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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Bald-Bellied Beast

It’s just about time for the dog to have another checkup. And I am not looking forward to it.

For those just tuning in, my fine furbrained friend was diagnosed with lymphoma sixteen months or so ago. We chose to treat the disease, which involved surgically removing her spleen, injecting her with chemotherapy drugs for several months and checking her periodically thereafter with an abdominal ultrasound.

(I didn’t do any of that personally, of course. It was all the docs at the local veterinary hospital. I barely have clearance to use my electric toothbrush; there’s no way in hell anyone is turning me loose on actual medical equipment.)

“I barely have clearance to use my electric toothbrush; there’s no way in hell anyone is turning me loose on actual medical equipment.”

The pooch’s treatment has also included, somewhat incidentally, the shaving of her undersides. First, to prep her for the splenectomy. And later, to clear out the area for a clear ultrasound test. And that shaving, the underbelly exfoliation, is the bit I’m really wishing they would leave out. But they never do.

Oh, sure, in the first few months of her treatment, having a dog with a hairless tummy was the least of our worries. For a while, she still had the surgical staples down there, like some sort of patched-together Frankenpup. And for weeks afterward, during the chemo, she was pretty down and listless. She didn’t get out much, couldn’t muster a lot of energy, and was obviously ill. So if anyone happened to notice her Naired nethers, they never said anything. They were, like us, just happy that the plucky mutt was hanging in there.

That was then. This is now.

These days, the pup is pretty much her old self again. Oh, slower, to be sure — but the old girl’s nearly ten years old. That’s up in Bea Arthur territory, in dog years. You think old Bea still chases balls around and licks her butt the way she used to? I highly doubt it. And lord knows I don’t want to think about it.

Anyway, the dog’s about as healthy as we could hope for at this point. She’s in ‘doggy day care’ a couple of days a week, leads my wife on constitutionals around the neighborhood, and generally mingles about in society as easily as a two-foot-tall furry animal on a leash can. Think Verne Troyer, only more feminine, with a full head of hair, and a stud-collar bondage fetish. That’s pretty close.

And can I go back to thinking about Bea Arthur licking her butt now? That might be the lesser of two evils here. Barely.

Wait. Where the hell was I? Oh, the dog. Right.

So the dog’s in good shape and spirits, which is just what we want to see.

Well. Ninety-nine percent of the time, anyway.

See, if we could just convince the mutt to be a teensy bit less outgoing and rambunctious for a couple of days after her checkups now, that would be super. Because at these checkups, she gets that abdominal ultrasound I mentioned. And, like I said, they shave her tummy, from privates to brisket. It doesn’t seem to faze her in the slightest — which seems damned odd to me, frankly. If you took me in a room, held me down and shaved my undersides, I’d hardly be inclined to go yakking it up with every person within range right away. And I’d have jeans and shirts and cotton boxers to hide the deforestation. When the dog gets buzzed, she’s out there, Jerry! Never mind the shame and embarrassment; I’d figure the mutt would at least be drafty. But you’d never know it. A regular bare-crotched social butterfly, she is.

And therein lies the problem. Because it’s one thing to have a shaved-privated pooch who’s recovering from major surgery. Or a poor depilated dog who’s clearly not ‘in the pink’, regardless of how much ‘pink’ she might be revealing. These are plainly extenuating circumstances, and raise nary an eyebrow among casual observers.

However.

Now that the dog’s back to her tongue-waggling, tail-wiggling self, it’s not at all clear that she’s still under periodic doctor’s care. And it’s awfully difficult to explain, while she’s prancing and panting and preening for strangers on the street, exactly why it is that your dog appears to be sporting a Brazilian wax job. I mean, there’s “awkward”, and then there’s “No, ma’am, please don’t call a policeman; I swear it’s for a medical condition and I promise I’m not the ‘doctor’“. I should probably get a note from the vet, just to clear things up. Maybe something like:

To Whom It May Concern:

Please don’t be alarmed by the state of this dog’s nether regions. Her medical care requires periodic shaving of the coat on her underbelly, to facilitate ultrasound imaging of her internal organs. This is done to ensure her continuing good health, and to catch any recurring disease in the abdominal cavity at an early stage. In this situation, a dog with hair missing from her crotch area is perfectly normal.

If, however, the dog is also wearing lipstick, fishnet stockings or a string bikini, please notify the ASPCA at once. And whoever’s taking over for Mr. Blackwell, while you’re at it.

Hopefully, they’ll forgo the ultrasound treatment this time around. Or find some way to take a picture of her insides without smoothing off her outsides. Or maybe I’ll just ask them to shave her all over — now there’s a whole new look she can carry over into summer. Low-maintenance, cool and breezy. Very breezy. Downright gale force, I’d imagine.

More realistically, I just need to keep the dog mostly out of public until her conspicuously-absent fur grows back in. A week or so in the house ought to do it. Unless that Rogaine stuff really works; I could always try to speed up the process, so she can get back into circulation a little faster.

Only how the hell would I apply it? It’s bad enough the dog’s going to be shaved and confined to the house for a while. If the mailman or someone sees me rubbing rubbing juice from a can on her naked tummy, it’s all over. They’d either lock me up for something unspeakably lecherous, or they’d assume it was olive oil and I was just about to roast her.

Either way, it’s probably best to just let nature take its course. The mutt can hang around in the house for a few days, and can come out when she’s good and grown back. I get plenty enough funny looks out on the streets without dealing with that.

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