Tuesday, March 10, 2009

my poor dog (she's better now)

I took my dog, Sabrina, to the vet yesterday. She had to get her rabies shot but she's also been displaying some abnormal behavior that made us think she might need some medical attention. How to put this delicately... she's been obsessively licking her rear end.

The licking was noisy, as well as being unladylike. She would wake us up at night. Peleg and I's response when we caught her doing it was to tell her, "No!" in a loud voice, and if she was within arm's distance to physically move her head away. Because she's going deaf we would sometimes have to yell quite loudly several times before she would hear us. She'd been at it for about a month. She has a history of developing obsessions about various things and we figured that if we could just break the habit she'd stop the behavior. She had no other symptoms of a medical problem as far as we could tell. Finally I took her to the groomer thinking a good cleaning back there would help. The groomer suggested we take her to the vet.

The vet discovered a serious but quite routine dog problem: her anal glands were swollen with fluid and needed to be expressed. Especially with older dogs (she's 14) the fluid in the glands can become thick and clog the opening. With rubber gloves and several tissues the vet was able to drain the glands. Sabrina had been trying to open the glands herself by licking but hadn't been successful. If the problem had continued the glands might have ruptured which would have required surgery to repair.

So for a month our dog had been suffering and our only response had been to yell at her. Because she couldn't communicate we had mis-labeled her behavior as a mental problem. We had worried more about how her licking was annoying us rather than as a signal that she needed our help.

The suffering of others does impede on our own comfort. We can't be bothered. We're just trying to keep our own lives together and someone, something, suffering near us can at first seem like one more thing we have to handle. It's easy to say, "handle it yourself," or "just stop complaining." The truth, though, was that by not helping Sabrina her suffering and ours continued, and would have gotten significantly worse if we had waited much longer. When I finally did get her to the vet the problem was solved in just a few minutes. Sabrina left the vet's office noticeably more at ease and has been fine ever since. Accepting the fact that the lives of other creatures are partly our responsibility often the easiest course of action is to get involved sooner rather than later.


Robin Edgar said...

Needless to say the lesson here applies to ignoring the suffering and/or complaints of human beings as well. In my experience, and that of too many other people aka *persons*, Unitarian*Universalists to easily say "handle it yourself," or "just stop complaining" to people U*Us have harmed in one way or another. Would that the UUA was half as attentive to the complaints of victims of all forms of clergy misconduct, to say nothing of other U*U injustices and abuses, as you were to those of Sabrina. . .

Eve Bushman said...

I just wanted to say reading your post helped me feel better about finally scheduling my pooch for his first grooming. It's not until next week, but I think the part he will like the best is the 15 minutes of brushing while we will finally loose the clicking sound of his overgrown toenails on our floors.