We talk about health care for humans, but not so much that for animals. How the latter works is another aspect to examine, in seeing how the whole system works, because there are similar assumptions operative in both. This is a narrative reflecting some of these assumptions.
Today was dog doctor day. I've been putting this off. Casey had to have another rabies shot. He got a one year shot last August. Three-year shots are now available, but dogs cannot get them without first getting a one year shot.
When I got him from the shelter, they gave him a DHPP shot. That's distemper, hepatitis, parvo, and, I dunno; parainfluenza? He had to get another in a few months, and he had to get gelded, and I did all that last September.
The shelter people told me when I got Casey about how you can get your own dog shots for DHPP at the feed store just south of Wal-Mart. You're supposed to get DHPP shots for dogs every year.
The rabies shot was due in August, because I got the first one in August after I got Casey, when I took him to the vet to get him checked for heartworm and get worm pills. I wouldn't buy worm pills just for roundworm, etc; but heartworm is life threatening, and the mosquitos have been bad the last few years with all the rain. You can't give them heartworm pills without checking for heartworm first, because the heartworm live in microfilliae stage (I just made up how to spell that word) in the blood for a month or so before they invade the heart, and it's safe to kill them then, but once they are in the heart it is really tricky to kill them, because the dead heartworms keep breaking apart and clogging the blood vessels, and you have to keep the dog really quiet during all of that. So, you need to know what's going on.
In August of this year, it was of course thundering all the time, because that's what it does here in July and August. So, lacking a car, or a close friend happy to drive me and my dog around without exacting social payment in a form that doesn't work for me, I blew off the rabies shot for a bit. I also blew off the rabies shot because dogs don't have rabies anymore. I read that on the Net, the government announced it a few years back. Well, what I read was that there was this announcement that rabies was no longer extant in the canine population, though foxes and skunk still have rabies in their populations.
We here in Carlsbad do have fox and skunk not too far away, but Casey does not have access to them (though I'm sure he would prefer to, being a dog and all). This left the risk level along the lines of "your dog might bite someone." Since Casey does everything but invite strange humans to adopt him and take him away from me (not because he doesn't like me, but because strange humans might have access to even more other strange humans than I grant him, which he would consider wonderful), I wasn't too worried about the bite aspect either. I was, however, worried about the prospect of taking the two mile walk to the vet and having some damned thunderstorm blow up out of nowhere (as it their wont at times), and said storm making even small rumbly noises, and hence scaring the bejeezus out of my dog, who would then insist on spending the next four hours under the nearest available low-slung automobile, which would not suit my purposes.
Meanwhile, DHPP time was upon me, and I read on the net that one should not mix more vaccines than necessary. So in September, I went down to the feed store the shelter people told me about, to purchase a DHPP shot. The feed store was staffed entirely by scary blond women ignoring desperate young cowboys, which seems to be standard for any enterprise having to do with animals in these parts. Attempting to appear like I knew what I was doing, I asked to purchase a DHPP shot for an adult dog (oh, I forgot to say - I called in advance to scope it out - there are DHPP's for puppies; they are different).
The scary blond woman silently presented me with two tiny refrigerated vials and a hypodermic needle. The vials had rubber seals in the middle of the stoppers, and the needle was encased in sealed plastic wrap. Something was labeled "for veterinarian use only," but I forget what.
I examined the writing on the vials, hoping that perhaps there would be something on them explaining why there were two vials. No such luck. The scary blond woman continued to stare. Admitting defeat, I paid for the items and went home, at which point I resorted to the Internet.
The Internet informed me that one vial has sterile water, and the other has dried vaccine. You drive the needle into the sterile water, draw it up, then put it into the dried vaccine, make sure it's dissolved, draw it into the needle again. You are now ready to inject your dog.
To do this, you draw up a flap of skin on the shoulder, and drive in the needle. The needle tip is cut at an angle, so you aim it so the part that sticks out most is at the bottom, because you will be pulling up because of your position. This helps make the injection as unnoticeable as possible for your dog.
Once you get the needle in, you let go of the skin flap and use that hand to pull back on the plunger to make sure you have some resistance. You don't want to inject into a blood vessel; if you see blood you start all over again.
