SERIES Tales From Prospect House
Beryl certainly had something in common with man’s best friend . . .
LUCY and I were lying on the sofa at Willow Wren watching a TV programme about dogs. Winnie and Bert, our rescue dogs, were curled up between us, fast asleep, while we listened to the dulcet tones of Martin Clunes telling us how a dog’s sense of smell is so sensitive.
“We might be able to smell that there’s a teaspoonful of sugar in our mug of coffee,” he was saying, “but a dog can sense that teaspoonful in two Olympic-sized swimming pools.”
I wrinkled my nose, aware that a strong smell had drifted up between Lucy and me that was decidedly unsugar-like.
We both looked down at the two pooches.
Clunes continued to educate us.
“A dog’s sense of smell can be up to ten million times more sensitive than a human’s. And our canine chums have up to three hundred million scent glands, compared with our miserable five million.”
Clearly our dogs were not utilising any of their 300 million as they continued to snooze on, oblivious to the odours they were emitting.
Though we haven’t the sense of smell that dogs have, our five million scent glands are sufficient to pick up a broad range of smells.
It’s par for the course when dealing with dogs and other pets. Prospect House was proof of that, especially on rainy days.
I’m not a huge fan of that wet, steaming dog odour. Nor what can result from a dog having eaten rabbit remains on the Downs.
Last Christmas Eve, Beryl had booked a Jack Russell in to see me.
“He’s gobbled a pile of turkey giblets,” she warned. “Apparently it’s now all systems go.”
She was right. I heard and smelled the lad before I set eyes on him.
His owner hoisted him on to the consulting table by tucking his arm under the dog’s belly. The squeeze on his guts precipitated another loud blast. I could have lit a match at his tail end and he would have rocketed into space.
Some charcoal granules and a bland chicken and rice diet was the key to turning off the gas.
Clunes gave us some more information in that TV documentary. When your pooch sniffs a lamppost, or noses your trouser leg against which another dog has rubbed, it’s more than a smell he’s getting. It’s a complete story.
From these smells, a dog can tell a great deal about another dog. Whether they’re male or female; what they’ve eaten; where they’ve been; what they’ve touched.
They can tell if they’re ready to mate, if they’ve given birth recently and what mood they’re in.
Beryl’s a bit like that. She has an uncanny knack of sniffing out what’s going on. Maybe she has more than her quota of sensory glands, since she does seem to have a nose for any out-of-the-ordinary odours.
Several times, Eric’s fallen foul of her extra-sensory ability. Usually after a beer or two over lunch down at the local pub.
There was one time when I joined him.
We enjoyed a ploughman’s with pickle and a pint of brew each. It gave us the chance to discuss how I was finding things these days. I was no longer the new boy, having been in the practice nearly two years now.
Returning, Eric paused on the steps of the hospital and rummaged in his pocket.
“Mint, Paul?” He offered me one from a packet. “Forewarned is forearmed.”
He popped three in his mouth, then took a deep breath.
“Let battle commence.” We strode up the steps and into reception.
But Beryl wasn’t fooled. Every one of her five million olfactory sensors was on high alert.
No sooner had we stepped into reception, than she waved her scarlet talons in front of her face.
“You smell like a brewery.” From behind her hand, for good measure, she added, “You could anaesthetise a poodle with one breath.”
As Eric told me later, the breed of dog was proportional to the number of units of alcohol Beryl suspected had been consumed. Three pints or more and the dog became a Great Dane.
“I swear she’s got a breathalyser embedded in her cranium,” Eric would mutter when subjected to another withering comment and a squirt from Beryl’s can of Summer Bouquet.
The latter was her answer to all things smelly. Its cloying perfume would waft through from reception whenever malodorous forces were at work.
That itself was enough to get up my nose.
More next week.