Being doctors I hope that my parents and in-laws will be absolutely delighted (rather than mortified) with this post. Growing up around doctors and a large hospital I’m no stranger to hospital waiting rooms, nurses’ stations, OPDs and X-ray rooms. But yesterday I had a hospital experience very different from any other – an ultrasound for a dog. Yes, dogs get ultrasounds too. If you’re familiar with this blog and have read the escapades of our Abroozi and his girlfriend Tequila you will know that they “did the deed” and we were expecting puppies. When a submariner informs friends and colleagues that he and the good lady are expecting a child, his text message reads, “Firing circuit proved correct.” When the child finally arrives, the message reads, “Torpedo left the tube, firing valve seated, residual pressure normal, bow cap being shut.”
Labradors have a gestation period of 63 days and usually carry around 5 to 7 puppies. Our puppies were due to arrive 3 days ago and there have been no signs of a brood. In fact Tequila has been swaying between showing secondary signs of a pregnant dog but fewer primary signs. She’s been digging the floor finding a place to nest, peeing a lot and putting on weight. But the primary signs like an enlarged belly and hanging nipples were a little more elusive. So we began to doubt whether she was pregnant at all. Incidentally the only way to tell if a dog is pregnant is by palpation on the 45th day or an ultrasound. But all our fears were set aside by not one but 2 vets who confirmed they could feel puppy foetuses. To top it off around 50 days in to her “pregnancy” she suddenly stopped eating getting us all very worried. A pregnant dog usually eats double of what she normally does as she’s feeding the foetuses inside. The vet started doubting her liver function and feared that the foetuses could have aborted which in canines gets re-absorped in to the body. She was pumped with saline, antibiotics, de-worming medicines and a LIVE52 injection. We have no idea whether this was an appropriate course of treatment.
As the 67th day of her term came and went we took Tequila for a long over due ultrasound. We should have done this weeks ago but the business of life and trust in rather incompetent veterinarians led us to this much delayed moment. Vizag is a small town and so small that there are no good dog clinics. There are no dog clinics at all, only a handful of vets with sketchy reputations who are more used to treating cows and goats. So where do you take a pregnant dog to confirm that she is pregnant? Or if a dog has swallowed something to check his insides for blockage? You take your dog to the Vishaka Medical Centre, a private clinic with an MRI machine, X-ray room, Colour Doppler and a laboratory of tests which is meant for humans but where they allow dogs after 7pm. It’s a small but relatively clean clinic (agarbatti on every other pillar) crammed on a street with hundreds of other small private clinics and chemists shops.It’s like Harley Street minus the cosmetic surgery. It is a long but very narrow and crowded street rammed with people shuttling between emergency rooms and make shift ambulances. I suspect they are funded by rich Telugu businessmen who have sons and daughters with Ukrainian medical degrees and need a place to plonk their cash and degrees while providing employment for the huge numbers of allied health professionals and technicians.
A dog’s belly has to be shaved of all its hair or else the ultrasound scanner cannot see through all that fur. The clinic would only stretch their services so far and shaving a dog was not part of the deal. So there we all were crouched outside on the street to the side of the hospital’s entrance with Tequila pinned down on her back on top of the day’s local Telugu newspaper, held down by her mother, my dear husband, a dog trainer (Murthy) and myself. The trainer ran out to get a blade and meticulously scraped away at her hair like an expert barber. The sun had already set and fearing an accidental cut in the fading light my dear husband trained the LED light of his Samsung Galaxy Ace on her slowly denuding belly. The most unlikely publicity for Samsung I’m sure. But without the LED it could have been a disaster.
A word on Murthy the Naval police dog trainer. He is an extraordinary young man who started out as a Leading Seaman (Able Seaman to you Brits) which is Navy speak for a working hand on a ship. This was until there was a call for volunteers for dog trainers. He got accepted for a 7 month police dog training course with the army and he now spends his days patrolling the Navy’s aviation assets with 3 German Shepherds and a Labrador. He then goes home to, wait for it, 22 dogs. He’s got a male and female of each breed and his St.Bernard is going to deliver any day now. And his parents own a shop where they sell tropical fish and aquariums. They spend around 12,000 rupees a month on dog food. This man loves dogs. I hope he finds a girl who shares his passion.
Tequila, and her denuded undercarriage, was finally ready for the scan. The two or three couples in the waiting room were eye-balling the four of us and the dog, probably unable to imagine what in god’s name our situation was. The ultrasonographer, however was not at all phased that his next patient was a 3 yr old Labrador. Tequila was like a queen – she had the blast of an air-conditioner on her newly exposed belly, legs up in the air, the cool gel was applied on her and the transducer pressed on (the thing they press on your belly that emits the ultrasonic waves) was neatly wrapped with a new plastic cover. I presume they change that plastic for each patient, irrespective of whether canine or human. As we craned our necks to see the screen, all I could make out was what looked like a tunnel in to the underworld with a light shining ahead. I was expecting Hades to pop his head out waving his staff. But this was Tequila’s insides and five minutes after turning knobs and pressing buttons the technician asked us why we had brought her as he could see no foetuses, and barely a uterus, are we sure she had conceived? The vet was telephoned and interrogated who then insisted that Tequila have an X-ray just in case some ‘bones’ of a dead foetus could be seen. So she was shunted off to the adjoining XRay room, propped up on the table and Rs.1700 later the report confirmed the prognosis was “unexplained gas”. Here’s a blurred picture (sorry for that) of Tequila in the hospital reception with all the X-rays behind her.
This is testament to the dismal veterinary care in Vizag. However, I am very grateful that the Vishaka Medical Clinic does see dogs. It is also testament to how much we love our dogs and the lengths we will go to to ensure their health. Tequila’s mother and I would have daily and sometimes hourly phone calls about whether she had eaten or not and I would be over there to check on the state of her belly. Tequila probably had a false pregnancy where the dog exhibits all the signs of pregnancy but isn’t or she aborted the few foetuses that materialised. Although Tequila strung out a complete hoax at least two families with beautiful dogs were brought together in genuine friendship.
And what about our Abroozi you ask? He adores Tequila and is either blissfully unaware that he could have been firing blanks or knows fully well that he and Tequila were just having fun and that offspring was our intended end goal, not theirs.