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The Birds And Bees … And Dog

Happily ever after is but a dream. Or is it?

Many search for “Mr. Right” or “Miss Perfect,” but how do you know if the person you’re serious about is the one you will spend forever with? Does it matter what others think or is the decision solely your own?

Roxanne brought her 7-year-old Labrador Buddy in for his annual appointment. As Buddy ate his customary hypoallergenic dog treat, we reviewed any health issues that came up since his last exam. Roxanne mentioned a mild limp that popped up after a fun day at the beach, and a small rash on Buddy’s rear paw. Both issues had resolved and no longer bothered Buddy.

“That’s about it, Doc. Buddy’s been pretty healthy. I was actually a little worried about his paw, but now that he’s no longer stressed out, it went away.”

“Stressed,” I replied. “What would give Buddy stress? Every time I see him, he’s so easygoing and mellow.”

With one eyebrow raised, Roxanne crossed her arms and said exasperatedly, “Do you remember Tom?”

“Of course I do. He was here with you the last time,” I said. “He was the guy who liked to stroke his mustache when he spoke.”

“No, that was George. Tom was tall and liked to wear plaid. Anyway, whenever Tom was around, Buddy seemed anxious and would start licking his paw. He licked so much that it eventually got raw and very angry looking.”

I flipped to the client information sheet and proceeded to cross out Tom’s name.

“He just wasn’t the right one, was he, Buddy?” Roxanne looked adoringly at her furry friend. “You know, Doc, it’s really difficult finding Mr. Right. I know you’re probably crossing out Tom’s name on the chart like all the others who came before him.” With a guilty smile, I nodded and suddenly realized that he was indeed the fifth name that I’d crossed out in Buddy’s chart. “I don’t want to give you the impression that I’m high maintenance and picky about whom I date, but there is one test that they all must pass.”

Curiosity overtook me, and I just had to ask, “What test is that?”

Roxanne smiled. “The Buddy test. You see, if Buddy doesn’t like the person I’m dating, I am obligated to give up on the relationship. Dogs have that sixth sense. You’re a veterinarian, so you know what I mean.”

“So let me get this straight,” I said. “If Buddy doesn’t like your significant other, you break up.” Rox-anne nodded. “I guess that makes sense,” I said. “After all, Buddy is a very important member of your family.”

For many people, feedback from loved ones is important. Why do animals growl at some people and not others? Surely they must know something. In Buddy’s case, was there something wrong with George (oops, I meant Tom), or did his paw simply itch? How many people out there take advice from their pets? For some strange reason, I have this feeling a lot of people do.

Thank goodness my wife’s dog Lani liked me while we were dating. Although come to think of it, Lani did lick her paws a lot.

Dr. John Kaya is the director of the Windward Community College veterinary technician program and associate veterinarian for VCA University Animal Hospital.