Creature Comforts: Ask Walter — Letters about eavesdropping woes, inedible chips
Dear Walter: I overheard my human talking to the little light-up thingy she’s always carrying around, and I’m a little rattled. I ordinarily don’t pay much attention to her when she’s staring at or fiddling with that thing (she even laughs at it sometimes — weird) but this time was different, ’cause she said my name — at first I thought she was talking to me. Then, I realized she was talking ABOUT me, so I listened harder. I’m a very good boy, and so I expected to hear the usual praise for my good work around here (guarding the house, cleaning up all the food that she clumsily drops on the floor, keeping the cat in line, warming the bed at night) but what I heard was SHOCKING! She was making an appointment for me to go to the vet to get SHOT! I mean, WHAT FOR?! Did I hear it was for limes and distemperment? I’ve got a lovely temper, and I don’t like limes.This is very upsetting! She’s always telling me I’m her “Best-est Boy.” She always says she “wuvs me vewwwy much.” Is it all a lie!? I don’t want to get shot! What’s the “vet” and how can I get out of this appointment?! — In the Line of Fire
Dear “Line of Fire:” No worries, I think I see the problem, here. First, eavesdropping can only get you into trouble — and lead to some big misunderstandings. Second, the “vet” is a veterinarian (a doctor who takes care of animals). I happen to know some nice vets (I’ve lived with them my whole life, and they’re good people) and I’m willing to vouch for their ilk and say it’s extremely unlikely that the “shot” your owner was scheduling has anything to do with scary firearms. The appointment your owner was making is for you to get your vaccinations and (I’m pretty sure) a checkup to make sure you’re healthy and stay that way. Big words like “Distemper” and “Lyme Disease” can be confusing — they are actually very bad illnesses we dogs can get. I know it sounds weird that a few pinches with needles can be good for you, but that’s what they’ve been telling me for years, and I’m inclined to believe them; they treat me pretty well. And since I’m very distinguished (just celebrated my 13th birthday) and have lived through lots of “shots” and even 5 cancer surgeries — I can tell you from experience, you’ll be fine. In fact, if you’re lucky, there’ll be a treat in it for you! Chin up, my friend, your human loves you very much!
Dear Walter: I heard the vet’s office has microchips and they can give them to all sorts of animals. I know it sounds weird coming from a cat, but I love chips! Actually, I enjoy licking them more than chewing them up, and I prefer the potato kind over the tortilla type. Anyhoo, how do I get me some of these microchips? Hold up, though … “micro” — doesn’t that mean really small? I’m thinking big chips are better, but maybe if there’s a WHOLE BUNCH of little ones, it’d be okay, and more fun to crunch. Can you get me hooked up with some of this stuff? I hear you have connections. — Chip Lickin’ Kitten
Dear “Chip:” I will never understand individuals of the feline persuasion. I hold you in high regard, but some of your habits are peculiar. Case in point: I could never restrain myself from licking, chewing and swallowing deliciousness, and I feel I speak for most dogs in this respect. As far as chips are concerned, I am not partial to any one style — any kind of chips are my favorite, as long as they’re of the edible variety. Microchips are not edible, I’m afraid. You’re right about the “micro” thing, though — it does mean “tiny,” but microchips are not the type of chips that come in crinkly plastic bags (my favorite sound, BTW.)
A microchip is a computer chip about the size and shape of a grain of rice that can be inserted under the skin with a special needle. Microchips have tiny barcodes on them that can be read by special devices waved over the skin. When the barcode reader finds a chip, it will display an alphanumeric code. In the case of pets, this can be used as a permanent form of identification for dog licenses or to reunite lost pets with their owners, provided the barcode number has been entered into a database and saved with pertinent information. Microchips don’t give off radiation or do anything actively, and, sorry to disappoint, but they are not communication devices for sending signals to the mother ship in outer space.
— Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column is published every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.