The true test of veterinary client loyalty
I know people who will buy their pet an ice cream cone before coming to see me. I've seen painted toenails, dogs with pierced ears, cats with a gold-capped tooth, dogs with rollers in their hair, many types of sweaters, a horse with a glass eye, bunk beds for cats, various types of tattoos on pets, an artificial testicle placed back in the scrotum to keep it from looking empty, tubal ligations and vasectomies so the animals can still have fun but not get pregnant, wheelchairs for paraplegic Dachshunds, contact lenses for poor vision in old dogs, tennis shoes for hunting dogs—the list goes on and on. But I have never seen anything like what I saw a few years ago.
The presenting complaint was this dog "just can't chew food." The dog was a burly Bulldog that slobbered continuously. You couldn't tell anything was wrong by looking at it. The dog just stood there, panting and slobbering all over everything in sight.
The little lady who brought in the dog was obviously in love with the drooling rascal. And the look in her eyes was nothing less than terror. It seems that ole bulldog "Bule" had been unable to eat for a while.When I asked her what the problem seemed to be, she just shook her head and said, "He hasn't been able to chew his food for about three weeks now."
This rascal was fat and sassy and certainly didn't look like he'd gone without food for three weeks. Besides that, why did she wait so long to bring him in if things were so bad?
"Something is terribly wrong with his chewing mechanism," she told me as I examined the jowls of this spit factory. And the more I looked, the more it became apparent ole Bule had a dislocated joint in his jaw. When his mouth closed, the teeth didn't line up anymore.
I was amazed. How could this fat critter have made it so long without being able to chew? He could lick though. Boy, he could lick. His tongue was about four inches wide and must have been 10 inches long. He loved to use it.
The entire time I was examining him, he was licking his nose and my face. No matter where I moved, he could stick that thing out and give my cheek a good licking. By the time I was through with the exam, I had dog spit in my mustache, all over my glasses, in both nostrils, in my ear holes and all over my hat.
"How have you kept this dog from drying up and blowing away?" I asked as I pondered the condition of the dog.
"Well, I kept thinking he would get better on his own. When it first happened, I thought it would get better, but it just hasn't," she said. "I just couldn't stand to see him take a bite of food and then it just fell back out of his mouth. So, I decided I would just chew his food for him while whatever was wrong got better. I would just chew the food myself, and then put it in his mouth. Some of it would fall back out, but most of it he was able to swallow."
I was mesmerized by the thought of this little woman chewing every bite of Bule's food for the past three weeks. She must have chewed it for a while and then spit it back into her hand before she poked it down his throat. I was trying to picture it all in my mind as she went on with the story.
"It didn't seem to bother him for me to chew the food first," she said. "But don't you worry, Dr. Brock. I know better than to feed him human food. You told me a long time ago to never feed Bule human food, so I chewed his dog food hoping that it would have everything in it he needed to get well."
Well now, what would you have done at this point? Do you realize how much dog food you'd need to chew a day to keep a 50-pound Bulldog in good shape? Can you imagine doing that for three weeks? What her breath must have smelled like? Why didn't she just get canned food?
I started to go get a bowl of dog food for her to show me the entire procedure, but I decided that everyone might just get sick watching.
We fixed ole' Bule, and he went on to do just fine.
I decided that this was the greatest act of owner loyalty that I had ever witnessed.
Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.