Friday, November 12, 2010

Dog Wisdom

My dog and I communicate even if we don't exchange words.

This morning, he wanted to go outside a second time before I left for work. Sometimes he needs to poop twice in a short period of time. I'd rather spend a little time to indulge him when he asks politely, rather than have him uncomfortable all day or respond to a soiled floor.

Yes, I did write "when he asks politely." That's what he does. He gets up suddenly from his repose and walks up to me and gives me the Humble but Pleading Look, "I'm sorry, it makes me sad, but I need to go outside, please." Sometimes he will bring his plushie squeekie toy.

"Do you want to go Outside, Buddy? Outside? Okay." So we went outside, again.

I know what you're thinking, "That's not a conversation," and "All dogs do that, big deal." But the real conversation didn't start until after we got outside, and I wanted to go back in so I could leave for work.

After pooping, he again rolled around on the grass, rubbing his back and snout into the frost-tainted grass. This cool weather is his favorite time of year. So I wasn't too surprised when he said, "Give me a belly rub."

I nearly walked past him. But then I thought to myself, "Why not?" He's nine years old. We should enjoy each other while he's still healthy. "Besides," I said to myself, "I can get a good look at his tumor." He had a benign tumor removed from a broken tooth last month, a fibrous carcinoma of the tooth. But it needs to be looked at in case it grows back. I can get a good look at it when he's lying on his back.

So after about a minute of belly rubbing and saying "Silly dog," I stopped. "Okay, let's take a look at that tooth." It was definitely back. I could see it clearly from this angle -- a red, chickpea of gum tissue seeping out around the sliver of the upper tooth that remained.

"Oh Buddy, we have to do something about that. The doctor said he would remove the tooth this time. Or we could do radiation. Which one do you want?"

In reply, he said, "I'll show you what I need," and he ran over to the brush pile to fetch a stick. But he all he could find on the ground was a skinny little twig. I walked over. He watched expectantly while I broke off a 16" length of oak branch that was about as thick as a hotdog.

This time I didn't taunt him with it, offering it and then pulling it away just before he grabs it. No, I simply handed it to him. His cure. He took it, walked a short distance and lay down to chew it.

I watched, expecting to see blood ooze onto the splintered wood, but surprisingly there was none. I grew cold as I stood over him watching. Leaves blew around us and fell from trees while he crushed the stick with his jaws. But I let him have his chew. Either it would cure the problem, or at least he'd enjoy himself.

After he chewed a few inches off the end, I roused ourselves, and I hurried inside. He followed reluctantly and came inside about a minute later.

Maybe he knows what he needs to help his mouth. White oak bark can help with inflamed gums. Perhaps he'd do better with a birch branch, whose bark contains Betulin, which is effective against tumors. Or maybe willow would be a good choice. Willow bark contains salicylates, which can act like aspirin. Native Americans used willow bark to relieve toothaches and other pain. I suspect he somehow knows this. He used to always chew sticks. But ever since his tooth broke, I've kept the sticks away from him.

But I think the dog knows best.

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