Posting day: Sunday, and, sometimes, maybe, extra bits in between.
Sunday November 1st 2020
We’re striding happily along the pavement in the rain, Isis and I, when I spot a funeral cortège making its way towards us on the opposite side of the road. Leading are four magnificent black horses wearing feathery plumes.
There is a dog walking close behind us. He shows no interest at all in the horses. I wonder what Isis would think were she able to see them.
Just as they’ve clopped by, she leaps backwards, causing the dog and its person behind us to swerve out of her way. Her tail spinning like a helicopter blade, she leaps and twirls on the grass verge in wild excitement. Each time she lands, she emits a joyful little ‘Oof!
The scent of the horses has reached her.
The dog walker’s face is a picture of startled astonishment.
‘It’s the horses,’ I explain. She glances at me nervously before giving Isis and I a very wide berth. No doubt she’s concluded that we’re both unhinged.
‘Was that a specially lovely smell?’, I ask Isis, as she reluctantly allows me to guide her onward.
Obviously it was.
But tomorrow is Tuesday and we’re set for a much less fun encounter.
Yes, we’re off to the vet again.
The original dermatitis has cleared up nicely now, but over the past week she’s been diving at her hips, gnawing the other side of her buttocks and scratching the backs of her ears.
She’s had to wear her Elizabethan collar again. What can be the matter now? Surely the anal gland infection hasn’t returned?
As usual, her demeanour at the vet’s is exemplary. One light tap and she climbs onto the scales, carefully arranges herself so no bits are overhanging, and, lead removed, stands still until I replace it and give her a step down tap.
Our vet, of course, compliments her, and the nurse and receptionist breathe, ‘Oh, she’s so sweet.’
(I refrain from inviting them to attend when we’re back at home and I’m trying to trim off the fluff obscuring the itchy sites.)
I explain Hairy One’s nibblings, and ask whether the infection could have returned.
The vet thinks it’s unlikely, but she checks the glands and, much to Hairy One’s dismay, collects a little sample. There’s no sign of infection.
I hold Isis’s head while the vet examines the rest of the rear end very thoroughly. Isis wriggles and dances from one back leg to the other. She emits low growls, but doesn’t snap or try to wrench her head away.
The vet points out that Isis has been chewing rather than biting the hair on her right thigh. There are damp curls to prove it.
I tell her that when Isis first came to me, the hair there had been well barbered. Even now, when upset, she roots around this thigh.
‘Could it be stress’, I wonder.
‘Has anything stressful been going on?’
Ah. I’ve been moving stuff around the house all week. I’ve not put anything where she might walk into it, of course, but dogs do become upset when stuff is moved around. I remember my border collie Feather becoming quite distressed if she saw me putting luggage into the car, and not settling until I let her in to lie on the back seat.
And my Ellie, who used to be my friend’s dog, curled up in one of the packing boxes during preparations for a house move.
Perhaps Isis is anxious about furniture going missing, her home being dismantled.
Has she been left on her own more than usual?
Yes, she has. Not alone in the house, but alone downstairs while I’ve been recommissioning rooms upstairs.
The range of possibilities is vast: parasites, a recurring allergy, a specific skin disorder, stress, a return to old habits because of the anal infection.
As for treatment, the vet explains it might be necessary to send skin samples to the laboratory. This would be very expensive. It might or might not solve the problem. What would I feel about that?
I explain that Isis has her own bank account. When I first had her, I decided that it would be difficult to insure a deaf/blind immigrant dog, so put ten pounds a week away for veterinary treatment.
‘If you think tests are necessary, then that’s what we’ll do.’
The vet weighs up the possible routes which could be taken. She suggests that the symptoms are treated and the patient monitored very closely for two weeks, then she is brought back for a check. If the problem has not cleared up by then, we’ll think again.
She prescribes Hibiscrub to clean the sites of irritation, and a steroid cream to calm the skin. She explains exactly what needs to be done. I’ve never been able to hold any information which contains numbers in my head. Words are fine. Numbers elude me.
I immediately forget everything she says. But that’s fine, she assures me, it’ll all be on the labels.
By the time we get home, both Isis and I are worn out with the stress of it all.
I decide I’ll read all the information again the next day, then we’ll begin the regime.
By next morning we’ve both come round. I read the information on the the Hibiscrub bottle, then carefully apply the solution to the affected areas.
Isis expresses her gratitude with long, menacing growls.
Although I am quite gung-ho when treating my own wounds, I feel very apprehensive when treating my animals, am always afraid of getting it wrong and harming them.
Are other pet owners the same?
As I screw the lid back onto the Hibiscrub bottle, some of the solution dribbles onto the label, obscuring the ‘how many times a day’ information.
Never mind, I’ll look it up on the internet tomorrow. Gingerly, I rinse her skin and then apply the cream.
The next morning, I pick up the bottle of Hibiscrub again.
Obviously potent stuff.
I read the instructions on the cream tube. ‘Use twice a day’ it tells me ‘after the Hibiscrub.’
When I get to the site for confused Hibiscrub users, it’s full of queries such as
‘Do I put the Hibiscrub on my pet before or after the cream?’
‘Am I supposed to dilute it?’
‘How much is “a small amount”?’
‘How long do I leave it on?’
There are pages of questions. So it’s not just me then. But the answers vary. Now I’m more confused than I was before I went online. I even forget what I could remember the day before.
There’s no other solution. I’ll have to ring the veterinary practice.
It’s all too much. We’ll go to the park first.
When we return I ring the hub. I tell the pleasant receptionist what has happened to the label. ‘Oh’, she titters, ‘That always happens when I use it.’
After conferring with a colleague, she tells me that an entry will be made in the practice diary to ask the vet to ring me.
She does, after evening surgery. Even after a very long day, she’s still patient and clears up all my queries. I write down every thing she says. It all makes sense.
So Isis has one treatment on Wednesday. On Thursday, we begin the proper daily routine.
On Friday I recall that Hairy’s diet has been changed on the vet’s advice. She thinks more fibre could alleviate the anal gland problem. The change was very gradual and no other signs of intolerance are evident. But I should have mentioned that at the consultation.
We plod on with the routine. When she’s on a walk, I note, Isis doesn’t bother to scratch or chew at her coat. Perhaps she’s bored at home. I must play with her more.
On Thursday, I check the calendar. Isis is due to have her Prinovox tomorrow. That needs to be given every three months. That’s right, isn’t it? I check the label. No, it doesn’t – it should be given every month.
Then I recall with dismay that it was prescribed by an RSPCA vet because skin problems are very common among dogs of Isis’s hair colour and type. It’s a very effective preemptive treatment for various worms, fleas and other kinds of parasitic invasion.
Perhaps parasites have attacked her because she’s not had the Prinovox every month.
Oh my dog! Another confession to the vet.
*Isis came from the Aeza cat and dog rescue and adoption centre in Aljezur, Portugal. For information about adopting an animal from the centre, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or www.dogwatchuk.co.uk