Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Dogs on Drugs

Slipping Goofy a Mickey

By Walter Jowers

APRIL 3, 2000:  Yet another sign that this is a great time to be alive in America You can buy medicine to help your senile dog. I found this out while looking through wife Brenda's copy of Martha Stewart Living magazine. There was a sad-eyed basset hound staring up at me from the page. "It's hard to say 'welcome home' when I can't remember your face," the hound--well, actually, the ad copy--pleaded.

The dog was selling Pfizer's Anipryl, which is an MAO inhibitor, sort of like Nardil, which people take to treat anxiety, depression, and phobias. Anipryl "offers new hope for millions of older dogs and their families," says Pfizer.

Now, I know y'all are thinking, New hope for what? Well, new hope that your addle-brained old dog will get over his bout with canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, CDS for short.

How would you know if your dog had CDS? Here are some of the warning signs, courtesy of Pfizer. Does your dog:

* Fail to respond to verbal cues or name?

* Have difficulty finding the door, or stand on the hinge side of the door?

* Appear to forget the reason for going outside?

I'm here to tell you: I don't know about other breeds, but all of the above is ordinary basset hound behavior. I have owned four full-grown basset hounds, and one of 'em had a litter of 12 crooked-tailed pups that I couldn't give away fast enough. There is nothing on earth cuter than a basset pup. But when a basset is grown, it is either the dumbest or most arrogantly carefree creature on earth, and I don't know which.

Understand, I loved my basset hounds, and I wouldn't mind having one again. But a basset could easily forget his name, lose track of how a door works, and forget that the whole reason he got up was to go outside and pee. The average basset could do all this in 30 seconds' time. Here's what a basset would be thinking throughout the Pfizer scenario: 1. I don't care what you call me, just don't call me late for dinner. 2. Dumb-ass human only opens the door the right way half the time. 3. If I forget to pee while I'm outside, I'll just do it when I go back inside.

As an example, I offer my first basset hound, Martin, who developed a habit of coming up on the front porch to take a crap. Every morning I'd get up and shovel eight or 10 piles of dog crap off the porch. (Another basset feature: They're the only animal that can eat one pound and crap two pounds.) Anyhow, I cussed that dog daily, until my friend Claude pointed out that Martin was actually pretty dang smart. "Why should he crap out there where he plays," Claude offered, "when he's got you trained to clean up after him every day?"

Anyhow, back to the Anipryl. It's supposed to help an old dog recover some of his former good sense, so he'll play with you, come when you call him, stuff like that. A little medical extension of the good life for you and your faithful companion. Nobody could argue with that, right?

Well...according to Pfizer, the most common side effects of Anipryl are "vomiting, diarrhea, or changes in behavior." I don't want to sound hardhearted, but who's going to be having fun if Rover gets restless and starts wandering through the house yacking and spewing all over the place? Jeez, Rover buddy, if you've got to do all that, please stand still!

You never know about side effects. One of the most common side effects of a popular anti-flatulent medication is flatulence. A while back, a pharmacist explained to me that anything that happens to a person (or presumably a dog) while he's testing a new drug gets recorded as a side effect. So in theory, if a person were to burst into flames after taking a new antacid, one of the listed side effects would be spontaneous combustion.

Some dog owners are perfectly happy with Anipryl. Here's what Penny Coulter had to say about the stuff on the Anipryl Web site: "Copper, my 17-year-old miniature long-haired dachshund, was showing behavior that didn't seem like a normal part of old age. She was disoriented and restless, and she frequently walked into walls or got stuck behind furniture. The veterinarian knew immediately that Copper was suffering from Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome and suggested Anipryl. Now Copper seems much more comfortable. I'm all for Anipryl and what it has done for Copper."

I'm happy for Penny and Copper, but here's my personal take on the old-dog situation: Once a dog starts walking into walls and getting stuck behind the furniture, the deal has gone down. My rule is, if I wouldn't want to live that way, I wouldn't want my dog to live that way. If I live long enough to start walking into walls and getting stuck behind the furniture, I just hope wife Brenda still loves me enough to push me down the stairs and put me out of my misery.

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