“Tails” from the Vet Clinic
DRIVEN TO DRINK
by Rikki Schmidt
One day a golden retriever was brought into the clinic by a concerned couple. The beautiful animal, named Sunny, appeared to be in the peak of health.
“And why are we seeing Sunny today?” Marc asked as the technician led the obedient dog and his owners into an exam room.
“Well Doc,” the woman began, “he’s been drinking an awful lot of water lately. Like maybe a gallon a day.” The possibility of diabetes began to loom large in Marc’s mind.
“Is he losing weight?” Marc asked. “Does his eyesight seem to be getting worse?” While he was talking to the people he put a water dish down in front of Sunny but the dog paid no attention.
“Nope,” the man said quickly. “Nothing seems to be wrong with him at all. He’s just drinking like a fish for some reason. Like my wife said, about a gallon a day.”
Marc examined the sweet dog who was quite amenable to all the poking and prodding. “With excessive thirst,” he explained to the couple, “we always have to consider diabetes. Although Sunny doesn’t seem to exhibit any of the other symptoms. And he didn’t drink any of the water here. I’d like to take some blood tests to see what’s going on.”
The couple readily consented so Marc drew the blood and told them he would call in a few days with the results. But two days later when the tests came back, everything was normal. It seems Sunny didn’t have diabetes or anything else. Marc asked the owners to come back for another consultation. He put a water bowl down but once again, Sunny didn’t seem interested.
“How’s Sunny doing,” he asked.
“Still drinking a gallon a day,” the husband told him.
“How do you know it’s that much?” Marc pressed for more information on this puzzling case.
“Well,” the wife explained. “You know how terrible the tap water here tastes. So we buy bottled water. And we got Sunny one of them ‘self-filling’ coolers. You know, like the kind you see in offices? The ones with the big jug on top? But instead of having to press the lever to get water, this one is set up so it automatically fills Sunny’s water dish as soon as it’s emptied. Makes it real convenient for us. But less than a week goes by and I have to replace that five gallon jug.”
“When do you notice the dog drinking?” Marc asked. “And what is he doing just before he’s drinking? Is it after he’s been walked or chased a ball?”
The woman thought for a moment “Seems like there’s no one time he drinks more than others. And I can’t tell you what he’s been doing beforehand. We have a big fenced yard and a doggy door so he pretty much comes and goes as he pleases. I can tell you what he does right after he drinks though.”
Marc was interested “What’s that?”
“Well, you know how when you drain enough water out of them jugs, it sort of has to readjust itself with the pressure and all? Kind of makes that ‘glug’ sound and a bunch a bubbles come up?”
“Yes..” Marc said slowly.
“Well, it seems Sunny likes that part.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, he gets real excited about it. Every time he hears that ‘glug’ and sees the bubbles he wags his tail and gets all happy. Seems like he looks forward to it. While he’s drinkin’, he’s watching the jug like he can’t wait for it to happen.”
“Really?” Marc stroked his chin as a ridiculous, yet plausible explanation began to take shape in his mind. “You think it’s possible that Sunny may be drinking all the water just to hear that glug sound?”
The husband and wife looked at each other.
“I mean it sounds almost like a learned response,” Marc continued. “Sunny knows if he drinks enough water, sooner or later he’ll see the bubbles and hear that sound he likes. So he keeps drinking to make it happen. Look, we’ve offered him water the two times he’s been in the clinic and he hasn’t touched it.”
At first, the dog’s owners sat there in silence. But then, they too, realized that, as bizarre as it sounded, Marc’s theory had possibilities.
“Well I’ll be!” the husband exclaimed. There’s nothing wrong with that dog at all.”
The wife chimed in, “yeah, he just been ‘conditioned.’ Like Pavlov’s dog.”
“More like Perrier’s dog” Marc said and they all laughed.