Serena is one of my favorite patients. She is a big, old country dog who came into this world two months after her mother
— a dog of unknown ancestry – hooked up with her father, a dog of unknown whereabouts.
Serena rules the farm. She can skillfully herd anything from ducklings to grandchildren with loving kindness. A moment later,
she can corral an unruly cow with mock ferocity or even dispatch a fox that was foolish enough to enter her barnyard.
Her owner, Joe Rustic, is very proud of her, and rightly so.
Joe and Serena were just leaving my office one day last month when Molly Coddle came through the door wheeling a baby carriage
with a picnic cooler inside.
Joe gave me a strange look. "Is that lady bringing her dog to you in that closed-up cooler?" he asked.
"Just wait, Joe. You ain't seen nothing yet," I told him.
Mrs. Coddle made two more trips to and from her car before finally emerging with her dog, Brat. Yappy and spoiled, little
Brat has been pampered beyond belief. He wears cute little outfits and always has his hair fixed just so. It is doubtful whether
his feet ever have actually touched the ground. Serena looked down on him in more ways than one.
Brat arrived for his annual dental work, and would have to stay overnight. Naturally, his owner protested this one-day incarceration
when I first suggested it. However, I knew he would need more extensive dental surgery this year than he had in the past.
So, it would be prudent to hold him a little longer than usual.
Joe listened with fascination as Mrs. Coddle began giving instructions for Brat's care during his furlough with us. She began
by identifying each item in the picnic cooler. There were burgers, treats, special on-line vitamins, two jugs of well water,
a half-gallon of skim milk and two dozen shrimp.
"Hey, Doc," Joe whispered. "Don't you just give 'em dog food?"
"Hold on, Joe," I said. "There is more."
The lecture continued. She described the precise way in which each of Brat's special foods should be prepared. After that,
each of his toys was held up for observation and a written list was presented, describing which toys he was to have at which
Joe was incredulous. "I've heard it all now," he said. "When Serena gets bored, she just plays with her food dish or finds
something dead to chew on in the woods."
"There's still more to come, Joe," I assured him. "It's not over yet."
Mrs. Coddle described in detail the necessary arrangement of the pampered pooch's bed, blanket, pillow and favorite stuffed
toy. One of his owner's nightgowns was to be put in the cage to make him feel more at home.
Joe pointed out that Serena was perfectly comfortable as long as she slept inside the barn door far enough that it didn't
snow right in on top of her.
While pointing out that Brat likes to nip at people, Molly Coddle showed her hands to my staff. There were small bite marks
on most of her fingers.
"He really doesn't mean any harm," she explained. "And it doesn't hurt much. So, don't be upset if he bites you. It means
he likes you."
"That will be the day," Joe remarked. "Is that lady nuts, or what?"