Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The dog ate my homework... and everything else

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I do not wish to brag, but I suspect it is only a matter of time before I win a major journalism award.

I say this because today I am going to expose yet another example of a horrifying global trend that I have written countless columns about in a sincere and humanitarian effort to continue receiving a paycheque.

My groundbreaking work was applauded the other night after I finished co-hosting CNIB's third annual Dine in the Dark gala, wherein the guests are only allowed to consume their gourmet meals after putting on blindfolds or special glasses that simulate various visual impairments.

At the end of the night, a lovely woman doffed her blindfold, waved me over, clutched my hand and, looking deep into my bloodshot eyes, crooned: "I want to thank you for that story you wrote."

I was, as you can imagine, deeply moved. "Thank you," I whispered. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"It was the story about the bad dogs that ate all those weird things," the woman explained, softly.

The fog in my brain began to lift. "You mean the one about the dog in Wisconsin who ate a kid's Popsicle, stick and all, then the stick dislodged a diamond wedding ring the dog had eaten five years earlier, causing the dog to puke the ring up on his owner's living room carpet?" I chirped.

"That's the one," the woman cooed. "It brought tears to my eyes."

The eerie point is, I was reminded of that prophetic conversation Thursday morning as I watched the TV news when, suddenly and without warning, they broadcast a story so shocking it left me totally shocked.

This story concerned a three-year-old Great Dane who was rushed to an emergency veterinary clinic, where an X-ray showed its stomach was packed with "a large quantity of foreign material."

"We opened up his stomach and kept removing sock after sock of all different shapes and sizes," is what Dr. Ashley Magee of the DoveLewis Animal Hospital in Portland, Ore., told CNN.

In the end, the vet removed 43.5 socks -- which, if you do the math, is almost enough socks to fit both the offence and defence of an entire National Football League team -- and sent the snack-loving patient home.

If you find this medical drama difficult to believe, you are obviously not a dog owner. According to a list compiled by adjusters for the firm Veterinary Pet Insurance, the most common items surgically removed from pets' gastrointestinal tracts include socks, underwear and pantyhose.

In my own house, as I prepare to begin a new day of crusading journalism activities, I will typically turn to my wife and ask her why all of my (bad word) socks and underpants have mysteriously vanished.

"Go and look inside the wiener dog's kennel," my wife, She Who Must Not Be Named, will advise me.

And so I will peer into the tiny kennel and discover our miniature dachshund, Zoe, perched, dragon-like, atop a small mountain of stinky socks and underpants she has stolen from the floor in our bedroom, which is where I keep my undergarments because it is too much trouble to throw them into the hamper.

Getting back to the sock-gobbling Great Dane, the Portland vet clinic entered X-rays of the pooch's overstuffed belly in Veterinary Practice News magazine's annual "They ate WHAT?" contest, wherein vets compete to see who has removed the oddest item from an animal.

The sock stealer earned the clinic the $500 third prize, losing out to a frog that gobbled 30 rocks from the bottom of its habitat and a German shorthaired pointer that swallowed a metal shish-kebab skewer.

Third prize? I don't want to cause trouble, but I personally feel the Great Dane was robbed. I feel this way because earlier this week a regular reader emailed me Veterinary Practice News's list of winners, along with their X-rays.

In addition to the sock-stuffed hound, I was deeply moved by the plight of a pet lizard named Dragon whose X-ray revealed a tiny toy banana, which the lizard had sucked down while lounging around in Barbie's Dream House.

Also compelling was the case of a Florida dog named Woof, owned by a woman whose three-year-old son was (here's some foreshadowing for you) continually losing his rubber duckies at bath time. The vets removed FIVE rubber duckies -- which is considered a fleet -- from Woof's belly, along with a toy truck tire.

Despite the very real risk I will win several Pulitzer Prizes, I can only pray this dangerous trend eventually passes, so to speak. Because, in my view, it totally socks.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 5, 2014 A2

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