This is No Laughing “Matter”

Two weeks later there are seventeen staples.

That’s the punch line of this joke. Except, it ended up being much more of a punch in the gut, than a good giggle. Still, as with every adventure I experience, there is a constant narrative running in my mind. I cannot stop it.

I share it with you.


“Come on, buddy. Dinner time.”

Um, no thanks.

“Suit yourself, but the bowl stays down for only about fifteen minutes. Then I’m giving your table reservation to the next handsome hound that walks through my kitchen door.”

191014handsome (779x800)


“Alrighty. Take two, my prized pooch. Dinner is served.”

Think I’ll pass.

“What? Is it my cooking? Gone off my culinary craft?”



“Round three, my finicky fussbudget. Surely your point has been made. Tonight, I even warmed up your dinner with my best chafing dish.”

Something is wrong.

“Did you break a tooth? Swallow a toad? Has the cat been casting black magic spells in preparation for her shift on Halloween?”

Something is wrong.

“My pride in preparation says there’s a lack of gratitude, but my gut instinct says it’s time to call for a second opinion. Hold on, bud. Let me get the phone and make an appointment.”


“What seems to be the problem here, Shelley?”

“Well, Doc, the first is my wholly insufficient knowledge base in veterinary care. The second is the plummeting communication skills of my hound.”

“Dogs cannot articulate beyond their most basic needs.”

“Ordinarily, I would agree. I have raised many animals that have mistaken their brethren for tree stumps, and have made a lifetime goal of achieving the title ‘Most enthusiastic pooper scooper.’ This guy is different. And he has gone radio silent.”

191014pooper (581x800)

“Hmm … And his symptoms?”

I sigh. “Refusing my food. He’s become one of my kids.”

“Might he have eaten something other than your food? A sock? Household poison, perhaps?”

“No. The only way he would have eaten a sock is if I gave him permission to do so, and the only way he would have been poisoned is if the cat had done it. And I’ve not caught her mixing elixirs in her lab for months. The fumes make her eyes water, plus she’s taken up online chess.”

The vet looked at me, as all vets do, wondering if I’d actually stopped off at the wrong clinic. “Okay, well, how bout I bring Haggis back with me and give him a thorough going over.”

“I doubt violence will make him talk, Doc.”

“I meant I’ll examine him in the back.”

“Examine him in the front too. The tube runs from one end to the other. Plus, you guys charge a fortune. I’d like to get my money’s worth.”

Something is wrong.

“I know, buddy. We’ll sort it out. Be brave. I’ll see you soon.”

191014dogchess (800x632)


“We’d like to do some x-rays.”

I look up from my spot in the waiting room, twisting the hound’s plaid leash through my hands. “Is that coming from you, or did he ask for that? Not having eaten for three days can make him impolite and cranky.”

“All me.”

“Okay then. Remind him to hold his breath. We’ve practiced that all summer in the lake.”


“Well, it appears he’s got some matter in his stomach.”

“Is that a vet term for ‘something-the-matter’ with his stomach? Because that’s the diagnosis I gave you when we first arrived without the aid of x-rays.”

“Nope. Something’s in there and it’s not moving.”

“I hope it’s not the cat. They do fight something awful occasionally.”

“I think we’ll keep the dog here with us. You should go home and I’ll repeat the films in the morning. Then we’ll know if we have to operate.”

“Maybe you should do it now in case it is the cat.”

“Go home.”

191014matter (800x594)


“He did just fine. He’s resting and sedated. I’ll show you what we pulled out of his stomach.” The vet puts a Ziplock bag on the exam table.

“That does not look like the cat.”

“It’s grass.”

“Could it be Italian parsley? I sometimes garnish with that.”

“It’s grass.”

“I would never garnish with grass.”

“He’s been eating grass.”

“I have always said he looks more like a sheep than a dog. Could we do a genetic test? That might be the issue.”

“You can take him home tomorrow.”


Something is wrong.

“You bet your grassy ass there is, bud. It’s called lack of sleep. I have a medical regimen assigned to me that would give an entire hospital ward a run for their money. I’ve got alarm clocks set to wake me nearly on the hour to coax some pretty pill down your gullet. I’m zonked.”

Something is wrong.

“If I come over there and your breath gives off the slightest whiff of fine fescue, it’s curtains, got it?”


“This time we’ll do an ultrasound.”

“Will it cost less if it’s done ultra quick?”

“Go home.”


“Okay, Shelley, let’s try this again. Here are some more meds. Try to get him to eat.”

“Do the meds count as eating?”

“Good luck.”


