"Hey, doc, I got a question for ya. I ate some dog medicine, and I just need to know if it's gonna kill me." These were the words I was greeted with first thing Wednesday morning at the hospital. And coming from Butchee, those words made me laugh. But he didn't see the humor in it. In fact, his face was twisted up a bit with worry.
Butchee's wife had brought Gator into the clinic on Monday, and my associate Dr. Dustin McElwee had dispensed some NSAIDs for ol' Gator to combat the aches and pains that come from running around as a farm dog for nine years. Dustin told her to put the pill in a piece of cheese or a meatball and Gator would just eat it up.
Crossing species at the kitchen counter
When Mrs. Butchee got home that evening, she was delighted to find a few of the meatballs from Sunday dinner in the fridge. Perfect—Dr. McElwee had said to use a meatball and she just happened to have seven left.
Mrs. Butchee took one out and poked a pill into it. She was about to take it to Gator when her mother called on the phone. Mrs. Butchee rushed out to help her mom do something right then, leaving one spiked meatball and six normal meatballs sitting on the counter.
A little while later, Butchee came home after a hard day's work and saw seven meatballs just begging to be eaten. He did. When Mrs Butchee came home, she forgot all about the dog pain pills and the meatballs. Besides, Butchee had cleaned up the mess, so there was nothing to remind her.
'I was jumping over fences'
"Let me tell you somethin', Doc. Them pain pills you gave Gator work!" Butchee told me. "I ran around the farm yesterday like a little kid. I was jumping over fences and my back feels better than it has in years. I couldn't figure out why I felt so good." Apparently, he'd felt so good he'd even won an arm wrestling match with a twentysomething guy down at the gym.
"Yeah, I ate that pill and then the missus forgot all about 'em until this morning when she remembered Doc Dustin had given them to her," he said. "She looked high and low for those meatballs and then asked me if I'd seen them. When I told her I ate 'em all, she just started laughing and asked if one of 'em tasted funny. You reckon that pill's gonna have any bad effects on me?"
I could tell this was a trick question. If I told Butchee that the pill wouldn't hurt him, he'd take them himself. He had been a little too happy about his pain-free life on Tuesday for me to believe that Gator would see another pill.
'Have you had the urge to hike your leg?'
I decided to use farmer logic. I raised one eyebrow and replied, "Have you had the urge to hike your leg when you pee? Have you felt like lapping up water with your tongue? Do you feel like you'd rather ride in the bed of the pickup than the cab?"
He got a far-away, thoughtful look on his face and replied, "Nope."
"Well, I guess you didn't get enough in that one pill," I said. "But if you take any more, you might start feeling those symptoms." I kept a straight face and left that one hiked eyebrow hanging.
"Are you kiddin' with me, Doc? Is that why they're dog pills? You mean to tell me that if I took another one today I might start acting like a dog? I guess they are dog pills. Good thing I talked to you. I felt so good yesterday, I almost took another one."
I don't know if he believed me or not. He kept looking at me to see if he could read my expression. I do know that Gator got the rest of the pills. And I know that every time I see Butchee, he wants to know if I was kidding with him or telling the truth. I love this job.
Dr. Brock owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.
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