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Monday, January 19, 2009

Everything you wanted to know about pills and this one dog

The trouble with falling off the earth completely to get work done and take care of a convalescent dog is that there's stuff happens you don't notice. For example, you barely notice weekends -- last Saturday took me completely by surprise, although I have now discovered http://isitsaturday.net/ to miminise future Saturday-identifying problems -- but you notice them just enough to mentally tag that on Monday you need to phone in some Batman lettering corrections. And then Monday comes around and there's mysteriously nobody in the DC Comics offices, and I am vaguely puzzled, but it's not until the phone rings and it's my assistant Lorraine calling to tell me it's Martin Luther King day, and she won't be at work, that I understand why...

The dog, convalescing from fairly major operation to repair his back knee, needs to take pills: pain pills and antibiotics. Getting the pills into the dog has been proving an adventure. I have learned that some things work once.

The dog, whose name is Cabal (pronounced to rhyme with babble) is a white German shepherd who spent the first three years of his life chained in a farmyard (I found him by the side of a road, and, much to my surprise but not to that of anyone reading the blog at the time, wound up adopting him -- the whole story is at http://journal.neilgaiman.com/search/label/Dog if you go down to the bottom of the page and come up) and when the farmer handed him over to me, about the only thing he said was, "He don't eat much. Don't seem to like food."

He was seriously underweight, and I spent the first few months trying to find out what he would eat. (It turns out he likes raw meat and raw chicken, and we supplement it with kibble, and he's not as skinny any longer.)

Taking him to dog training was harder than I expected, because he's hard to bribe with food: cooked chicken scraps worked best when they worked. Praise worked better than food. He just wasn't that interested.

So. Putting pills into him...

Over the years, encasing the pill in cream cheese has generally worked, but somewhere in the recent operation, he got wise to that, and instead of swallowing the pill, simply sucks the cream cheese off and spits the pill out.

Putting the pill in regular cheese doesn't work. He thinks of cheese as something to nibble not to devour.

Sausages/hot dogs/lunchmeat etc do not work at all as the dog does not regard them as food items. I do not know why this is. He won't eat sausages etc. even without pills in. He has no interest in jerky, although he will gnaw on a dried chicken breast in a contemplative sort of a way (as in the photo below).

Wet dog food or cat food: ditto. As far as I can tell, he would rather starve than eat it. So suggesting mixing crushed pills into it is not going to work.

Someone on Twitter suggested Peanut Butter. It worked brilliantly the first time. The second time, he sucked off the peanut butter and spat out the pills. Ptui ptui plink plink.

"Pill pockets" were suggested. I went and bought some, and again, it worked once, and once only. Pill pockets are soft dog treats you put the pill inside, and press closed. Watching him appear to swallow the pill pockets, then retreat, drop them on the ground and carefully eat the pockets while leaving a clean pill on the floor was actually rather impressive.

Bread (which people suggested) didn't even register as a food item. Ice cream was deposited on the floor and licked up, leaving pill behind. Wrapping it in bacon, pushing it into cooked chicken, equally as useless: food eaten, pill not so much.

At the end of the day it always came down to putting the pill at the back of the throat, holding his mouth closed and stroking his throat and hoping to outwait him, and that mostly worked, but not always. He turned out to be very good at pretending that he'd swallowed it, and also seemed pretty distressed by the whole affair.

And then someone on Twitter suggested butter. And I thought hmmm. I wrapped the pill in a thin envelope of butter and put it into his mouth...

It worked. Gravity and slipperiness were on my side.

And it worked again this morning.

Only two more antibiotics (and three days of pain pills) to go. I shall report back.

Dog, pausing from chewing dried chicken breast, looks at the camera and hopes that today he will be allowed to run somewhere or at least go upstairs.

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