“Here. Try this, Haggis. It’s peanut butter.”

It’s pills wrapped in peanut butter.

“How bout this? Big beautiful red tomato?”

Tomato hiding pills.

“Alright, fine. Oooh, this looks yummy.”

Smells like pills.

“Look at this, buddy. Even my mouth is watering. I bet’ll taste like chicken.”



Something is wrong.


“I’ve called in an internal specialist. She should be here soon.”

“Are you telling me there’s something more internal than his stomach?”

“We’re running some more tests. There’s some swelling, fever, gastroparesis … we’ll know by morning if we need to operate again.”

“Any chance we can get one on the house? After all, we are frequent flyers.”

“Go home.”

“Coupon card? Customer loyalty discount?”


“Okay, call us if you have any concerns, and here’s one more medication he needs to take.”

“On top of the other eight?”


“Feels like eight.”

“Good luck.”


Something is wrong.

“What? Seriously. Could you not have spoken up while we were still on the premises with the giant red cross on the window?”

Look at me. I don’t look like me. Something is wrong.

“Of course you don’t look like you. You’ve had a procedure to vacuum out your insides. One to sew your stomach to the lining of your abdominal wall, four sets of x-rays, two ultrasounds and a partridge shoved up your pear tree more times than I’ve had hot dinners.”

I look like a poodle.

“Yes, well four sets of IVs require some creative shaving.”

I’m missing half my body hair.

191014frankenpoodle (800x764)


“Yep, you know how your appetite can plummet just from getting hair in your food? Getting hair into one’s body cavity has the same effect times ten.”

And the seventeen staples? Why not stitches?”

“That was my request. I wanted to discourage anyone from heading back inside again.”

I’m hungry.

“You’re back! God, I missed you, buddy.”

Where’s the cat?

“Leave her alone. She’s upstairs online with the Russians.”

191014ruskies (800x676)

Not for long.

*sigh* “It’s good to have you home.”



Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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74 thoughts on “This is No Laughing “Matter”

    • I think if we were to take a poll, Sasha, “entertaining” is not an adjective that would trip off any vet’s tongue when choosing a word to describe me. I can think of a slew of others–I’m guessing words that would more easily trip off a psychiatrist’s tongue. o_O
      But yes, boy am I glad he’s back!

  1. As my mother would say you have a gift of gab. Not only would you take lemons and turn them into lemonade you would go even further and make Lemoncello. You take a calamitous situation and turn it into a clever and fun tale. And were that not enough Rob adds some delightful drawings. I am glad your doggie (Haggis?) is doing well. What is it with dogs? They can’t pass anything without sniffing it and.or licking it. Or in this case eating it. Well thanks for the tale. Good luck with the dog.

    • Oh, how I adore Lemoncello. And thank you, Benson, for spinning it so that I don’t sound like a complete nut job. I think when it comes to our pets, it’s rather easy to slide off into the realm of lunacy–mostly because the meager and questionable language we share with them is wholly insufficient in times of crisis. Regardless, I’m glad you liked the “tail.” 😛

    • Nearly forgot, Benson, but yes, his name is Haggis. It’s a Scottish dish. (nuff said) And if you ever get the chance my fine chef friend, you must, MUST, MUST try it. (But be wary of who makes it–has to be someone with excellent culinary skills.)

      • Actually I have tried it. Or at least an American version. I tried it at a local joint. MacNiven’s with Tenent beer. As I understand it pluck can not be used for human food in the US. Nor can an animal stomach be used as a cooking vessel. The version I had was excellent. I can only imagine what the authentic tastes like.

        • You know what? I think you and I did already talk about Haggis. I seem to recall your experience. Sorry–brain fart.
          And as far as pluck and lining, it may not be salable in a restaurant, but all those folks who are now spearheading the movement for nose to tail are certainly doing it for family and friends. Heck, it was pretty standard where I grew up. Waste not, want not. But perhaps you’re right, the US may be trailing behind on that culinary front. Have you read Ferguson’s The Whole Beast?

  2. Ahh man, dogger friends! Vacuum cleaners with bloody legs…glad your pup is on the mend. ($2 million dollars later but what choice do us doggers lovers have?) Your turn of phrase is delightful and the last cartoon cracked me up.

    • You totally nailed it, Cheergerm. It’s pointless thinking about the money. When it comes to the animals, we just hand over our credit cards and hemorrhage money. But I’d seriously give a kidney to this guy.
      Thank you for the oh-so-lovely compliment about my writing too. Daymaker. 🙂
      (Can’t wait to see what we’re cooking this week. The Zuke fritters were AWESOME!)

  3. Hi Peak!… This one was so eloquent!!!…
    It all starts when your dog behaves like your son and starts refusing to eat your food, I guess…
    Then the veterinarian becomes an ally… Dogs like to eat anything… hmm but cats… really 🙂
    Glad that the cat was found was found upstairs online with the Russians.. That’s a relief…
    And well I’ll give you now my conspirative approach of the issue… Your dog is healthy or just doing better that you might think… When it comes to my siamese cat I have my unavoidable doubts when the veterinarian makes me (us) visit him too often… Is he making money at the expense of me I wonder and re-wonder many times?… Just saying…
    Sending you all my best wishes for a great week ahead, Aquileana 😀

    • That has got to be one terrific opening line to a novel, Aquileana. “It all started the day my dog began behaving like my son …” My head is spinning with ideas on where to take that one.
      And although it could be so easy to start taking pokes at the many, MANY veterinarians we saw in the space of two weeks, I am obligated to say that every single one of them were totally top notch. The unparalleled care we received was one of the threads that really held me together. These folks where I live are wonderfully dedicated. And we were lucky. But I do happened to think that we’re being slightly overcharged at the dog’s chiropractor–at least that’s what the cat’s acupuncturist says. 😛

  4. Oh Shelley! So glad Haggis is OK, I was biting my nails all through that ! Our labrador Freddie gets wobbly guts when the fig trees are in full fruit, strange coinicidence, probably because he insists every year on trying to beat his previous best of 7 kilos in a day, as my brother in law says, he’s a life support system for a stomach! I absolutely hate the vet, he’s a perfectly harmless little chap per se, but the whole experience leaves me in need of a sturdy nip of single malt! Hope you and Haggis and the cat have a peaceful Sunday 🙂

    • Yep, I totally understand Freddie’s dilemma, as I’d behave exactly the same way. It’s probably a good thing my twin fig trees are as paltry the producers that they are – in full season I may get one fig a day – as I’d be beneath it as well, play acting the part of some Greek goddess wiling away the hours. And I’m pretty sure your brother-in-law would be able to label me the same way he does your hound. My life is a series of minutes between meals.
      And it might be about time you invest in a small hip flask. Always at the ready, Jane. 😛

  5. I’m so glad Haggis is ok and back to chasing the cat away from online russians, hopefully your cooking skills will make him think twice before he eats something bad again, either that or you’ll have to tape his mouth up every time he goes out( only joking). Vets are so expensive!!

    • Me too, Janice. I cannot imagine life without this guy. He is a massive amount of inspiration and joy to me. And the only other being in this house that generally understands the importance of developing fine culinary craft skills. Cheers!

  6. Once again Shelley, your writting continues to spring more gripping lines of humor, tense moments that one can’t stop reading (no matter how bad a bathroom break is needed), and cherrished relief summed up at the end to help ease the pain which kept me worried something would turn for the worse. Love it. Glad Harry is ok… and the cat as well. (Again, I keep thinking Edgar Alan Poe. Does your dog read?)

    My best to Harry, Puss’n Boots and the rest of the clan. Oh, BYW, all my herbs are now stuck to the frost and what snow is left from last night’s 3rd snow fall off the bay. Back to dried herbs, uggh.

    Much love,


    • Aw shucks, buddy, what a bunch of lovely things to say (apart from that bathroom bit, which coincidentally one should never ignore). The hound is back to being the excellent patrol officer that he is, and the cat is rehearsing a nightly show of sounds that belong in an Alfred Hitchcock film. Tis getting close to her favorite day.
      And yes the dog reads. But never at the table. I put my foot down there.
      Don’t dis dried herbs. It’s kinda the direction we’re all headed toward, right?

    • Thank you, Linnet. And I’d have to say he’s probably the single best dog I’ve ever had, so the name had to be worthy.
      What was the cause? No one can say for certain. But after refusing to eat for six or seven days, we were all certain is was something. It’s a mystery I’m betting only the cat really has the answer to.

  7. Ugh. Poor you. Doggie docs are so expensive and all that worry and time. I’m hopeful that you’re both through the worst of it now and can finally go back to Haggis tormenting the cat and life as normal. Perfect writing again. I kept thinking it was the end and then another funny bout to read. Love you how put this one together. A good spin on a terrible situation.

    • Thanks, Torrie, you’ve totally made my day with your incredibly gracious comments. I’m glad you liked the writing style. It’s fun to throw something new into the mix now and again. Keeps the creative itch well scratched.
      And yes, things have settled into their normal routine round here. We just have a rather cockeyed definition of the word normal.

