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Saturday, November 12, 2005


Drama in Dogistan, Part II

This story is a lot funnier now than it was when it happened.

A few weeks ago, we noticed that Mo, the most precious dogchild, had a small lump on his neck, opposite his now nearly-healed wounds. I figured it was a reaction to the injections he's been getting and chose not to worry about it. A few days later, the lump was the size of a lemon and Mo was very uncomfortable and lethargic.


Dr. Anar, the vet who makes housecalls, was called.

Readers of earlier editions will remember that Dr. Anar was elevated to vet of choice after the first vet was exposed as a quack.

Dr. Anar manipulated the lumps and found some others, but that was pretty much the extent of his examination. He looked up at me and declared his diagnosis with seriousness Marcus Welby would envy:


Keep in mind, I knew nothing about this person's education and background other than he'd neutered someone's cats with success; we didn't share a language; and I knew that the approach to and implementation of human health care in this culture is, politely, medieval. I also know that I know a lot about animal health.

Nevertheless, I believed him.

Hysterical plans were made to evaluate vet care options in Europe, since flying all the way home would be too traumatic for a dog with advanced cancer. Can dogs get chemotherapy?

After a couple of shots of Jack on the balcony, rational thought kicked in. Who can we call about this? Why not check with Terry, the Embassy doctor?

The very act of speaking to a person trained in modern health care and diagnostics talked us off a very narrow, slippery ledge. In a measured tone, Terry outlined all the reasons why the diagnosis was absurd, a conclusion rational people would have arrived at much sooner than we did.

I decided that almost 20 years of work around horses qualified me to diagnose and medicate as well as any vet here. I gave Mo some antibiotics and we went to bed.

The next morning, the dogs' most favorite people arrived -- Samaya the cleaning lady and Lena the Russian Dogwalker -- and much leaping about, running and barking ensued.

Suddenly, Mo's shoulder and neck burst like a balloon. I don't think I've ever been so glad to see several cups of pus on my floor and all over the walls.

Lena was rather surprised and after a quick examination announced what should have been obvious to any vet and probably me as well: He had three abcesses from the subcutaneous shots. Within minutes of them bursting, he was completely normal, if rather pussy.

Lena lectured me for not listening to her from the beginning, pointing out, correctly, that if I hadn't involved all these vets and followed her treatment that none of this would have happened. She scoffed at Dr. Anar's cancer diagnois and said Mo would live to be 100. I contritely agreed and assured her that I would submit to her authority on all dog-related matters from here on out.

For the second time in as many weeks, I stared into the abyss of "what do we do if something really goes wrong?" It's at this moment when living in a place like this ceases to be an adventure. I immediately regretted giving up the things taken for granted at home: high standards of medical knowledge and effective treatments; a common language; and common values, such as the value of an animal's life.

Mo's fine now, though. 100% normal.

The "high standards of medical knowledge" didn't exactly help my dog who was misdiagnosed with pancreatic disease and given unnecessary treatment pills which may or may not have caused him to suffer from monthly epileptic seizures. Yes, after visiting three vets, no one knows what's wrong (it's been a year). No, I'm not in Azerbaijan...good old USA!
Just found your blog and I love it!
I can completely identify with your last paragraph; we recently left Vietnam after 2 1/2 years ... some very close calls with our dog and constant worry about what we might do in the event of a real vet emergency (not to mention a human one!). It's a relief to have that monkey off my back (ooh, sorry -- forgot you don't like monkeys).
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