Archive for the ‘Dogs/Pets’ category

Freckles/A Pet Therapy Hero

August 1, 2008

        In 2000 Paul Howey was hiking in the Arizona Desert and came across a small dog and her six puppies.  They had been abandoned, and were near death.  He adopted the dog and named it Freckles.

        Mr. Howey began to realize the dog had special qualities, and got Freckles involved in pet therapy.  She became a star.  The dog was good with all ages, but became a specialist in Pediatrics, and visited children in hospitals in N.C. and throughout the Southeast.  Mr. Howey wrote an award winning children’s book on Freckles.

        We country docs had long noticed our elderly patients who owned pets seemed to do better, but in recent years studies have begun to confirm the phenomenon.  If you don’t know much about pet therapy, Freckle’s story is a good place to start.  She was a pro.

        Recently Freckles passed away.  She had done so much good work in Asheville they wrote her up in the newspaper.  For some reason I was unable to get the link to work, but you can read about Freckles in the Asheville Citizen-Times, July 30, 2008 issue, or in Mr. Paul Howey’s book, “Freckles: The Mystery of the Little White Dog in the Desert.”

        Mr. Howey is the editor of the Laurel Magazine of Asheville, which can be accessed on my blogroll.  If you are in Western N.C., and want to know where to go and what to do, get a copy of the Laurel.  It’ll point you in the right direction.  (And some guy named Tom Bibey writes for his bluegrass beat, so I find it very authentic.)

Dr. B

Rorschach, the Maniacal Mutt

July 30, 2008

        For a while we got into Brittany Spaniels.  My son was just a toddler, and we answered the ad with every intention to bring home a male dog.  The boy took one look, latched onto the one he liked, and cradled her in his arms.  We were in the dog business.  He named her Fancy right on the spot.  The name stuck.  

        The dog was aptly named.  She was very regal and proper, but not a bit spoiled, a wonderful pet who stayed close to home and played in the yard with the kids.  The night she died was hard on all of us, but especially so for Tommy Jr., who was a teenager by then.  I knew, and the vet confirmed that no more could be done, but that boy sat up with the dog all night.

        ‘Fancy’ was the only registered dog we ever had.  She was such a fine animal, and dispelled every stereotype about purebreds as nervous and ill tempered, so we decided to let her have a litter.

        She had six, and all of them found good homes, except one little rascal we couldn’t give away.  While the other pups would nurse quietly, this one ran around in circles and had to be bottle fed half the time to survive.  My wife saw it coming.  “That dog ain’t right,” she said.  Marfar named the dog Rorschach, after a big ink blot splotch on his back.  It was prophetic- the dog’s only distinction was a bizarre personality that would have intrigued Sigmund Freud.

        Names often tell a lot.  If you wanted a hero dog in a story, you would never name it Rorschach.  You’d go for a name like “Ranger Dog.”  Try this sentence out.  ‘Ranger Dog jumped in the lake, nuzzled the child by the nape of the neck, and pulled her to the safety of shallow water.’  Makes you want to cheer.  Try that with “Rorschach.”  It doesn’t fit.  In fact it is laughable, and so was Rorschach if he hadn’t been ours.

        What Rorschach lacked in brain activity, he made up for in sheer power and determination.  As he grew into his full size this became apparent, and the kids shortened the name to “Sharky,” a name they could take some pride in.  (But mama, who’d want a dog named after crazy folks?)

        Rorschach couldn’t stand to be penned up for a minute, and loved to roam.  One night he broke away and I had to go deep in the woods to find him.  It was cold and I was tired.  I could hear his lonesome howl off in the distance.  The only bright spot in the adventure was a full moon that illuminated the woods so well I almost didn’t need a flashlight. 

        I found him where he’d run under a fallen tree.  The stake he had pulled up trailed behind him and had wedged in behind the log he’d run under.  All the knuckle-head had to do was reverse field and go back under the log, but no, I had to troop around half the night to find him.  When we got home, the kids petted the dog and snuggled up to him.  “Oh Sharky, we were so worried!”  I went and took a shower.

        We even tried an invisible fence.  After a few shocks, the crazy dog learned to back up several paces to get a running start.  He’d put his shoulder down like a fullback, and then run headlong into the electric field.  He’d make it through to the other side, yelp at the top of his lungs, then realize he’d made the jailbreak and the high-tail it for the woods.

