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Poodles Bite

from LRC 2003

Poodles Bite

Posted by Stephan Kinsella on September 24, 2003 11:14 PM

[An edited version of an email I prepared and sent to friends shortly after Christmas, 1998. Before 9/11/2001, when the world was still innocent. Sigh.]

So our Cocker Spaniel, Muffy (yeah, that’s her name, what of it?), kicks the bucket a couple years ago [around 1996], when we lived in Philly. Cin loved that dog, I gave her to her back in college, in 1989, as a present. We buried her in Great Valley Pet Cemetary. Putting the rose in her little paws was too much to bear. I paid $400 for the hole in the ground but I was not gonna shell out $400 more for a coffin. Nosirree. I’m not some stupid, soft, manipulable yuppie. In fact, I insisted on carrying her out of the vet’s office, after they had to put her to sleep, in the black Hefty bag I had brought along to protect the car seats on the way to the pet graveyard. It was a pitiful scene, as wife and I walked out in tears, with our poor dead Cocker (nestled in a Hefty bag) in my arms. We made such a commotion and upset the other patrons waiting to get FiFi’s annual shots, that they didn’t even make us pay for the euthanasia (ohhhhh, but someday, I tell you, SOME DAY, we will pay for all those youths in Asia). I showed them. Or maybe, they were content with the $1300 we had shelled out the preceding 6 days on ultimately ineffectual Cocker Spaniel dialysis treatment.

Anyway, this is not about Muffy [another good story about her, when I can find it]. It’s about the next phase: standard poodles. A whole new chapter in life. [One that just forced me to buy a king-sized bed, dammit.] Ever since Muffy died we are this DINK couple with no dog hassles. But Cin breaks down and eventually has to get another dog, of course the most expensive dog on the planet, a “well-bred” standard poodle. She names her Sophie, and she’s now about 8 months old.

Well, lo and behold, of course, Sophie turns out to be a rare poodle with hip dysplasia, so of course we have to get this hip surgery done on her that costs more than my parents’ first 3 cars.

And then as a consolation prize, the breeder gives us for free a year-and-a-half old standard poodle, Anna Belle, which is actually Sophie’s aunt. Anna Belle (aka Big Dog) is physically healthy but is psycho dog: she runs from her own shadow. [Another story about her later.] Sophie, I thought, was physically defective, but at least, sane.

So we are in Baton Rouge on a Sunday night after Xmas. Cin and I, and her brother (we’ll call him Skid) and his wife (we’ll call her Smidge), are visiting in the living room of Cin’s dad’s house. One of them insults my poor poodle Sophie, for limping due to the recent hip surgery, and I said, “No, she’s a love-dog, a good dog,” and reach to pick her up and place her on my lap.

Unfortunately, I must have twisted her bionic leg the wrong way and hurt her badly, for she freaked out and attacked my face like a bobcat, with an ear-rending yelp. I could feel her teeth sink into my upper lip like a hook in blubber. Meanwhile I’m trying to set this squirming, yelping, snarling, pain-wracked poodle on the ground without re-injuring her $6 million leg, and she limps off, I guess dazed that she had just bitten her master and best friend. Until then she had never hurt a flea.

My head is in my hands and I feel and taste blood gushing out. Smidge says, “Are you okay?”, to which I say, quietly, “no,” trying to avoid vertigo.

So then we see this gash on my upper lip that is about 3/4 inch long and 1/4 inch deep, from about nostril to lip edge. There are other assorted scratches and cuts, inside and outside the mouth, but the most serious is the big one that makes my lip look like one of those little football-shaped rubber coin purses the banks used to give out for free that opens with a big slit when you squeeze on its sides.

So I’m in the bathroom looking at it in the mirror, and we are trying to decide about whether to go to the emergency room or not (it’s 10:00 at night), and I feel cold, clammy, nauseous, the feeling right before pass-out. So I lay on the floor while Skid fishes for my insurance info through my wallet, and off we go to Our Lady Of the Lake (OLOL) hospital, me holding a ball of soggy paper towels enwrapping a bunch of ice, against the lip. That was Smidge’s idea. I said, “Hey, what’s the point of this ice, Smidge?”–or rather, I mumbled it out the left, unmarred, side of my mouth–because I’m always skeptical of the pseudo-scientific holistic treatments. I figure she would know the answer, being a 4.0 ChemE and all. And she says, “To keep it from healing so it won’t hurt so bad when they rip it open to clean it out.” Ah. I see. You’re smart, Smidge.

