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An itchy dog
10/08

A text arrived, making my phone buzz and ringle dingle. “Could you come this weekend? He’s nearly out of his tablets…” I texted back and sorted out a time.

I drove along, chatting to my brother on the phone. A fresh, clear, cold and windy day – now and then I’d feel the van shimmy ever so slightly with buffeting gusts along the freeway, heading up to the Tweed. I knew the way, no need for directions, I’d been seeing these people for a while now. Before to long I pulled up beside their house, gathered my bag and the tablets, made my way up to the door. And there he was, bouncing up and down like a rubber ball inside the door, tail spinning like a helicopter, squeaking, grunting… One of the most excitable, happiest little dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I opened the door, and he jumped all over me, all the way to the couch, where I settled down, and he then jumped all over me and the couch some more. Lots more! Eventually I manged to settle him down as his little nose furiously sniffed over every inch of my hands and arms. I got him off the couch and opened up my computer – but every now and then he’d be overcome with a paroxysm of excitement and joy, and I’d have to gently fend him off again.

“How’s he going?” I asked.

“Oh he’s great, his usual crazy, happy little self – the itching is really well controlled with the tablets – we’re generally giving him half a tablet every second day, and increasing that a little if he gets itchy. He hasn’t had to wear his cone to stop him chewing holes in himself for ages now.”

I had a good look at him. He wasn’t scratching, and for once there were no red, sore, attacked areas on him anywhere. I’d seen this little guy for a series of holistic treatments trying our best to control his unbelievable itch. The first time I met him all he did was scratch, itch, rub himself on things, itch, scratch, and itch himself some more. He had to have a bucket on his head full time, day and night, to stop himself chewing holes through his skin. And still he was happy! I’d tried everything I had in my holistic toolbox- homeopathy, flower essences, Whole Energy Body Balance and acupressure sessions…. After 6 weeks of this, I had to admit defeat and put him onto cortisone to repress the symptoms and give him some relief. Cortisone is a fantastic drug in these circumstances, and the relief from such awful symptoms is worth the side effects. But only as a very last resort!

“I’m glad he’s responding well to the cortisone. I don’t like to use it unless I have to, but he must be so much happier without the terrible itch and that bucket on his head, too. He’s only needing a very low dose to control the problem, and he looks great – he hasn’t gotten fat like some dogs do on this treatment, and he’s still as happy as.”

“Yes, he’s the happiest dog in the world, isn’t he!” She said. “We were wondering if you could do a heartworm test while you’re here?”

I looked at him, thought about how full on and wriggly he was and sighed internally.

“We can give it a go, and hope he’ll hold still for long enough for me to get enough blood out of him!” I replied, with a smile.

I went out to the van, collected my clippers, a test kit, a syringe and needle, and some local anaesthetic cream. When I got back in I clipped a patch off his leg, applied some local anesthetic cream, then got everything ready to go. After a while both his mum and dad got him in a very firm grip, and I went to work. As soon as the needle touched him he started carrying on like a pork chop, and emitted a weird screaming groan. Luckily, I managed to get just a few drops of blood out before his thrashing became too much.

“He always makes that funny noise when he gets excited,” his mum said, holding the bloody spot on his leg nice and firmly. “Did you get enough?”

“I hope so,” I replied. “It’ll be lucky if we have!”

And, in the end, there was just enough to run the test, which proved to be negative. I packed up, and he jumped all around me, tail thrashing, happy as ever, as I made my way to the front door and back out to the van.

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