It was finally starting to get a bit cooler – the tropical vise of heat and humidity was easing into autumn. I was driving out to vaccinate and microchip a huge litter of puppies – thirteen of them! I drove out through the outskirts of Townsville, past the big sheds and workshops of the industrial estates, and turned right onto the highway. The last hints of green from the wet seasons pouring rains were fading into the familiar browns, parched and dry. Before too long I turned into a knot of suburbia, sprawled out across the flats, older houses, mostly post war fibreboard. I pulled up to the gate, and got everything I needed together – bag, stethoscope, and myself.
“Hello!” – I was greeted by the lady who owned the dogs. “Come on in.”
I was deluged with a rolling maul of puppies, wagging tails, sharp little teeth chewing on my toes, cold noses… I waded through them towards the tables and chairs set out under a shady tree in the front yard, and sat down, taking time to give them a pat.
“They seem pretty lively,” I smiled.
“Oh god,” she replied. “They are so full on, they are driving their mother crazy, and eat!”
They were big puppies- mastiff/bull arab cross types, and probably weighed a good 4-5 kg each. There were white ones, brown ones, black ones, and several with patches and brindling all over. By now they had lost interest in us, and were tumbling over each other, playing, growling, with the odd flare ups of spitting rage and fierce puppy fights. There was an old, empty bath sitting just near the table.
“I need to examine them all first,” I explained.
“Ok- how about you look at them each in turn, and I’ll pop them each into the bath as you go.”
I grabbed a puppy, all wriggles and licking, tail thrashing with joy, and carefully checked him over- taking his temperature, looking in his mouth, listening to his heart and lungs, and then handed him over. The bath steadily filled, with a row of puppy faces reaching up over the edge, whining in frustration at being restrained. The last few puppies, we had to hunt out of the undergrowth.
“They all seem to be healthy and well,” I explained. “I will just nip out to the van and get all the vaccines and so on ready.”
I opened up the back of the van, and collected all of the vaccines, syringes, needles, and packets of microchips. I came back in and laid it all out on the table, and then set to work. She would bring me a puppy, and I’d mix the vaccine with saline, then jab it with a vaccine, before implanting the microchip under the puppy’s skin, and then check with the scanner to make sure it had gone in. I had to be sure to write on the microchip stickers, with the bar codes, which puppy it was, so I could keep track of the paperwork for later on. Now and then, as I got towards the end of the litter, a set of sharp puppy teeth would grab my toes and make me jump, and the howling of the few remaining in the tub got louder and louder as they saw their friends all rolling around and playing out on the ground.
Finally they were all done, and I only had the huge mound of microchip forms to fill in. My pen scratched furiously across the page while I chatted to the lady, hearing snippets of her life, talking about the worlds, and enjoying the cool breeze under the shade of the tree with smiles and laughter. After I was done, I drove offhappy and contented. Nothing like a dose of puppies to brighten up the day!