Ask the Dogcharmer: Tongue-tied

Conrad, the boxer with the very long tongue.

Conrad, post-op. — Courtesy

There was rarely a week that went by when I didn’t have at least a handful of first appointments. They, the dogs that is, usually greet me in one of three ways. They want to eat my kneecap for intruding into their territory, they fear my intrusion and stay back, or they are thrilled beyond belief to meet the new visitor and treat me like the long-lost brother they haven’t seen for years, drowning me with their ill-mannered jumping, slobbering, and general molesting at the door.

Conrad was the long-lost brother at the door, a beautiful 2-year-old boxer, with a body that looked like one huge rippling muscle, with a coat so shiny it seemed to reflect light. His whole body exuded raw force.

Stepping across the threshold I was immediately accosted by a totally joyous Conrad jumping all over me with an ill-mannered yet loving greeting. Jumping on me, his head was at the height of my chest, and he had a toy in his mouth, which is not unusual — many dogs bring me toys, even on my first visit. Dog toys can be quite disgusting, but this felt like the toy from hell. It felt like a cross between an eel and a soggy salami, slapping and actually wrapping around my wrist and arm. It felt soaking wet and incredibly slimy because it was.

Maria, Conrad’s owner, grabbed his collar and pulled him off me, saying, “This is one of my problems, the way he jumps on people at the door.” I vaguely heard what Maria was saying, because I was consumed with trying to figure out what I was looking at on Conrad’s face. It was lolling about his nose like a fat, live, pink noodle. It started to sink in that I was looking at the biggest tongue that I had ever seen, a tongue so large that it couldn’t fit into his mouth, a tongue so large that he could never really close his mouth all the way. It actually hung down about 6 inches from the bottom of his mouth. Just as this was being processed by my brain, Maria was saying, “I know his tongue is a little big, but we’re used to it.” “A little big! — a little big!” my mind was screaming, “He’s a candidate for Ripley’s Believe it or Not!”

Maria gestured for me to sit down, at which point Conrad was enthusiastically nuzzling his head in my lap. I asked Maria to get the leash so we could go out to deal with Conrad’s pulling, which was another chief complaint. When I stood up, it looked like I had urinated in my trousers. Then things got really interesting.

The moment I had the leash in my hand, I was afraid of his tongue getting pinched between his jowls and the leash. When he bent down to sniff the ground, his tongue sometimes dragged, and I feared for his safety as I saw it pass over some broken glass. Then there were the reactions of passersby. First a look of curiosity which quickly changed to shock and disgust, with one pedestrian exclaiming, “Oh my God, it’s his tongue!” My heart went out to Maria as I thought, “Nobody can get used to this!”

When we were back in the apartment and Conrad lay down, with his tongue laying on the carpet next to his face, I realized that he could actually get his tongue accidentally stepped on. I asked Maria what her vet said about the tongue and was dismayed by the vet’s “no solution” answer. That afternoon I called the Animal Medical Center in NYC, and two weeks later Conrad had his tongue shortened, a complete success, and since it was a first-of-its-kind operation for the Medical Center, they did it at no charge to Maria. From that point on, Maria beamed with pride when she walked Conrad as people commented on how handsome he was.


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