Visiting Veterinarian : Twelve grapes
New Year's Day. Feeling compelled to write something seasonal, I began an "Auld Lang Syne" spoof. "Should Old English Sheepdogs be forgot? They never learn to mind." Nope. "Should all the puppies be forgiv'n, for chewing what they find? Should all the puppies be forgiv'n, for peeing on the pine?" Nope. Maybe I could find an interesting historical perspective. Did you know early Christians discouraged New Year's celebration as a pagan practice? Or that some churches commemorate January 1 as the Feast of the Circumcision (since that is what traditionally happens to eight-day-old male Jewish babies)? Ouch. Okay, still not coming up with a winner. What about different ways people celebrate throughout the world? Could I tie that in to the animal kingdom?
I look on Wikipedia. All kinds of interesting stuff. It says people in Ecuador celebrate by making effigies called "Anos Viejos"..."Old Years." They stuff them with straw, newspaper, and firecrackers, and burn them at midnight. It's thought this tradition harkens back to a yellow fever epidemic when people burnt real corpses in the streets. What fun. Wikipedia also says that a guy dresses up as the Old Year's widow and tries to make people laugh by pretending to cry so they will give him charity. You couldn't make this stuff up. Wait. Maybe someone did make it up. After all, it's Wikipedia. When I get to the part that says Ecuadorians wear yellow underwear to attract positive energy for New Year's, I begin to think someone is pulling my leg. Anyone out there ever celebrate New Year's in Ecuador? What color undies did you wear? Please chime in.
I may have to fall back on the trite but universal theme of resolutions. Did you know the most popular New Year's resolution in ancient Babylonia was to return borrowed farm equipment? Still apropos today. Did we return Brett's log splitter? Which of you clients still has my good cat carrier? My scat matts? And who, ahem, "borrowed" my sign?
"Michelle, Michelle," you say. "Stop! What does this have to do with veterinary medicine? You're supposed to write about animals." Oh my. Right. What am I going to talk about? My last few columns were sad. Very sad. I need to lighten up. In fact, I'm making a New Years resolution right now to lighten up. And to stop pretending I don't see the kids feeding the dog under the table. I'm really stuck. How about Ecuador again? Here's another tradition. They eat 12 grapes at midnight, making a wish for each grape. Remember dogs are not supposed to eat grapes, but it'll work for my column. The Twelve Grapes of New Year's.
Grape Number One: I actually already got my first wish on Election Day. In veterinary terms, I wish the new Canine-in-Chief a long, healthy life with eight years of it in the White House. Personally I'm voting for a standard poodle. Although I'd love if the Obama's adopted an adult rescue dog, with Malia's allergies they need a hypoallergenic breed...and those girls deserve the fun of a puppy. Being part of a multiracial family myself, I particularly appreciated the President-elect publicly referring to himself as a mutt. Mutts have been grossly underrated. On the other hand I think he called smaller canine breeds "girly dogs." We may need to work on him about sexism and gender stereotypes.
Grape Number Two: I wish I could always run every diagnostic test needed on every pet and no one had to worry about money.
Grape Number Three: Since I'm probably not going to get Number Two, I wish that veterinarians and pet owners work together through the current financial crisis, making sure our animals stay healthy and that no pet suffers because of lack of funds. It is a balancing act, practicing good medicine while respecting economic realities.
Grape Number Four: I wish clients would do what I tell them. If the medication says "give until gone," that means give until gone. It's English. It doesn't mean give half the dose because you're afraid it's too strong. It doesn't mean give twice the dose because more is better. It doesn't mean stop halfway through because the sore, cough, fever, lump looks better to you.
Grape Number Five: I wish people who insist on not doing what I tell them fess up. It is more helpful if you're honest than if I think I missed the diagnosis or my treatment didn't work. If you forgot to give the pills, or used homeopathy instead, or Fido just got better on his own, let me in on the secret.
Grape Number Six: I wish I always knew the right answer. Number Seven: I wish that in 2009 all Island pets stay healthy and safe.
Grape Number Eight: Since I'm probably not going to get Number Six or Seven, I wish more pet owners take advantage of the expertise of specialists in the event of serious illness or injury. We local veterinarians may be talented general practitioners but if Rover has an obscure neurological disorder or Fluffy needs her knee rebuilt, see the specialist.
Grape Number Nine: I wish my book gets published.
Grape Number Ten: I wish people will love their pets and strengthen the human-animal bond. Sign up for obedience class or agility training. It's fun. Take your dog for long beach walks. It's good for the soul and the waistline. Let the cats sleep on the bed. They make great foot-warmers and are still cheaper than heating oil. Cherish these companions and appreciate the simple gifts they give us every day.
Grape Number Eleven: I wish they ate fewer grapes in Ecuador.
Grape Number Twelve: I wish. . . I wish. . . Oh. I know. I wish you a Happy New Year.