’ll be fine. I will give you some homeopathic drops to give her, I’ve used these a lot with kennel cough and had great results.”
“Sounds good, Doc,” he said. “I’ll give her the olive leaf stuff as well.”
I went out, made up the drops, got jumped all over by the second puppy, and then rolled off down the hill and away back to my home.