Now we decided to go to OLOL instead of the equidistant Ascension Parish ER, even though the latter is quicker, because OLOL is supposed to be better. Maybe it was a good idea but let’s just say Cin and I got home at 3:30 a.m.

Anyway we get to the OLOL ER, which Skid knows how to find with the back of his hand because he’s been there numerous times for over-drinking at the bowling alley, his dad’s nosebleeds, and whatnot. Okay, so we all walk in, and on this Xmas weekend Sunday night at 10:30 p.m., the ER is packed. Some clerk who admits us wants to see my wound, to triage the damage I assume, so I remove the ice pack and poke my tongue behind the cut so it opens real wide so he thinks it’s really bad, to increase the chance he’ll put me in the high-priority line instead of at the bottom of the line. Of course, I am fuming that we have to wait so long, there is a fast track for more high-priority cases, and there is of course the immediate track for ambulance patients, but there is nothing for people willing to pay twice as much! Where’s the justice in this world.

So he goes, business-like, “What happened?”, and I say, “uh, dog bit me.” Why does he need to know it’s a poodle, you know? How’s that relevant?

Then he asks the question I’d been dreading, “What kind of dog?”, to which I mumble, quietly, “… poodle… — but a standard poodle, a big one.” Cindy happily chimes in, the evil tormenter, “But she’s only a puppy“. So the guy makes the call, on the spot: “poodle bite, small laceration on the lip“. SMALL laceration? And did he have to specify the type of dog? Where in God’s name is the relevance of this?

Anyway then I am shuttled off to this young black lady nurse/registration person. Whatever the hell she was. The one with the power of God over me at this moment. Cin handles most of the info input, with me mumbling the answers to the nurse’s question and Cindy interpreting. Remember, I’m talking through a soggy napkin ice ball, dripping bloody ice water all over my pants and the registration lady’s desk.

When we give her my law firm’s name in response to her query over place of work, she then says, “And what do you do for them?” (why in hell this is relevant I don’t know); Cindy and I both simultaneously answer, “Lawyer”. And the nurse lady rolls her eyes at this, like, “Oh, big woop, Mr. Big lawyer man, eh, well, it ain’t gonna help you heal from that poodle bite any better!” And later on she passes a pad of microfiched fine print to sign off on, so I guess they can donate my left [censored, but rhymes with tut, or besticle] to charity if I sneeze or something, and she says, “This form explains — oh, I’m sure you can understand it, YOU’RE A LAWYER AFTER ALL!” Ha, ha, lady, just run my insurance papers through and KEEP YOUR PIE HOLE SHUT!

So this being a religious hospital, she then says, “Religion?” and Cin looks sideways at me, and I look back at her, and we both know Cin’s not going to answer something pointless for me like “he’s a semi-ex-Randian secularistic rational skeptic” etc. Now I was raised Catholic and this is a Catholic hospital. But Cin and I were married in her church, Methodist. So Cin just answers, “Methodist.” What?! NO WAY I’m gonna be called a Protestant! We Catholics (cultural ones, anyway) have to keep our roots alive! I’d rather not-be-Catholic than not-be-Protestant! So I mumble through my soggy ice pack, “Catholic!” and the lady looks at me patronizingly, “Oh, no, honey, you don’t have to be Catholic to come here.” Like she’s caught the little Protestant lying to get into the uppercrust Catholic hospital. To which I firmly said, “I AM Catholic!” So there. That really made her believe me. Meanwhile Cin’s rolling her eyes, as if to say, you are getting your lip sewed up, why do you care what box this menial clerk marks on an irrelevant form?

Well, 4 hours later, at about 2:30, our doctor, a Boy George look-a-like, finally attends to me, gives me a damn tetanus shot (that arm still hurts), and sews me up. [It always sucks when you are asked by the ER when you last had a tetanus shot, and you can never remember exactly, so they always give you one just to be sure.] I mean, here I am, stitches in my lip, probably a permanent scar which will hopefully enhance my looks a la Harrison Ford’s chin scar, and paying multi-thousand dollars in upkeep on the damned poodle that did it. I figure that in the future, if it scars and I am questioned about it, I can just say, “Let’s just say it was because of a bitch named Sophie, and leave it at that.”

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