Everyone has their Christmas traditions.
In our household, a Christmas tradition in recent years has been for Hamish, aging literary whippet, with a manly white chest and so on, to acquire an indisposition of some kind. It seems to be a law of life that dogs and humans fall ill at weekends and during holidays. For humans in Deeside it’s a question of contacting the out of hours doctor – this can be tricky sometimes, but at least there is no immediate financial penalty. For dogs, however, the cost can be quite staggering and always involves a journey of some kind.
Hamish’s indisposition this year was a painful, outrageously swollen paw which he first drew to our attention two days before Christmas by hobbling around the kitchen in a rather limp-wristed way which was his attempt to show off the affected limb. He followed this with an upward look of deep sorrow, the kind of expression which would extract sympathy from the stoniest heart. A phone call to the vet revealed one remaining appointment before Christmas, with just forty minutes to spare. Jo drove him to Banchory and a course of antibiotics was prescribed by a vet standing in for the usual excellent professional.
Vet: Does Hamish take pills easily?
Jo: Oh yes. That’s no problem.
Vet: That’s good to hear – it can be a problem with some dogs.
Behind this simple exchange of information, however, lies what Al Gore might call an inconvenient truth. The vet duly produced a pack of huge purposeful-looking antibiotic pills. Jo paid for these with Master’s severely weakened credit card. Pills, dog and Mistress returned home. And now for the inconvenient truth – Hamish only takes pills if they are wrapped in something palatable – and “palatable” in Hamish’s case means “gourmet”. It’s no use trying to hide the antibiotic in a dish of dog food – the food will be eaten, the pill remain untasted. In fact, his pill-taking reminds me of one of those rather flowery dinner menus – you know the sort of thing: succulent, slow cooked pork on a bed of tender mashed potatoes, overlaid with a subtle jus of apple and pear. So twice a day over Christmas and for the next two weeks, Hamish gets to snack briefly on antibiotic wrapped in Brie or antibiotic presented in a small bed of Christmas cake. Add further examples of your own “to taste”.
Anyway, with amazing speed the paw began to return to normal – the antibiotics had worked but like all antibiotics, they worked and had side effects. That strained, pained look Hamish had all day on Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning was suddenly explained during our post Christmas lunch walk on Christmas Day, when, with great effort and evident pleasure and to the enormous delight of our grandchildren Hamish produced what can best be described as an outsize Yuletide log just a few minutes after leaving the house.
And the swollen paw? That’s long forgotten, of course.