Enjoyment of life

It’s been a really bad week – this time Brussels was hit. We won’t add to the excessive publicity that these horrific deeds produce.

Last week we were on a boat in the Sea of Cortez, on the West coast of Mexico. We saw some amazing things. Whales, dolphins, whale-sharks, sea-lions, nice Americans. We also saw these rays, jumping out of the water, sailing through the air. Why do they do this? we asked. Well, it’s a bit like breaching whales, apparently. Get rid of parasites? Barnacles? Maybe. Or maybe they just really like doing this. And yes, we’ll go for that: these rays simply seemed to enjoy themselves. Joi de vivre: the enjoyment of life. So good to see.


The sardonic grin

A number of years ago I was called by a client, Yvonne, who informed me that she was worried about her dog, Paddy, because he was ‘smiling’. I knew Yvonne well and knew that she was a very perceptive person. If she was worried, I should worry.
What we found was that Paddy had contracted tetanus. The smile was caused by contracture of the muscles in the face as a result of the nerves being affected  by a toxin produced by bacteria. It is called a sardonic smile. The site of the infection was quite difficult to find – a small wound under a nail. As the problem is caused by the toxins rather than the bacteria, simply using antibiotics to kill the bacteria is not the solution.
I had only seen tetanus in horses, as they are more susceptible to the toxins. Humans are apparently less sensitive than dogs.
The treatment for dogs was the same as for horses. The animals need to be kept away from stimuli, so in Paddy’s case in a dark,quiet room.They are also given muscle relaxants such as valium to prevent the muscle cramps. The disease can be fatal, particularly if the respiratory muscles are affected.
Paddy recovered after a few weeks, with excellent care from Yvonne. I have since had 2 more cases, but neither of these were as severe. 3 cases in over 25 years!
brian grin pic

Artistic impression of the sardonic grin. We must stress that no animal was harmed in the taking of this photograph