A howlin' good mystery


It's your chance to play Sherlock-look for the clues and see if you can crack the veterinary case of the wailing basset hound.

Having a veterinarian for a daddy doesn't make you any more of a veterinarian than standing in a garage makes you a car. But my daughters have been asked questions about sick animals their entire lives, as if somehow my veterinary education was transferred to them genetically.

For example, my older daughter Emili and her husband Garrett got a call the other night. Their friend Nubbin (who got his name when he was a kid after an accident claimed the end of his thumb) called in a bit of a fizz. This fellow is a farmer redneck kind of individual—and the last person you would ever expect to own a basset hound. But he did and recently his hound, Ennis, was making more noise than usual. Basset hounds make noise. And making more noise than usual means way too much noise.

This was the message they received from Nubbin: "I don't know what's wrong with him. He just sits with his legs out to the side on the kitchen floor and howls like something is bothering him. Could you come have a look at him, Emili, and see if something's wrong?"

So Dr. Emili and Garrett made the trek to Nubbin's homestead to check out the possible causes of kitchen sittin' in a basset hound. When they arrived, they found things just as Nubbin had described them. Ennis was sitting on the kitchen floor with his nose pointed in the air, howling like a wolf. The sound penetrated the walls and the area around the house—maybe the entire county. Ennis was in misery.

Emili went to work immediately. She asked how long it had been going on. ("Since early this morning.") She asked if Ennis had had a diet change. ("Nope.") She asked if he was current on his shots, if he had gotten out of the yard, if we was experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. Was the dog coughing or sneezing? Limping when he walked? Were there any fleas or ticks on him or any other signs as to why Ennis had the blues? None of the questions turned up even a clue.

Finally Dr. Emili began the physical exam on Ennis. She looked in his ears, eyes, mouth, nose ... still nothing. She began evaluating the skin on his back. Ennis was a mostly white basset hound with a few patches of black dispersed here and there. Nothing on the top of the dog revealed any source of pain.

Finally, Emili rolled the critter over and examined his belly. And there was the answer just as plain as day. Ennis's skin was bright red all on his underside, but especially on his scrotum. Not knowing what could be the cause, Emili suggested that he had lay down on something caustic.

To this Nubbin replied, "Oh no, I know what happened. He always sleeps on his back, and yesterday I left him out in the backyard all day while I was gone. I bet he sunburned his belly and his balls while he was asleep."

This, of course, sent son-in-law Garrett into a fit of laughter. And I mean laughter. Laughing to the point that he was unable to speak for 10 minutes. Here's ol' Ennis the basset resting his sunburned scrotum on the cool tile floor in the kitchen and howling with either pleasure or pain to the point that Dr. Emili was called in to investigate.

"What do you do for sunburned balls on a basset?" Nubbin asked. "I can't sleep at night if he keeps this up."

Being the clever daughter of a veterinarian, Emili didn't miss a beat in her response. "You'll have to go down to the store and gets some aloe vera gel and rub the skin of his scrotum down with it, or he will bark all night!"

I have this picture in my mind of redneck Nubbin rubbin' aloe vera juice all over the scrotum of a basset hound named Ennis in order to sleep that night. Just like Garrett, it makes me laugh for 10 minutes straight.

Dr. Bo Brock owns BrockVeterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

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