How to clear a dog
When a dog is bunged up, it requires a a good clean-out - by hand.
Ben Hur was well and truly bunged up. He was a big dopey huntaway, black as the inside of an Angus cow, but with a bright star on his chest. The very tip of his tail looked as though it had been dipped in white paint and used to daub untidy splotches on his feet.
He belonged to Sam (the Man) Munster, a large, lugubrious young man who was sharemilking on 450 hard acres not far from town. Sam was not the brightest candle on the cake, but he made up for it with hard work and reliability, and his place required lots of both. The land was a hungry clay that was so slick and greasy in winter, it was nigh impossible or at best very dangerous attempting to get hay out to cows up the hill. In summer, the drought would fry even the scruffy kikuyu stalks on the flats and Sam would have to resort to feeding out his precious baleage to keep cows milking for a half-decent season.
Dairy farming is a difficult life for a dog. They cause more trouble than they are worth when the cows are calving and feeling stroppy about any creature coming near their new babies. Once calving is over, there’s the routine of getting the cows in twice a day, every day, and it’s enough to bore an intelligent dog out of its brain. Same cows. Same track. Same shed. Same time. Day after day.
Some farmers try to do it without a dog, but that means zooming around the recalcitrant ones at milking time. That’s ok on nice flat Waikato fields, but dangerous in the dark pre-dawn on steep hills. A dog can be useful, but the trick is to find one willing to do the same old work, calmly and steadily.
Ben Hur was Sam’s solution, a bigfooted mutt with a woof that came from deep in his belly, but only when it was absolutely required to rustle up some silly first calver. Otherwise he was content to poozle along behind the herd and sniff at the rushes and roses (well, blackberry) to and from the shed at a gentle pace suitable for good milk production.
But the day we met him, Ben was more than just placid. He was almost comatose.
“He’s been like this for a couple of days now,” said Sam.
The Vet checked the dog’s blood pressure and temperature and listened to his heart. “How old is he?” “Oh, about five I reckon.” The Vet palpated the dog’s abdomen and got a good groan out of him. The Vet’s eyes lit up.
“I reckon he is just bunged up good and proper. Constipated.”
“Yeah, I haven’t noticed him have a crap for a couple of days, not that I was always watching him,” says Sam. “But he did seem to be straining a bit. Now he isn’t even doing that.”
“Well, we can try him on some paraffin
Yeah, I haven’t noticed him have a crap for a couple
oil and coloxil tablets first.”
Sam cleared his throat and shuffled about a bit.
“Oh yeah, well actually I already gave that a go,” he admitted. “Remember years ago the wife’s little dog got bound up when the weather turned rotten and it didn’t want to go out and get its feet wet. You gave us paraffin and coloxil then. It worked a treat. So I got some from the chemist the other day I was in town, thought I might be able to fix Ben meself. But it’s been another 48 hours and he’s looking sicker than ever.”
“Ok,” the Vet acknowledged Sam’s efforts, not at all put out that the farmer would try his own repairs. “But I think we had better not muck around any longer and just operate.”
“Oh boy, that sounds expensive.” Sam looked uncomfortable.
“Well, is he a good dog?” the Vet asked. “Can you manage without him?” “On that place? You got to be kidding.” “Then look on it as a good investment, necessary infrastructure.”
Ben Hur was sedated, put on a drip to hydrate him properly and regulate the amount of anaesthetic he got, then we washed down his belly with alcohol and opened him up like a zipper had appeared down his midline. The Vet sloshed around in the belly looking for the bunged-up section of gut, while I got to work on the bottom end, squeezing out and reaching for as much matter as my small gloved fingers could get to.
It was gluey matter, full of fur. Possum fur.
“You been feeding him possums?” the Vet asked Sam.
“No, but reckon he might have got into the bush and amused himself hunting for one the other day. I got held up in the evening as a couple of heifers had jumped the fence into the bush and I needed to cut the wires to get them back to the mob. Ben was doodling around but I didn’t keep my eye on him. Maybe he caught something.”
There are three ways to ‘clear’ a dog of a mess like this. You can knock them out and try an enema up the back passage to soften and loosen the matter, but when palpating Ben’s belly, the Vet decided the blockage was too high to reach. The next option was to slice open the lower bowel and clean out the fur clogging up the works, then stitch it back up, but that runs the risk of infection. That left option three, to open up his gut so we could get to the miles of intestine and just milk the matter along the pipeline, squeezing it out the way it was meant to go.
Vet work is often not very romantic. The two of us worked side-by-side, and after half an hour the intestine was clear. Then it was just a matter of piling the guts back in and stitching him up again.
Within an hour Ben was groggily coming round. He helped himself to the water bowl and wagged at his boss. “Ok. Take him home and you will have to do the barking yourself for a week,” said the Vet. “Then bring him back and we can check how it has healed and get his stitches out.”
“Oh. He won’t like staying at home much.”
“Well, give him a chariot to ride then, but keep him on the back of the quad where he can rark up the slaves.
“But no more possum fluff.” ■
Vet work is often not very romantic