When I was about seven-years-old, my family adopted a dog from the ASPCA. She came to us with the name “Tiffany,” a fact I helpfully shared with the girl across the street whose name was also Tiffany. “Guess what?” I yelled, while my mother begged me to stop, “Our dog has the same name as you!”
Meredith Bland: Putting my foot in it since 1984.
We renamed the dog Cinnamon, because she was the color of cinnamon. We named our next two pets Smokey and Snowball. Don’t get me wrong, my family is made up of some very intelligent people, we just chose to save those smarts for things like fighting and revenge.
Occasionally, Cinnamon needed to be given pills. I remember this being a stressful situation for all of us, and a rage-inducing situation for my mother, who would frequently end up straddling the dog with both hands, trying to hold Cinnamon’s mouth open and force a pill far enough down her throat so that she couldn’t cough it up, but not far enough that she would gag and bring up the pill anyway.
It never worked.
I don’t know how she did it, but that dog was a regular Houdini with pills. Trying to hide the pill in a piece of cheese or push it into a piece of hot dog were amateur moves. I’m pretty sure Cinnamon had an extra set of teeth on the inside of her mouth that worked independently to eat around cheese and spit out pills. Her talent was truly remarkable: I can remember my mom on top of her, holding her mouth shut for up to five minutes at a stretch while stroking her throat to get her to swallow. When she finally released the dog, Cinnamon got up, walked around, got a drink of water, and there was no pill to be seen. We rejoiced, until Cinnamon shook her head and a pill hit the floor. As we stared at her in dismay, she looked at us as if to say, “BEHOLD! ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!”
I have not owned a dog since Cinnamon died during my senior year of high school. But now I have Chewie. Dear, face-eating Chewie. And last week, Chewie needed to have his first pills under my watch for a case of the runs he was suffering from. Truthfully, I was suffering right along with him. Let me tell you who doesn’t enjoy giving a dog’s anus a bath at 7:00 in the morning. This gal right here.
I was prepared for a long, drawn out battle. When we got home from the vet I researched how to give dogs pills, just in case any new tricks had been developed during the past twenty years. I found one on WikiHow that I really enjoyed. It involves mind games and humiliation, and it is called the “Drop On The Floor Method.”
Drop on the Floor Method
1. “Stand where you prepare food.”
We’re setting the scene, here. It’s all about context.
2. “Make sure your dog is watching, and any other dogs or other animals are somewhere else.”
Isolate him. Make him feel like he has no friends.
3. “Put some kind of meat or whatever you have on hand on the counter.”
“Meat or whatever you have on hand?” No. That’s like telling a drug addict, “Ok, I’ll just be over here in the kitchen making meth or maybe pot pies, you know, whatever.” It must be meat, or underpants, or used tissues, or something else that your dog is into. Let’s not half-ass this, people.
4. “Casually drop the pill on the floor. Some dogs just lunge for anything they think they are not supposed to have, especially if they think it is food.”
Here are more tips on acting casual:
- put one hand in your pocket
- look around aimlessly and say to your dog, “gosh, what am I going to make for dinner? I just can’t narrow it down. I should probably put these underpants in my laundry basket first, though…”
5. If you see that in the first few seconds your dog is not going to get it, or is just sniffing it, pretend to lunge to try to take it away.
He’s not going for it, huh? Time for Plan B. You lunge for that pill like it’s your last birth control pill and the pharmacy is closed. Reverse psychology — it works with crazy people, toddlers, and dogs. And every Thanksgiving from then on you can say, “Hey, dog! Remember that time I went for that pill like I totally didn’t want you to have it but really it was a pill and you went and snatched it right up because you thought it was something awesome?! HA! Remember that?! Remember, dummy?!”
Well, when it comes to Chewie, it turned out that none of that song and dance was necessary. Because my dog enjoys ham. A lot.
Me: “Hey Chewie! Look, this is a pill bottle! I’m going to give you a pill now! They are supposed to be really bitter and cause nausea. Are you ready?”
Chewie: “Is that ham?”
Me: “Why, yes! I am so glad you noticed. This is deli ham that I am going to wrap the pill in in order to hide it from you.”
Chewie: “I would really like some ham.”
Me: “You can totally have some. Now — here is the pill. See it? And do you see how I am folding it into this piece of ham?”
Chewie: “I see the ham.”
Me: “Good, now here you go! Go ahead and swallow it!”
Chewie: “Loved it. Can I have more ham?”
That’s all there was to it. I love my dumb little dog.