Playing Chicken With Your Dog

Lessons learned from life experiences seem to stick in your memory. Years ago, I relieved myself in the great outdoors on a blustery day, only to have my legs experience the warmth of what was once a fruit punch-flavored electrolyte drink. Yeah, experiences like these make me wonder, “What was I thinking?”

I see the same revelation on the faces of many clients as they start to share the oftentimes odd rituals they practice with their furry family members.

The following story was quite shocking, as it walked a fine line between logic and craziness.

Barbara brought in her cute, lovable Irish setter Abby for her annual exam. A loyal client for many years, I enjoyed our appointments, as Barbara’s sharp wit kept me on my toes.

“Hey, Barbara, how’s Abby doing? I see you’ve been able to put some weight on her.”

Barbara smiled. “Yeah, but I obviously haven’t been as successful as you have.”

“Ha, ha, ha,” I replied. “Very funny. It must be my new doctor’s coat. I think it’s a size too big for me and …”

“OK … whatever you say,” interrupted Barbara, “but can we get back to Abby? She’s been quite healthy and I finally found a food she likes, which is why she’s now pleasantly plump.” Barbara smiled as she hugged Abby fondly.

“That’s great. So you have no concerns,” I replied.

“Well, we did have a tick problem a few months ago, but I think we got rid of all those pesky parasites.”

“Oh, what did you use to get rid of the ticks?” I asked.

“You know I don’t like using chemicals on Abby. Rather, I simply do a thorough inspection after we go for our midnight walks.”

“Um, do you think walking at midnight is safe?”

“Are you kidding? It’s very safe,” Barbara stated with an incredulous grin. “At that hour there are hardly any cars on the road, which reduces our chance of getting run over.”

My quizzical expression prompted Barbara to continue.

“Hello … we walk in the middle of the street so that Abby doesn’t pick up any parasites from the sidewalk or grass. The ticks remember,” harrumphed Barbara.

OK, maybe it was just me, but walking your dog in the middle of the road at midnight sounded a bit odd, not to mention dangerous.

I proceeded to discuss the potential hazards of their nightly routine only to be met with a strong rebuttal.

Barbara is a lawyer (a good one, at that), and after a few minutes I realized I was not going to win this argument.

The crazy thing about this story is that Barbara and Abby are not the only dynamic duo that tempts fate with their midnight strolls.

I’ve shared their story with other clients only to discover that they do the same.

I’ve since given up on convincing them to stop.

Now my only advice to these clients is to watch out for blustery days.

After all, a casual act of nature by their pet may turn into a warm expression of surprise.

I should know.

Dr. John Kaya is the director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital.