REGION'S DRUG PROBLEM GONE TO THE DOGS
Remember that old Saturday Night Live spoof about puppy uppers and doggie downers?
It turns out that memorable sketch was merely a case of art imitating life 30 years before its time.
According to a recent front-page article in the Vancouver Province, a growing number of "cranked-up canines" are being rushed to Lower Mainland veterinary hospitals for treatment after consuming drugs left lying around by their owners.
Vancouver vets say marijuana is the drug of choice for wayward pups who stray toward the dark side, although one animal doctor reported treating dogs that have ingested cocaine, ecstasy, hash brownies, prescription medications and even heroin.
That's right. Vancouver is rife with stoned spaniels, toking terriers, drug-addled Airedales and half-baked bloodhounds.
I might have passed this story off as a piece of cheap sensationalism, except it was written by former Black Press reporter Matt Ramsey, who five years ago sat in this very chair.
Given the high quality of reporters who have used this work station over the years, I'm inclined to give Matt the benefit of the doubt.
If our four-legged friends are succumbing to the lure of illicit substances, we should sit up and take notice, for this is a problem that begs to be nipped in the bud.
If, on the other hand, we roll over and pretend its not happening, it's an invitation for the problem to escalate.
What starts with a nibble can quickly morph into a bad habit and the next thing you know, your pet is hanging around downtown, wearing a red bandanna, listening to gangsta rap and text-messaging drug orders on his Blackberry.
Thankfully calls to local vets failed to uncover a widespread doggie drug problem in Greater Victoria.
"We don't see tons of it. In a year and a half I can count on one hand where it has been a marijuana ingestion," said Sharon Bartlett of Central Victoria Veterinary Hospital, which specializes in emergency medicine for pets.
"We'd be the first one to put it out there if we thought it was a problem."
It's possible that Lower Mainland dogs are just more "metro" than Vancouver Island canines.
But it's still a concern on the Island, where laid-back Labradors might be inclined to experiment with alternative lifestyles.
The Province article suggests that dogs who live in houses with marijuana grow-ops are unwittingly chowing down on their owners' crops, but perhaps this is merely a convenient way of hiding their addiction. That and they lack the opposable thumbs to roll a joint and flick the lighter.
Once you're aware of the problem, the symptoms are easy to spot. Red eyes. Dry mouth. Dry nose. Paw prints on the bong. An uncommon fondness for taco chips. The tendency to cut classes and start every sentence with "Dude..."
Puppies with pot problems may seem listless and refuse to get off the couch when it's walk time.
If you throw your dog a stick and he returns with a baggie full of pot, that's a bad sign.
Likewise if Rover is watching a lot of late-night Scooby Doo re-runs, reading Beatnik poetry and driving way too slow, it may be time for a urine test. (Just hold the little cup near a fire hydrant and wait.)
If that seems far-fetched, consider this: one clinic in Vancouver has begun testing dogs for drugs, using the same techniques that some employers use to test their staff.
If it was only pups on pot perhaps I wouldn't be writing this. The larger concern is that marijuana is a gateway drug. There's an awful lot of pit bulls in town with temperaments that would benefit from a little wheelchair-grade weed. Anti-depressants might cure your St. Bernard's self-esteem problem. But a Jack Russell terrier hopped up on cocaine? Not a pretty sight.
Instead of collaring these canine crooks, we should be embracing a harm-reduction approach to the problem.
The City of Victoria, already studying a safe-injection site for humans, might also consider a safe-ingestion site where dogs would be able to get high under medical supervision.
This would give cannabis-loving curs access to addiction services, reduce the fatality rate and keep the seedy underbelly of doggie drug use out off our streets.
Cats have had catnip for centuries, so maybe it's time we legalized drugs for dogs, if only for medicinal use.
I can see the marketing campaigns already.
"Mellow out your mutt with skunkweed puppy chow, new from Purina."
"Control your pet's mood swings with Dr. Ballard's kibbles n' bud."
Not to forsake the harm-reduction approach, this kind of opportunism would have to be countered with public education campaigns.
"This is your dog. This is your dog on drugs."
"It's 11 o'clock. Do you know what your Doberman is doing?"
Kidding aside, Bartlett said pet owners need to realize that dogs, some breeds more than others, use their sense of taste to explore their surroundings.
"They feel stuff with their mouths. Labs are synonymous with ingesting stuff," Bartlett said.
One unfortunate pup was recently rushed to her emergency clinic after eating broken glass.
"Dogs will eat anything."
And when they do, too often the parents are the last to know.
-- MAP Posted-by: Elaine
Pubdate: Fri, 15 Sep 2006
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Victoria News
Author: Brennan Clarke