         When Sharky would go missing, the first place I’d check was the farm just down the road.  Sharky was a bird dog, and he’d get into Farmer Wilson’s chickens.  I guess you can’t get above your raising and it was natural for him.  I’d get out my wallet and pay up for the losses.  It was a regular ritual, like bail for a drunken Otis Campbell on Saturday night, and then I’d take him back home to the children.  Wilson was fair about it.  He never exceeded market price even though he had me over a barrel.  He had grandchildren, so I guess he understood.  “Besides,”  he’d say.  “It beats all the work to take ‘em to market, Doc.”

        One winter Sharky had an abrupt change in personality.  He didn’t try to break through the electric fence, and seemed short of breath when he walked.  When he has content to lie by the fireplace to stay warm, I knew he was in trouble.  The vet confirmed the diagnosis of congestive heart failure, and Sharky didn’t make it through the winter.  But while he was here he burned bright and found his way into the family history book as our most eccentric pet.

        Sharky was a good’un, but here is my advice.  If you have one in the litter with a big ink blot on his back, name him something like “King,” give him to a farmer, and tell him you can guarantee the dog will chase the crows out of his cornfield with inexhaustible contentment for all his days.  It’ll be the truth, and you and the dog will both be better off.  Some critters just aren’t born to be domesticated, and Sharky was one of ‘em, but we did the best with him we could.

Dr. B

Bootsie and Roarco the Pony

June 5, 2008

        I don’t know what inspired me to write up this post except today a patient told me about their favorite pet they had as a kid.  So, I thought I’d tell you about mine.  If you had a favorite one, I’d like to hear of them.  I write this at the risk some of my readers might label me as the “Syndicated Sap of the South,” but I am serious.  I had several I thought of as family. 

        The first was Bootise.  She was a little dog who was part Cocker, part Pekingese and Lord knows what else.  I don’t remember how I came about Bootise, but she was my first pet.  When I went off to the first grade we had to lock her up every morning, cause she’d follow me to the school house. 

        One day my mom let her out too early, and she took off through the woods.  There was a shortcut there we’d take to play ball on the weekends, and it was a faster route.  Anyway, when I got to school there she was right by my desk.  The principal, Mr. Wilson, came in the room and tried to get her to leave and she bit him on the leg.  This didn’t go over well with my mom, and we had to take the dog out to grandma’s farm to stay.  I was gonna get to visit on the weekends. 

        We stopped on the way home to get a bite to eat, and when we got back to the house the dog was sitting right there on the front steps.  Mom didn’t have the heart to take her back out to the farm, so she got to stay.

        Sometime after Bootsie, I got the notion I needed a pony.  I had some grandiose plan I was gonna ride in the County Fair and win the pony race, which was beyond absurd for a little boy.  I nagged everyone so long we ended up with one.  I named it Roarco.  I have no idea why. 

        The plan was the pony was gonna live out on the farm and my cousins would ride it weekdays and I’d come out with my folks on the weekend.  My grandfather would take care of it and my dad would buy all the feed and supplies.  It wasn’t much of a deal for anyone but me- all I had to do was ride.

        Boy did I love that pony.  If you’ve never ridden one, Roarco might have invented the phrase “a horse headed for the barn.”  That animal was plum sluggish as we went out, but when we got to the south end of the pasture I’d turn her around and she’d take off headed for home.  You had to watch out for the clothes line- if the sheets were out she wouldn’t go through there, but if they weren’t she’d try to run under the clothesline, and I had to work to be sure she didn’t go that route.

        It all went along fine for a while but my cousins lost interest and my folks couldn’t get out there every weekend.  She got to where she wasn’t used to a rider and got rambunctious except with me.  One day my Uncle Jimmy decided to go for a ride.  I tried to tell him, but he got on anyway, and she ran him into the mailbox then threw him off and he broke his femur.  After that she got foundered.  The next thing I knew Roarco wasn’t there anymore, and I never was told where she went except Uncle Jimmy said something about the glue factory in the sky.  Even at that age he warn’t fooling me, but I got over it in time.

        Maybe those animals have to do with why I wound up so idealistic as an adult.  How many little boys dream of a pony and wind up with one?  My guess is very few are so lucky.  I’ll have to tell you though I never see a tube of Elmer’s without thinking of ole Roarco.  She was a fine pony.  I wish they hadn’t let anyone but me ride her though- I was the only one she trusted.

Dr. B


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