  8. Shelley, I am so glad that Haggis is okay. The Italian parsley cracked me right up! My childhood dog used to eat grass sometimes and it made her sick…strangely, it seemed like she used this as a medical approach. If she ate something that didn’t agree with her, she would then eat grass and cause herself to be sick so that she would feel better. I swear. So maybe this is a sign of intelligence?

    • You’ve pretty much nailed what the vets seem to agree on, Sue–that many dogs eat grass not because they hunger for it, but rather to expel that which is most disagreeable. I guess grass would be a little like the canine equivalent of ipecac. Yuck–those were awful days.
      It was a fun piece to write, but challenging to make humorous as anyone who is besotted with the friendship of an animal knows the wretched feeling of working with less than adequate communication skills. But a little time can add levity.

  9. Hysterical! Poor little blighter. I’m very glad he’s now bang to rights. No Staffy should have to suffer so. We had one when I was a child. Our dog does the same thing as Sue describes above but then also tends to eat grass when there’s nothing wrong. Then, of course, there soon is.

    • All is back to rights, Nancy, and I’m so relieved to report it. Whew. Although the cat did give me a giant scare when I couldn’t find her for twenty four hours and thought, ‘oh god, not her too.’ It turned out that she was in hiding from the creature I brought home after surgery who looked like an old phonographic walking record player. Those massive cones over their heads are some wonky looking head gear.

  10. Holy Cow – poor Haggis! The cartoons made me giggle even though I know it is no laughing matter! My dog once got her head caught in a Costco size mayonaisse jar which I’m sure freaked her out but I laughed so hard I cried. Love your blog! Jan

    • Oh, my godfathers, Jan. The poor beast! I hope whatever was in there was worth the riotous adventure. It’s hard to pass up good mayo.
      And many thanks for the gracious comment. I’m so happy you like it. 🙂

    • I’m pretty sure, Eli, that my folder is RED and has a giant WARNING sticker on the front of it. Chances are, everyone now knows the make and color of my car and there’s an all out ‘beware’ signal that sounds just before I pop through the door. Ultimately, it pays to have one of the goofiest, most lovable hounds on the end of a lead as the reason for your visit. This fella makes grown men fall to their knees and speak in a five year old voice. I’ve never been so lucky with a pet. Seriously, any extra internal organ I have has his name on it.

  11. Could you please write a whole book? Your writing is amazing and I would love to read pages of it.

    As for the dog, are we sure he is not a sheep, after all you didn’t do a DNA test? I’m sorry for the dog and I’m happy that he is getting better, albeit looking like a poodle.

    But seriously, keep writing, your posts are great! Also loved the drawings: the one with the cat in the dog is priceless!

    • Wow, Nicholas, I think all writers would die a heavenly death for a comment like yours. And yes, your wish is my command. The book comes out June 2015 from Sourcebooks. Currently, we’re in the middle of all those last minute exciting moments of the manuscript coming back into my lap for one more look from the copy editor, the proof reader, the typesetter, and the lumberjack in charge of amassing the number of trees we’ll be requiring. Part of me hopes we’re going to be responsible for replanting an area that would equal the size of Ohio. Oh, the fevered misled hopes of authors, right?
      And I’m so glad you liked the drawings. They are the fine and sometimes freaky work of Robin Gott. A master of comedy.
      Cheers, Nicholas!

    • Huh, I never even thought of that. And what a brilliant idea. A kickstarter campaign to kickstart the sluggish bowels of my beloved hound. Next time (and I seriously hope there will NEVER be a next time) I’ll throw the idea out there and see if anyone bites (or barks) at the idea. 😛

  12. Oh, poor Haggis! And poor you, Shelley. You can always be assured that it’s not going to be good news when the dog doesn’t eat. My beloved dog Belle passed away last year, but up until her last day, she was a real pig. She practically inhaled her food and any treats. When she turned her nose up at a treat one time, I went into a complete panic. It ended up being the start of pancreatitis. I’m so glad Haggis is on the mend (although I bet your cat isn’t as thrilled, eh?). I think I’ve said this to you before, but if you want to be really ambitious, you could always write the scripts for sitcoms when you’re not toiling away at a novel. Though I was alarmed at reading about Haggis’s tummy trouble, I couldn’t help but laugh at your banter with the vet. You have such a gift with words, my friend. Give Haggis a big hug for me! Tell him he has a fan who’s very relieved that he’s better.

