Run for Your Life

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Joe always wanted Comet checked for one thing or the other. He was waiting for his turn in the exam room with Comet on his lap. Comet was a young Whippet. There was not an ounce of fat on his entire body. I could about define every muscle on him, just looking.

“What’s up with Comet today,” I asked as Joe placed him carefully on the exam table?

“I have been reading about heartworms, Doc,” Joe said. “I thought maybe I better have you check Comet and get him on some medication.”

“We have just completed a statewide heartworm survey,” I said. “One of the drug companies paid for it. Most of the clinics in the state collected blood samples from 100 dogs. They ran all those samples, and they say we have about a two percent incidence of heartworms in native Oregon dogs.” 

“That doesn’t sound like it is too serious,” Joe said. 

“Not too serious at this point, but they claim that is pretty standard for how heartworms invade an area. It will be in low numbers for several years, and then all of a sudden, it is a major problem.”

“Well, even if it is a low-risk thing, I think I want to get Comet on some medication,” Joe said. “You know how I am about him. He means as much to me as any of the kids.”

“I know, Joe, you have him with you all the time,” I said. “The kids come and go.”

“Now, don’t you tell my wife that I said that. She would be upset with me,” Joe said.

“Let me get a blood sample from Comet, and we will see if we can get him on some medication,” I said. “This new drug, Ivomectin, is a little bit of a problem with Greyhounds and Whippets. But the dose used for heartworm prevention is low enough that it is not an issue.”

“Whatever you think, Doc,” Joe said. 

“The risk of the medication causing a problem is very small, Joe. But then, the risk of infection is also minimal. At this point, where you live out on a hillside with few neighbors, I think it is your call.”

“That hillside is one of my concerns,” Joe said. “We are getting into quite a coyote problem. They are getting so brave that they come right down into the yard and bother Comet. I don’t him catching anything from them.”

Comet tested negative for heartworms, and we started him on a new preventative medication. 

“You give him one of these tablets once a month,” I said. “Try to give it on the same day of the month, but you have a few days leeway if you forget.”

It was several months later when Joe returned to the clinic. He was distraught, and his body odor told that he had not bathed in several days.

“Doc, Comet is gone,” Joe said as he leaned hard on the counter, tears welled up in his eyes. “Those coyotes ate him, I am sure.”

“What happened,” I asked?

“Three of those damn coyotes came into the yard and started to attack Comet. Before I could do anything, Comet took off like a shot. You know those Whippets can run. The coyotes were right on his tail.”

“I doubt that those coyotes could catch Comet. I know of ranchers in Colorado who keep Greyhounds to hunt coyotes. Those Greyhounds just run them down.”

“Maybe a half-hour after they left the yard, the whole pack of coyotes were yipping up a storm. I am sure they got him. And he hasn’t been home, and that was four days ago. I don’t know what I am going to do without him.”

“Joe, you need to go home and take care of yourself. Take a shower and get cleaned up. Maybe have the kids help you build a little memorial in the yard of Comet. Then go out for a good dinner. Comet would want you to have a normal life.”

“Yes, you are probably right, Doc,” Joe said. “I brought this package of pills back. I only used a few, and maybe you can give them to someone who doesn’t have the money to afford them.”

“We are not supposed to do that, but we keep a few things in the cabinet, just for such a client.”

“That poor man,” Sandy said after Joe left. “That dog was his whole life.”

“He will be okay,” I said. “It will just take a little time and some diversion.”

It was only a few days later when Joe exploded through the door. Exuberant, he had a smile from ear to ear. He had combed his hair, and he was well dressed.

“Doc, I want to thank you for your advice,” Joe said.

“You look happy,” I said.

“Let me tell you the story,” Joe said. “I went home the other day and tried to take your advice, but I couldn’t get myself up to it. I laid around another couple of days. Finally, I looked at the yard, and boy, it needed to be mowed. So I went out and started the lawnmower, mowed the yard, and then I took the boys down to Hoy’s Hardware to buy stuff for a memorial. And what do you know, when we got home, there was Comet, sitting in the middle of the driveway, waiting for us. I was so happy. I almost ran the pickup into the house.”

“That is great news,” I said. “I bet that Comet ran so fast and so far that he didn’t know the way home. When you started the lawnmower, you probably gave him some bearings on how to get home. I didn’t think a coyote could catch him.”

“You are probably correct,” Joe said. “This time of the year, I mow the lawn at least once a week, maybe twice, if I get bored. So Comet would know the sound for sure.”

“I would give you those pills back, but I gave them to an old guy this morning,” I said with a smile on my face.

“That’s okay. I will gladly buy some more,” Joe said.

“No,” I laughed. “I will grab them for you. I was pulling your leg a little.”

Photo by Mitchell Orr on Unsplash

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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