Meet My Little Old Lady
I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to one of the four-legged members of my family. Just so you know, I love dogs. I have three of them. Happiness to me is sitting on the couch under a pile of dogs and kids and watching a movie.
My oldest dog is Scully. I got her during my third year of vet school at Texas A&M University while I was doing my internship at a vet clinic in Dallas. They were the "official" vet clinic for a now defunct pet store called Jerry’s Perfect Pets. I went there to examine puppies and there she was, for sale for $100, with a sign that called her a "Micro Lab." I saw her and thought she was the perfect dog for me. I wanted a Lab, but they were too big and nutty for my humble, poor-college-student abode. Scully, the 25-pound Lab/God-knows-what mix looked to be just the right pet for me. (Incidentally, I had her DNA tested and she is supposedly a mix between a Labrador, Cocker Spaniel, Australian Shepherd and Mastiff).
I convinced my fiancée (now husband) to buy her for me for some minor dating anniversary. We named her over late night, post-keg-party pancakes at the College Station IHOP. The X-Files was my favorite show at the time (my ideal Sunday night consisted of watching The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, and then The X-Files … life was so simple then). Anyhow, Dana Scully was tossed around, which was shortened to just Scully.
I quickly learned that, despite where she came from, Scully was a less than perfect pet. She had profound separation anxiety; she spent her days in her crate doing this weird "monkey bark," drooling and peeing on herself. She hated kids. I learned that one the hard way when, to my horror, she ran up and nipped some random kid at the park on the leg. Going potty outside just wasn’t her thing. She preferred the upstairs game room. She tore all the screens off the outside windows. She was a crazed, maniacal ball chaser. Once, we thought we killed her because we just assumed she’d stop going after the ball when she got tired. We were at the park, and suddenly she just veered off under some trees and fell over. She recovered after pouring some water on her and letting her cool off.
Did I mention Scully is a voracious food thief? We finally had to put a giant spring on the pantry door to make sure it stays closed because Scully stole so much food from there. The final straw was when she got into an entire box of high-fiber granola bars and had astonishing, explosive diarrhea all over my closet.
Fortunately, she has mellowed considerably over the years. Katelin, my Miniature Pinscher, cured her separation anxiety. She’s grown to tolerate kids too, though the age of kid she puts up only goes up each year as my kids get older. And for the most part she goes to the bathroom outside, but now she just uses the decking by the patio because she would rather not walk that far. If it’s raining outside though, she’d just as soon use the closet.
Scully is 13 now. She’s got terrible shoulder and elbow arthritis. I have her on a prescription Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplement, and fish oil to help. She takes a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) when she’s really having a tough day, but too much makes her barf. She has a terrible heart, but the heart meds make her barf too. She’s deaf as a post and losing her vision. I still clean her teeth (under anesthesia) at least once a year. She has a weird disease called Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy (a mouthful, eh?) that makes her nails brittle and malformed. However, you guessed it, the medicine for that makes her barf too.
Scully has always been a vomiter. Shortly after I graduated vet school, she vomited everything she ate for a solid week. Blood work and X-rays were normal. I finally had her scoped (endoscopy, where they slip a little video camera into her stomach to have a look around). Turns out she had picked up a Helicobacter infection. That bacterium was all the rage at the time. It was blamed for causing stomach ulcers in dogs and humans. I treated her with antibiotics and antacids for three weeks and she was fine. She is the only dog in my almost 13 years of practice that I have ever diagnosed with that.
Scully was my first "grown-up" dog (you know, now that I’m away from my parents). She is my shadow. Nowadays, it kills me because she still insists on following me wherever I go (when she hears me go, at least), despite her arthritis. She is this sweet, bumbling presence … my "Velcro dog."
Through Scully, I’ve learned the quiet dignity of an aging dog. She accepts all of her infirmities with steadfast resolve. She’s lost the flash and vigor of her younger self, yet she is still happy with a scratch on the neck and a bowl of food. I feel this urge to take care of her and make sure her dwindling time is as warm and happy and comfortable as possible. She’s my sweet, old lady.
Dr. Vivian Cardoso-Carroll
Pic of the day: Scully in suitcase by me