Friday, April 02, 2004


Twice a day I give a pill to our special needs dog, Winston. It's an anti-depressant - the generic form of Elavil. We've had him on it for 3 and a half months - a couple of weeks ago, on the vet's advice, we doubled the dose. He's still a loony dog, but in all honesty, Winston does seem happier. He likes to be petted a little more. He doesn't sit still very often, but he will occasionally lie at my feet as I type - as long as I reach down quite often and rub his belly.

He wags his tail all the time, and challenges Amy and me not to smile at him as he hunches down and gives us his own unusual blend of part bark, part howl, tempered by an underlying baseline of something akin to a half hearted guttural growl.

Of course, he still howls at things only he sees and barks at the dark, but what can we expect from generic pharmaceuticals?

Whenever I prepare Winston's pills, Klondike - our aging dog who has the run of the house -saunters into the kitchen. I mean every time I touch that particular pill bottle.

It's literally a Pavlovian thing. Klondike has learned that when I give Winston his pill, I coat the pill in butter in order to avoid an unsightly struggle where I try to shove a pill down Winston's throat. It's a battle which invariably results in me thinking I've won only to spy a soggy pill sitting at Winston's paws as he looks up at me with a countenance of confusion. Then I try again...and again until I finally manage to cram the tiny pill down the tiny dog's pie hole or the pill dissolves in canine saliva and I give up.

I've found the butter approach is much easier and since medicated or not, Winston is a little dim, he thus far hasn't caught on to the devious nature of it. He'll almost always swallow the pill if I coat it in butter.

In Klondike's mind, these are not a medicinal moments. Pills and butter equal treat time! He knows our home adheres to a certain form of socialism when it comes to dog treats. All dogs get whatever the others get...sans the pill.

It's amazing how acute Klondike's sense of hearing is, he can distinguish when I've touched that one particular pill bottle. I don't lead that exciting of a life, so I've tested him repeatedly. During my Lenten fast I've thought it prudent to take several vitamins each morning - Klondike never budges when I touch those pill bottles. I've gone so far as to try to find pill bottles of Amy's that are similar in size and content to Winston's and shake them. Klondike doesn't even perk up an ear.

But as soon as I touch Winston's pill bottle, Klondike heads to the kitchen. He's even heard me from outside the house, and quickly come over to sliding glass doors to peer through the dog snot and scratch marks while knowingly wagging his tail in anticipation.

The pills may be intended to improve the functioning of Winston's pea sized brain, but Klondike wants to make sure I also remember to butter a finger for him..

I'm nearly deaf in one ear thanks to a repeatedly blown eardrum. Even without that small impairment, I could never hear as well as Klondike.

Whenever I go through this ritual with the dogs though I try to remember how important it is to keep my ears, my mind and my heart open - for when I do, I too receive treats...for my spirit ...for my soul.

Proverbs 23:19

Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path.