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Smell the Coffee: The early bird isn't the only one who gets it

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When I was in my early 20s, I had a German shepherd named Jade. Gorgeous dog. Heart of gold. Brain of mush. Perhaps the only truly simple German shepherd that ever lived, but I loved her desperately. She and I had the kind of connection that -- even for an extreme dog lover like me, capable of growing roots to a dog in 6.2 seconds -- doesn't come along every day.

When she was only about 3 years old, I found a spot on the bend of Jade's left hind leg, an open sore that wouldn't heal, no matter what I put on it. It was ugly and growing rapidly, and when I took her to the vet, it was already the size of a quarter.

The vet took one look and shook her head. It was almost definitely cancer, she said. She'd seen the same thing before. Still, they would need to biopsy it so they could determine the type and come up with a course of treatment, but she warned me the prognosis was grim.

After the biopsy, but before the results came back, Jade tore into her wound and required a second trip to the vet for more stitches and a big plastic cone for around her neck, so she couldn't reach it again. The tab had already reached $800 when we got the news.

Good news.

It wasn't cancer after all.

It was a wart.

Eight hundred dollars to find out my beloved dog had a wart. Never had money spent been so celebrated and so mourned at the same time.

At least, not until earlier this month. When my husband found a spot on his leg.

It wasn't a wart.

But it was nearly as ugly. Like Jade's, his sore was big as a quarter and red, a little ragged around the edges.

He found it on a Friday evening and within a few hours, had become thoroughly convinced it was either (a) skin cancer, (b) bone rot or (c) leprosy.

Bone rot was my favorite of the selections, mostly because "rot" is one of those disgustingly fun words to say. Like pustule, ointment or orifice. As in, "He had a rotting pustule in his orifice. It needed ointment."

Anyway, with one pant leg rolled up to his knee, Geoff limped around the house, frequently stopping to inspect his wound, apparently to see if the eight steps he'd taken since last examining it had caused it to begin secreting some nasty but fascinating fluid. Geoff is intrigued by all things medical. The more grotesque, the better.

His leg was pretty gross.

Ask most anyone.

I can say "most anyone" because that's whom he showed it to that weekend -- most anyone who slowed long enough that he could make them look at his leg.

"What do you think this is?" he asked our neighbor. As the two of them talked, a pair of walkers tried to pass by, but were quickly drawn in. I'm guessing by force.

"Ever seen anything like this before?" he asked a fellow Kmart shopper in the pharmacy aisle.

"That look cancerous to you?" he called out to the car stopped beside us in traffic. The driver rolled up her window and avoided eye contact.

I fully expected to awaken Monday morning to find his leg wound had its own Facebook page or had perhaps written an editorial or was auditioning for "America's Got Talent."

It had taken on a life of its own.

Which is kind of ironic, because in a way, it had.

A life of its own, I mean.

Our family physician squeezed him in Monday morning. Had a diagnosis in minutes.

Ringworm.

Apparently, it's extremely common this time of year, with all the digging going on. Geoff had been excavating around a sewer pipe in our yard, the likely source.

A little ointment on the orifice seems to be clearing it right up.

But I'm making him wear a big plastic cone around his neck just in case.

Reach Karin Fuller via email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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