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Holy, Foxtails!, Masked Vet. A $1,215 bill! At least my dog didn’t get high on an edible
Queensland heeler
Bluey the Pensive Wonderdummy.
Nothing quite like a gloomy and overcast Sunday morning in the middle of May to really ratchet up the melancholy and desperation wafting throughout our psyches. We’ve reached a new level of Looney Tunes during this stay-in-place showcase. Not like several months ago, when drinking on a Tuesday afternoon seemed a cute and harmless one-off – it has now become the standard bearer for all things pandemic.

Remember during a Looney Tunes cartoon, when it was necessary to symbolize that either Bugs or Daffy were going bonkers, and a quick pan inside their brains revealed it? Dancing elephants in tutus would be juggling ice cream cones to the tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In” or an assembly line of rubber ducks with the heads of Charlie Chaplin would line up to William Tell a hunter dressed like Adolf Hitler.

It’s official – we’ve reached pinwheels in the eyes status. We as a people are not equipped to go full cave bear and hibernate the Spring away. And even if you are, the surrounding lot of chardonnay’d up moms, and barbecuing dad wearing a throwback “Humm Baby” Giants tee are not. What we need now is a lil’ chicken soup for our souls – even in the smallest of serving.

 I spent late Saturday night at the 24 hour emergency vet in Tracy. It was around midnight my new Queensland Heeler pup Bluey started sneezing violently. The backyard has turned into a jungle of foxtails and thistle weeds. He pawed at his nose in a vain attempt to remedy the issue his owner had caused by being too lazy and tired to manicure his habitat. These were no standard sneezes but some real Jimmy Durante “Ha-cha-cha-ACHOO’s” happening. Blood and mucus expelled with each blast – so we loaded up the Jeep and headed out. 

Deaf pup Banshee came along for moral support. Unable to hear the sound of the repetitive and violent sneezes from Bluey she stared at him curiously, as if he was headbanging to some internal hard rock song. 

I hadn’t been into Manteca, much less Tracy, for nearly 3 weeks. Would the outside world still be the same? Had we degenerated into some unrecognizable Post-Pandemic wasteland? The panhandler outside the gas station let me know not much had changed. Who panhandles the Chevron off the highway near Mossdale bridge?! Head east my friend – there are fertile pockets on Airport Way.

The 24-hour Vet, while open, was in lockdown — nobody allowed inside. This presented a huge problem. Bluey isn’t the footloose and fancy free kind of dog Banshee is. He has never attended a black tie dinner party at Dan Eavenson’s house or had mimosas with Jolene Peters after a morning yoga session at Studio Joy.

He in fact is a full on psycho. The intermittent whines in between each sneeze let me know he believes he thinks he is being driven to his death. He hates being in my Jeep. Whereas Banshee treats it like we are in a buddy cop movie, stationed on the passenger seat wanting her window cracked to be able to smell crime. 

I’m greeted outside by a nurse in mask. But my face was uncovered. I felt like someone underdressed for a party they never wanted to attend in the first place. We skip the formalities of my exposed piehole and get on with business. Bluey is on a leash for the first time ever and is going full Houdini in his attempts to remove it.

For all his pensive traits and Queensland Heeler mannerisms, he is a sweet and gentle pup, and the vet is assured he does not bite. (For all I know they ball gagged him as soon as he got in - he’s a dog and has been pretty hush on the details). He is dragged inside.

I’m forced to sit outside like an expecting father in the 50s. A few feet down from me is a woman in her 20’s. She is sobbing, and clearly distraught over her dog situation. Had it been hit by a car? Was it being put down? Do I break the 6-foot barrier and console?

Luckily the front door opened before I had to turn superhero. “Ma’am, is there a chance your dog may have gotten ahold of an edible?” asks the Masked Vet.

“Ohh my God, that’s what I thought, but was embarrassed to say,” responded the Lady with druggo dog.

This ladies Pug was high?! I could feel the elephants dancing in my head. My poor Bluey is in there just a snottin’ and a sneezin’ and your dog is here “on a good one?”

I’m no vet, but vanilla ice cream and fluffy blankets should help.

It was nearly 30 minutes before anyone came outside to congratulate me on having a drug free dog. “It does appear he more than likely has a foxtail, or some type of thistle lodged in his nasal passage. But it is hard to tell without scoping it,” said the Masked Vet.

Yeah, no s**t, I’d already served up that info. What were you doing the last 30? Critiquing the finger paintings Cheech the Pug had made during his visit? The Looney Tunes were now blaring — “What’s up Doc?!”

Then she handed me the clipboard of all things unnecessary, a long list of big words, punctuated at the bottom with a bold number.

$1,215. (*cue the music to Crazytown)

She prattled away at the reason for each overpriced stanza. At one point I think Banshee even grabbed the clipboard and shrugged in disgust. 

“Look Doc, I’m asking you to yank a booger out of his nose, not build a gazebo around his hot tub” I thought to myself. Feeling the phantom crunch of my Bugs Bunny carrot as the elephants twirled inside my skull.

C’mon Hawkeye Pierce, aren’t we at the mercy of wartime procedures during a pandemic? How about we just keep this surgery off the books – Colonel Potter will never know. Let’s head over to the tent for a few M*A*S*H Martini’s, then shove some long tweezers down this mutt’s schnoz.

She insisted that he required anesthesia. Huh? I once had a handful of splinters at the ripe old age of 6 – I think my grandfather gave me a swig of brandy then proceeded to perform makeshift surgery while I wriggled. Certainly, a dog with roots in the outback of Australia can withstand a little nose spelunking. But she wouldn’t hear of it.

Could we just call the lady with the drug pug and my Bluey could have a quick hang session in order to sedate? 

The company line was being towed. The one rooted in shame and guilt. Forcing people to weigh their pocketbook in contrast to comforting their pets. But I decided I could home remedy, or just let the dairy Vet take a look in the morning — thereby nullifying these ridiculous late night upcharges. 

“I should warn you, if he sucks it into his lungs, it will be a serious problem.” said Lady the Ever-tactful Vet.  

Thank you. Thank you for pointing out the sinking ship may eventually need a paint job.

Bluey was at his wit’s end, and as I attempted to remove his leash and put him in the Jeep, he bolted. He ran towards an open parking lot, then darted into the street, all while Banshee and me gave chase. We’d undoubtedly be back at the Vet if he didn’t dodge that last car.

Sheer panic is hitting. The fear is palpable. Then like a flash, a hero steps in. I didn’t see the woman coming, and neither did Bluey, she snatched him up from behind. She didn’t know if he was a biter, or if I was some crazy person that’d be angry over his mutt being tackled. He’d been occupied with the lights and sounds of the Chevron he’d scurried under, and she pounced out from behind her minivan.

He wriggled and whined as she carried him to me. And slowly the elephants and music subsided. She could see the frazzle in my eyes and offered up a candy bar — one from those school issued fundraiser boxes. A standard caramel.

I got Bluey home, and used an old trick, by syringing olive oil into his nose. Softening the impediment and encouraging him to expel or swallow. And it worked – a manic sneeze session produced the remnants of a foxtail around 4 a.m. I reached into my pocket and enjoyed my gifted candy bar.

I’ll be spending this Sunday morning rototilling my backyard and thinking fondly of a person that acted unselfishly and with only kindness. Thank you Candy Bar Lady. It is small gestures like these that can restore a little faith in a world full of dancing elephants. 


“It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do”