My Dog Needs a Bris

Dr. Howard J. Bennett

I’ve written about my pet woes on two previous occasions. The first time, I described how my wife and children cajoled me into buying a little dog named Jessie that ended up with enough allergies to qualify for Medicare. The second time, I bemoaned all of the other animals I reluctantly let into my home.

Anyone who saw these articles would have judged me as either the most wonderful father in the world or the stupidest. (Most of my friends chose the latter category.)

So how could I be writing another article about pet troubles? Surely I must be a middle-aged man with veterinary hypochondria.

Let me state for the record that I consulted the famous Dr. Cara before jumping into the animal fray for the third time. Dr. Cara is an animal psychologist who writes a monthly column for Pet Psychic.

Dear Dr. Cara,

My children are pestering me to get a puppy. In addition to the dog we already own, we have three guinea pigs, one hamster, and four fish. I want to say no, but I feel myself weakening. Why can’t I be a strong like my mother was with me? When my brother and I repeatedly asked for a dog, she told us she had enough animals to take care of already. (Do you think she meant us?)

Buried in Fur

Dear Buried,

It looks to me like you’re suffering from Pet Deprivation Syndrome. Since your mom never let you have pets of your own, it’s impossible for you to deny your own children when they pine for these soft, furry animals. So what if they stink up the house and none of your human friends want to come over. It’s a small price to pay for your children’s happiness.

Stop fighting the inevitable and say yes. In fact, you might want to consider a preemptive strike. Not only should you agree to the puppy, but how about adding a couple of llamas and a few sheep? That way you can shear the animals each spring and save some money on clothes.

Dr. Cara

What a wonderful letter, I thought. Dr. Cara accomplished more in two paragraphs than my own shrink did with three years of therapy. Although I decided to pass on the larger mammals, I gave my family a “thumbs up” for the new puppy.

Once I agreed to get the dog, I told my wife that we needed to do everything possible to find a healthy animal. I initially considered amniocentesis and level-3 sonograms, but Jan convinced me that a new breeder would probably suffice. After a few weeks, Jan found a Havanese breeder with a terrific reputation. As luck would have it, he had just mated the healthiest female in the United States with a male who, while not the healthiest, was seeded third in the country. How could we go wrong from this genetic mix?

Two months later we picked a spunky male named Mojo. He was cute, lovable and got along well with Jessie. Everything was proceeding according to plan. Mojo was learning his house-training skills with ease. Then, at six months of age, he started peeing all over the house. As a pediatrician, I know what daytime wetting means, so we called the vet to see if he thought Mojo might have a UTI.

The answer, unfortunately, was yes. Also, because Mojo wasn’t “sick,” the vet told us he’d be able to make the diagnosis with a urine specimen alone.

Although our prenuptial requires Jan to do 99% of all animal duties, there’s a rider that stipulates my participation for some medical procedures. Reluctantly, I agreed to collect the urine.

Obtaining a urine specimen from a dog is about as easy as getting an 18-month-old to brush his teeth. First of all, anyone who has a dog knows that they rarely go outside and simply pee. Instead, they have a deep primordial need to smell everything in sight. The reason for this behavior is because a dog’s olfactory center is thousands of times better than ours. As a result, they recognize their pals using their sense of smell. (That’s why dogs spend so much time smelling each other’s hindquarters.) So the next time your lovable pooch is sniffing around outside, keep in mind that he’s checking his “p-mail.”

Anyway, while most of my neighbors go outside at 7 a.m. to fetch their newspapers, I was following Mojo around with a semi-sterile container in my hand. (Semi-sterile means that I grabbed a mayonnaise jar from the recycle bin.)

I didn’t have to worry about finessing a midstream catch because there was no way in hell that I’d be in the right spot at the beginning of Mojo’s stream. I slipped twice, but recovered quickly. Finally, on his third pass by our dogwood, he stopped to pee. I lunged for Mojo’s crotch like a ballplayer diving into second base. The neighbors cheered as I stood up with a respectable 15 cc in the cup.

Mojo had a UTI as expected and responded well to a 10-day course of amoxicillin. If we were normal people, that would be the end of the story. Unfortunately, when it comes to dogs, we are anything but normal. Over the past six weeks, Mojo has had two more infections, the last of which was confirmed by sticking a needle directly into his bladder.

It was at this point that the vet told us we needed to see a specialist. And just like Jessie’s allergies enlightened me that there are dog dermatologists in the world, Mojo confirmed that there are dog urologists as well.

Dr. Marks told us that Mojo’s condition was not that unusual in male dogs. Evidently, the hairs at the end of a dog’s foreskin occasionally grow inward creating a focus for infection. A partial circumcision fixes the problem most of the time. He reassured us that he’s been doing the procedure for 20 years and that Mojo would be as good as new in a couple of days.

Although I had faith in Dr. Marks, like the parents of human patients, I felt the need for some divine assistance with Mojo’s ailment. Dr. Marks sensed my anxiety and informed me he’d been in this position before. He also told me that he’d been a mohel before going to vet school and would be glad to perform a bris instead of the standard procedure. (A mohel is a rabbi that performs ritual circumcisions on the eighth day of life.)

This option allayed my fears. I now knew that Mojo would have two traditions behind him—the skill of Dr. Marks and the millions of Jewish babies who had circumcisions before him.

After the procedure, I thanked Dr. Marks and asked him to keep his schedule free 12-1/2 years from now. He’ll be the first person I invite to Mojo’s Bar Mitzvah.

© 2012 Howard J. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.

(First published in Stitches, The Journal of Medical Humor October 2004.)

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