    • Miranda, you never fail to have me laughing within seconds of diving into your comments. Was Belle aware of your porky pen name for her? I should hardly laugh, as my appetite is akin to that of a small football team. Not ladylike at all. I’m sorry you lost one of your dearest companions though. It’s heartbreak no one wishes to experience.
      And good heavens, if I had any spare time away from the toiling, I’d likely be Tollhousing. Which of course neatly brings us back to the subject of food. I haven’t had a chance to bake anything in donkey’s years and I’m growing a little worried that I’m still going to be eyebrow deep in edits with nothing to start building up my winter pudge. The holidays are all about eating and the washing of dishes. And then writing about the eating and the washing of dishes, and the moaning resulting from each activity.
      I’ve delivered the hug (and an extra one for good measure). If he could send a thank you note, the stamp would likely smell of peanut butter. He’s kind of neurotic about making sure everything is secure and sealed, which is why I’ve banned him from sending any more missives.
      Cheers to you, my lovely friend! ❤

      • Belle didn’t care what you called her, as long as you called her to dinner. 🙂 It’s been almost a year, and I still miss her terribly. I don’t think that will ever change.

        Ah, yes, the holidays and food. You know this Grinch isn’t very much into holidays, but I do enjoy the tasty dishes my mom makes. (No one will eat anything I cook.) I think you will be able to balance baking and editing with your customary poise, my friend. And I can’t wait to read about your adventures at both. 😉

  13. Shelley – do you think your dog knows that he’s named after the minced innards of sheep? And do your sheep know that the dog they hang out with is named after the minced innards of one of their brethren? Silly questions maybe, but they are food for thought!
    Now I’ll shut up and get back to my pencils 🙂

  14. We always know when our pets aren’t themselves don’t we.
    Hubby slept on the floor downstairs with our other dog. We took him to the vet (the dog, not Hubby) who could find nothing wrong. When he took his temperature, it was really high, so something was amiss.
    Anyway, a bland diet of scrambled eggs, boiled chicken and rice for a couple of days soon put him right. The dog felt better too. 🙂

    • Uh oh, are you a part of a family of four? Have I been leaving out one poor furry face this whole time believing you all to be three on a boat afloat?
      And what a good hubby you have–that guy is worth his weight in gold.

      • No, just the three of us. Barney was Maggie’s predecessor. We lost him suddenly in March 2005 , (nothing to do with this particular instance) and I lasted just 6 days before getting Maggie. He was a border collie too (see pic in boat), beautiful dog, and it still hurts after all this time that we had to make a decision we weren’t ready for…

        • So sorry. I think there are some dogs we are lucky enough to share a lifetime with that we will never stop grieving for. Fortune giveth and fortune taketh away. But for a short while, it is very, very good.

  15. As I was reading this I was expecting it was a piece of fiction … for surely no one wants a sick animal and MULTIPLE vet trips to be a true story!!!
    Then I got to the comments. Poor you. Poor Haggis. I would be a basket case. As you said, when it comes to our furry ones, we seem to be absolutely emotionally helpless 😦

    • Yeah, Joanne, I’m a total puddle when it comes to this fellow. I already give him half of everything I eat, and if he needed it, I’d likely give him half of the pair of kidneys I possess.
      We’re all good now though, apart from the fact that I’ll likely have to sell that extra kidney to pay for the vet bills.

  16. I’m happy to hear that Hagis is on the mend. All those procedures are costly and worrisome, but as you say, our four footed family members are worth it.

    Fabulous drawings as always. You two are a great team.

    • Aw shucks, Alys, thanks a million. I’m glad you liked the post and cartoons.
      And Haggis seems as good as new–apart from the large line down his belly that looks like he can zipper himself in and out of his fur coat. 😛

  17. I’m so relieved Haggis is OK (second dog I know about called Haggis, fancy that?) I shall be more alert than ever to our dog eating grass – he tends to do it in an attention seeking way. So, for instance, if I’ve gone to hang out laundry he’ll eat in a provocative manner until I stop to throw some tennis balls for him to chase.

    As for the vet thinking you’re slightly bonkers about your dog, I can only say you have a long way to go before you end up setting him up with his own twitter account to try to win a competition run by a spoof offal marketing board. 😉

    PS We came second. 😦

      • I’d recommend following @TripeUK if you want to follow next year’s Tripe Dog competition. We lost to Willy Pongo Coles, owned by Rev Richard Coles, formerly of The Communards, so got beat by a real celebrity dog with over a thousand followers, so can hold our heads up high. If that’s appropriate for engaging in such silliness. I hear rumours that there’ll soon be a Tripe Cat competition, by popular demand, so you could enter your own feline. 😉

        Absolutely no obligation to eat tripe.

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