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He Goddam Mad Dog, Eh?

by Daniel Galef


Daniel has published humor writing in the Laugh Riot, the Sock and Buskin, Uncle Nimrod's Jokaminute Almanack, the Sensayuma Quarterly, and the Plumber's Faucet. His comic idols are Robert Benchley and Aristophanes, both of whom he met last year at the annual comedy writers' convention in Poughkeepsie.

           I won’t beat about the bush: something needs to be done about the state of zoological medicine in this nation, and it needs to be done bleeding quickly. I was recently taking my two teacup Chihuahuas, my teapot Scottie, and my teakettle Beagle to the vet (he killed four men in the Korean War . . . but that’s beside the point) and also on to the doggy doctor, where, in the waiting-room, I sat down patiently behind a rather puffed-up grande dame with a toy Mastiff; a fellow whose entire face seemed to be a large hardcover book with a Russian Blue Terrier; and an enormous sleeping chap holding a lead tied to the leg of his chair. I don’t know, probably a chimpanzee or some such thing.

            After briefly waiting for five hours, during which time I perused the office’s collection of reading material, including a copy of Houndstooth, a quarterly journal of canine fashion, and several back issues of Dogz, none less than four years old (that’s twenty-eight dogs’ years, you know), a varnished nurse in a plastic smock loudly mispronounced my name off a slip of paper, and I sheepishly made my way, puppies in tow, toward the examining room, where I was met and warmly shaken by the hand by a clipboard and several pages of biometrical questions. I dutifully sat for another half-hour and filled out on lines and in boxes such pressing information as Has Fido Ever Been Diagnosed With Heartworms, Roundworms, Flatworms, Tapeworms, Earthworms, Or Any Other Parasitical Infection? and What Is Your Doggy’s Name? and Has He/She Been Fixed? and What Is Your Dog’s Darkest Secret? At this point, I was thoroughly peked. When I was finished, or when they stopped tittering through the window, the door creaked open apologetically and in strode a grim-looking, imposing sort of doctor figure in a side-button lab coat and with a dog biscuit behind his ear, accompanied by a different nurse, also lacquered to a pleasant sheen. She lifted the dogs by the leads and put them down on the examination table. The doctor took the clipboard from me, and, without flipping through, tut-tutted and lay it on the counter, from whence the nurse took it up, tut-tutted without flipping through, and dropped it in the rubbish bin. Without a word, the doctor snapped on a pair of bluish latex gloves and spun the first animal around a few times, before getting down to the serious work.

            For a few minutes, I just stood and watched as he manipulated all four beasts in various ways, at times seeming to get very perturbed. Finally, he turned to me and whispered in a booming falsetto: “I’m afraid it seems to be very serious.” By now, the nurse had a rubber hand laid on my shoulder. “This one,” he said, hoisting up Ziti, the Bolognese, by her left forepaw, “will require surgery. Her gizzard’s all up in spots. And as for him,” he pointed accusingly at Order, the Maltese, cross, “his swim bladder is just riddled with goiters. Give him a week’s rest and a bottle of Alka-Seltzer, not all at once.” He shook his head, the nurse lifted hers, and I hung mine. “I don’t even know what you’ve been feeding them.”

            Thankfully, he said the surgery could be done right then and there, for a doubled price, and asked me for a scalpel and to trim my beard before realizing I wasn’t his nurse. I hung back as he fiddled with the sprockets, tightened the hairsprings, replaced a few valves, and generally just brought everything back to factory condition. When he was done, he hefted up Order, and I realized there would be a second surgery on my tab. Oh well, I remember thinking, One can hardly condemn man’s best friend to imperfect health. As he was tuning the great beast, I glanced out the window to find a fellow in an orderly’s getup and a green plastic visor staring in and tabulating columns on a hand-adder. I asked the doctor, but he just glared at me, as I was interrupting his work, withdrew his hands from the works clutching what looked to be a spleen (not that I remotely know what a spleen looks like, but this certainly looked quite spleeny), and muttered something about expenses, and how could we expect prices not to be so high if he was to still employ an on-site accountant, which he desperately needed because his prices were so high.

            Finally, Order back in working . . . condition, and Ziti backfiring every now and then but otherwise just spiffy, I went to take my leave, tipping the nurse and picking up Spot’s prescription for Alka-Seltzer. Before I reached the door, however, the doctor kicked me in the rear end, sat me down, and presented me with a neatly printed bill, itemized and grouped in columns by date, breed, operation, and zoological sign. At the bottom was a dotted line for my signature, and two more for the dogs’. Just above that was a number labeled TOTAL (before tax). At my inquiry, he said he’d needed the tax to close up the dogs again, after the surgery. I looked back at the number, which was by necessity printed in a smaller font than the rest of the document, and followed by a small asterisk saying it was continued on the reverse of the sheet. I told him he had forgotten a decimal. He told me he had not. I signed it, and he said that that was that, if I didn’t have any questions. I said that I’d always wanted to know how to spell Doxen. He dropped me off on the sidewalk, underneath my dogs, and I never saw him again except on golfing trips.


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