A Veterinary Carol

Pet Tales

by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.

Ebenezer Stooge had a dog. It was supposed to be a guard dog - signal him if someone got near his property, protect his home from invasion and prevent his belongings from being stolen. However, in Ebenezer's opinion, the dog did not much project the image, nor have the attitude of a protector. The dog's name was Tip, but everyone on the street  called him Tiny Tip. That was because he was at least 10 kilograms underweight and his ribs could be counted from across the street. His large, sad eyes and ears that drooped below his chin, seemed much too big for his body. Even as an adult, he appeared smaller than he was meant to be. Ebenezer assured everyone he always bought the best 'on sale' food for Tip to go with his regular table scrap diet.  He expected Tip to supplement his diet, if he was hungry, with the occasional rodent who wandered into the yard or find a bone to chew on.

Ebenezer had grown up on a farm and the dogs he knew then were never vaccinated, never got sick, had ear infections or a toothache. They sure never needed to be seen by  a vet. Dogs were dogs, weren't they? They could look after themselves - lick a sore, bite or scratch at any fleas they picked up. Veterinarians were certainly never needed to offer preventive health care, parasite control or behaviour counseling for Tiny Tip. The only time he had seen a vet was when he was a puppy and had gotten tangled in the chain anchoring him to his dog house. He broke a bone in his leg. Ebenezer would only pay for a cast to be applied and as a result the healing had not been perfect. It was the reason one of Tiny Tip's kneecaps kept slipping out of place and why he now walked with a limp.    

None of this, of course, mattered to Tiny Tip. He loved Ebenezer. He always jumped to his feet to greet him, when Ebenezer approached. He always tried to give his master a big slurpy kiss when Ebenezer bent down to fill his water bowl. He would have followed him anywhere and done anything to win his owner's favour. Even just a pat on the head from Ebenezer would have sent him into ecstasy. But then Ebenezer didn't know much about friendship or how to be a friend. In fact, all his neighbours said Tiny Tip was the only friend Ebenezer had.

One freezing cold Christmas Eve, just before midnight, Ebenezer plopped down in his big leather chair beside a roaring warm fire in the fireplace. He was glad to be back inside the house again. It had been snowing all day and he had wanted to be sure the harsh north wind, now blowing, was not creating a snow drift in front of Tiny Tip's doghouse. He wanted to be sure nothing was blocking the open doghouse entrance that would interfere with Tip being able to keep watch on the house and property. Warmed by the fire and the glass of sherry he had just finished, Ebenezer drifted off to sleep.

As Ebenezer later remembered it, what happened next, changed his life. He was visited by three ghosts. First came, the Ghost of Christmas Past. It transported Ebenezer back to a time when Tippy was just a chubby, roly-poly, little puppy. He was curled up, sleeping peacefully with his siblings at his mother's side. The Ghost of Christmas Present showed Ebenezer a very different picture. Outside, chained in his doghouse, on a bed of straw, Tip was shaking and shivering in the bitter cold. His water bowl was frozen over, the bone he had been given for supper, picked clean. However, it was the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future that really shook Ebenezer. At first, looking at an even more dilapidated and decayed doghouse, Ebenezer thought Tip must have just crawled deeper inside to escape the cold. Then he saw the chain attached to an empty collar. The Ghost pointed out the freshly dug grave in the corner of his yard. Fortunately, Ebenezer also learned this scene in the future did not have to be.

Veterinary emergency care is always available, even on Christmas Day. What a sight it was - Ebenezer, carrying Tip in his arms, wasted no time in getting his now recognized friend to a place where kennel attendants, registered veterinary technicians and veterinarians could help. His skin wounds were treated, his ear infection medicated. Drugs were given to rid him of parasites and vaccinations administered to keep him well. A healthy diet was recommended. Finally, laboratory tests and x-rays showed an operation could be performed to correct that problem kneecap. The surgery was scheduled so that he could run and play again. With all this love, care and attention from Ebenezer and all his new health care friends, one part of his body showed it was working just fine. Tiny Tip's tail was wagging so fast it was just a blur! Merry Christmas to all Pets and their People. Barry Burtis is a local companion animal veterinarian. Past Pet Tales can be found at www.baycitiesanimalhospital.ca