Then you are ready to finish and you inject the dog.
Wow! Lots of information to have to get off the Internet. We will note that the scary blond lady at the feed store did not ask me if I knew how to do this. We will also note that the Internet was not replete with hits involving people writing about how to do this.
We will also note that doing this yourself saves you $35 for an office visit in Carlsbad. I gave Casey his shot without problem; he barely even noticed. It's a good thing, though, that one is not expected to give animals shots in their tails. Tails are a really touchy subject.
Of course, I could have done the rabies and the DHPP at the same time at the vet. The Internet tells me however that you really don't want to pile on the vaccinations more than necessary; better to space them out.
Rabies is (I think) generally given intramuscularly, which is why you can't do this yourself. However, I would not bet the farm on it always being done this way; I've read about different procedures.
I could not tell how it was given when I watched the vet give Casey his three year rabies shot today, for which I paid $14 plus the $35 office visit. Other than giving Casey the shot, the vet checked his heartbeat and looked at his teeth, admired him, and chatted with me about the weather. All of this took about three minutes.
We used to have rabies clinics in Carlsbad, where you could take your dog down to the shelter once a year, and get a (one year) shot for $5, period. The shelter people told me the vets discontinued this because of the new availability of three year shots, this last being resultant from research determining that rabies resistance in dogs lasted much longer than the previous one year expected. I have also read that it is legal to label three year shots as one year shots, and bilk the public and overvaccinate the dogs even further, although I cannot cite this off the top of my head.
In Carlsbad, the vets explained that they stopped the rabies clinics because if they gave three year shots at a rabies clinic, this would unduly discourage people from bringing their dogs into the vet for necessary yearly checkups, which presumably they would otherwise do after getting the one-year shot at the outdoor rabies clinic. We will note that at the outdoor rabies clinic, there is no one with a stethoscope examining your dog's heartbeat for four seconds, and there is no one looking at their teeth for fifteen seconds, and you surely have much less opportunity to talk about the weather.
Walking Casey to the vet was a reasonably pleasant experience. We don't generally walk through town, as I don't generally want to have to deal with random humans, so this was nice for him (so many interesting smells!) When we got to the vet's office, I expected him to get freaky, as he'd been neutered the last time we went there, but he was happy at the smells of other dogs and cats and humans and behaved himself admirably. I shared the waiting room with only a few others. One was a young Hispanic man with a huge bulldog who kept prancing and pouncing goofily, and making impossible suffocating noises, and eventually I asked; "Is he a puppy?" (the dog looked like he weighed about 80 lbs).
This broke the ice. "Yes," the dog's owner replied happily. "I thought so," I said. "He looks like it, like he's trying to play."
"He looks like he's trying to bite someone," replied wrinkly boy's owner, "but he's not really."
"No," I replied; "he looks like he's trying to play." And indeed he did, weird shrieking noises and all.
Walking home, we went by the house with the rocks and the specimen garden. This house is one of my local mysteries; it's got this great garden with limestone pieces carefully/randomly arranged, piled on top of each other, gravel here but not there, plants that are good and workable here, but not many of any one, and everything really carefully maintained but not in any sort of obvious manner. And I never see anyone working it, never see anyone in the yard. I guess they do it in the early morning (or in the middle of the night, for all I know). And the house is good too; it fits with the area, looks southwestern but with minimal decor, but that really well-done. It's one of the very best bits of understated yard decor I've seen around here, and there is never anyone there.
It's on my bike route, as I dodge various other less attractive blocks, and lately of course I've been waiting for the election signs. Will they break my heart and put up McCain-Palin signs? Every day I've waited, waited, knowing, just knowing they will do it to me.
But no. But no Obama-Biden signs, either. Nothing. Just the rocks, and the plants, supplicant.
Today, walking Casey back from the vet, I poked around a bit more, being on foot. Their back yard is fenced with 5' chain link, interlaced with what looks like Venetian blind slats (a common way to privatize chain link around here). I peeked over the fence to see what some of the rest of their yard looked like.
More of the understated same, but including a circular green patch, with a stone bench, and in the middle, an Obama-Biden sign planted firmly into the turf.