Saturday, November 10, 2012

The healing magic of canines

As featured Saturday, November 3, 2012, at

It might have escaped human notice, had it not been for the inordinate amount of attention it drew from the other dogs.
Whether he was sitting, lounging, napping or walking around the yard, they followed him everywhere he went, licking the wound on his shoulder.
And he carried on as if soothed, if not oblivious to their efforts to clean the wound.
Antibiotics were administered and the wound cleaned and bandaged, but it wasn’t long before the other dogs managed to remove the bandage and take on the job of doctoring again.
Several days of redoing the bandaging and it became clear that short of isolating the poor boy, they just weren’t going to leave things alone.
Interestingly enough, however, on inspection the wound appeared clean, and infection free with signs of healthy healing — and with all the exposure it had to wind, dirt and the like, it was hard to say if it was the iodine rinses and medicine that were doing the trick, or if it might be the non-stop attention of the canine caretakers.
Wound licking by animals is common enough and in a way it makes perfect sense, after all, it’s not as if they have washcloths, gauze and boiled water at their disposal.
Yet historically, dogs hold a special recognition for their medical prowess, and once upon a time, mankind believed strongly in the magical properties of a dog’s lick,
Found throughout lore and myth are stories of dogs healing by licking the injured or dying.
Early doctors even tried to harness the power, including dogs trained to lick the wounds of patients among hospital staff in ancient Greece.
In modern times, there are still cultures which rely on the healing tongues of dogs, and the old wives tale that dog saliva contains antiseptic remains widely believed by many.
However, even though it seems a little farfetched, it’s not all poppycock.
The saliva of a dog, while not entirely magical, is a little special.
With a high PH level and containing enzymes and substances that prevent the growth of bacteria, a dog’s saliva does have some qualities that help counter the not-so-hygienic passions and pastimes of dogs.
It's true enough, that perhaps it would be worth bottling and marketing — if it were that simple.
But it’s the other stuff mixed in there that begins to unravel the myths.
While canine saliva probably does help protect a pooch from the nasties that find their way into their mouths and also helps maintain a level of dental health, the mouth of a dog is a real yin-yang kind of environment.
Of course it’s a little difficult to convince a wounded dog that they should refrain from using the one medical tool nature gave them.
And sometimes they probably are doing more good than bad.
With constant cleaning, they can keep a wound moist, free of material and in some cases, the composition of their saliva may be just what the doctor ordered.
But much like spinning one bullet in the chamber of an otherwise empty revolver — it only takes one little bit of bacteria to change the landscape dramatically.
And while most of the time, dogs do fine, when it comes to the wounds of other species, particularly humans, the risk is enough to keep dogs out of the pharmaceutical business.
However, while it can’t be found under a microscope, it’s well proven that a big slobbery kiss from your favorite pooch does contain magic that wipe away most any pain.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Pet rat's odyssey lasted three days

As featured Saturday, October 27, 2012, at
It lasted three whole days.
Three days of overturned spice bottles rolling on the counters and scrambling noises when the kitchen lights were flipped on.
Human error started it of course, an error that led to the cage being left open.
The first sighting was quite the surprise.
Not so much a surprise in the fact it's not unusual to spot the occasional mouse, but more in the sense that they usually don't have black and white spots.
Nor is the average mouse 5 inches tall when it stands on its hind legs.
As a result, the first sighting unfolded in split-second stages that went something like: What the heck was that...? Where the heck did a rat come from...? Why is the rat's cage empty?
The realization struck about the same time the rat realized she'd been spotted and off she went, finding a hiding place under the kitchen sink, thanks to a door that had been left slightly open.
It seemed a perfect opportunity to corner her, or at least it should have been a perfect opportunity, had it not been for a hole in the drywall, irregularly cut around a pipe.
It's a never ending source of amazement to see how easily a chased animal can contort itself to avoid capture, especially rodents, which appear to turn into propelled amoebas that can squish through the tiniest crevice.
Forcing her broad belly through the hole that was no larger than her head, that's exactly what she did, and in so doing, claimed the wall as her new home.
By no stretch of the imagination was she the first caged pet in the household to go on the lam, but she was the first to take up residence in the kitchen and in so doing, presented quite the conundrum.
She was far too large for a humane mouse trap, using a traditional mouse trap was out of the question for a pet, and for much the same reasons, the poison and a cat options had to be scratched off the list.
Coaxing seemed to be the only next logical step.
Wiggling a pizza crust in front of the opening to her new house, it was only a second before she took the bait and sunk her teeth in.
Time after time, she reached out; stole a mouthful, then withdrew, holding her position while triumphantly feasting on pizza crust.
Partly out of frustration, part out of fear that she would gorge herself and grow too large to escape the hole, I squeezed my hand in after her, only to quickly withdraw it in a slurry of not-so-nice words when she made the honest mistake that we had moved from light refreshments to finger foods.
Finger bandaged, tactics reassessed, the next two days consisted of make-shift traps.
A bucket with scattered snacks on the bottom which she promptly jumped out of – who knew rats could spring over the side of a bucket from a standstill – a jar with a one-way trap lid that she never went near, and more than a couple of futile mad dashes as she discovered every hiding place the kitchen had to offer.
Into the Wild was the thing that finally snared her, and while sadly she didn't get to enjoy 150 minutes of soul searching introspection, she did get an up close look at the main character pensively looking into the Alaskan forest as the DVD case slid across her path and blocked her escape.
Though she screeched all the way Into the Cage, her rant certainly seemed akin to the words of Jon Krauker, "...The trip was to be an odyssey in the fullest sense of the word, an epic journey that would change everything."