It was one of my first on call weekends as a new vet.  Perhaps even the very first.

I was at the hospital by myself, getting ready to head home after a slow but steady afternoon.  As I started towards the door, a frantic knocking hailed me from the other side.  I opened the door to a striking scene.  A large and agitated woman stood before me.  Draped in a muumuu and topped with a frightening shock of blue tinged hair, she clasped a rather popeyed beagle to her ample bosom.

Completely out of breath, she held the dog out to me, then leaned against the doorframe to catch her breath.  More than a few awkward moments passed as she struggled to regain her composure, and her panicked puppy matched her gargantuan efforts as he struggled to escape from me.

Finally, she gasped out in an incongruously refined accent "Barney's paralysed!  He can't move!"

Barney, hell bent on disproving his mistresses assertion, redoubled his efforts to escape from me.

"He's not paralysed" I reassured her.  "Look how well he's moving his legs".  And he was indeed moving his legs vigorously, raking a full set of ginsu quality toenails across my belly as he kicked.   Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour, I gently placed him on the treatment room floor.

Immediately he froze.  Standing stiffly with straight neck and rigid legs protruding from his portly frame, his soulful eyes stared ruefully up at his panicked owner.

"You see, he's paralysed" she wailed tearfully.

There was indeed something strange going on.  Although Barney clearly could move his legs, he was less than willing to do so.  His tortured expression warranted a closer look.  I knelt on the floor beside him and began my physical exam.  I worked my way from head to foot.  Poking, prodding, listening, and manipulating.  Barney was obese.  Clearly a glutton, the rolls of fat made him difficult to examine, and Barney fought me every step of the way.  He tensed and whined piteously when I began to assess his neck.

"You're hurting him!" Barney and I both flinched involuntarily at the volume with which this declaration was delivered, not more than a few inches from my ear as Barney's owner leaned in to get a better look at what I was doing.

"He's definitely uncomfortable, but I'm not sure what the problem is yet.  Why don't you have a seat and explain what happened" I motioned towards a seat into which she gratefully collapsed.

"He was completely normal this morning.  I was busy getting ready for a little party I'm having tonight, so I left him out back while I was in the kitchen.  Once the guests arrived and we were having a cocktail they asked where he was.  I called him in but he didn't come.  When I went looking for him he was standing by the back fence just like this.  He wouldn't come!  Just rolled his eyes at me.  Will he ever be able to walk doctor?"  And with that she broke into a wail and laid her head on the treatment room table.  Great sobs shaking her from head to toe.

At this point I was beginning to suspect that Barney's discovery had been preceded by more than a single cocktail.  The vapours surrounding my mystery client were reaching anaesthetic levels.

"Lets take an X-Ray" I suggested.  "What's your last name, so I can get Barney's record?"  My request was met with a vague hand wave and a new wave of sobbing, so I scooped up Barney and retreated to the back of the hospital.  A quick search of the computer matched Barnie's Rabies tag number to a Mrs. Worth, at an address within walking distance of the hospital.

Barney and I took a quick trip to X-ray while Mrs. Worth collected herself, and soon I had a most intriguing set of films to review.  There was nothing wrong with Barney's spine, but his stomach was packed so full that whatever he had eaten filled his esophagus from the stomach all the way up to the back of his throat.  He had literally gorged himself into immobility.

After a quick trip to the drug cabinet, I explained to Mrs Worth what I was going to do.  "We need to make him vomit, Mrs. Worth.  He's gotten into something while he was outside"

"That's absurd!  He's a very picky eater, Barney, aren't you dear.  What' wrong with his neck?" She stood up, starting to look a little angry, and bent over Barney with a protective scowl".

"Really, it's right here on the X-Ray" I pointed vaguely towards the film.  I just need to put this little pill in his eye..."
"You what?"  She was really upset now.  "There's nothing wrong with his eyes!"

"I have to make him vomit" I explained, "and the way we do that is to put a little pill under his eyelid so that he absorbs it quickly".   Obviously this was not a convincing argument.  She gathered up her pup and looked as if she was about to storm out of the hospital when Barney began to howl.  It was a long, mournful wail that increased in pitch as she lifted him then trailed away slowly as she gingerly placed him back on the exam table.

"Isn't there something else you can do"  She sighed.

"I really think that this is what we need to do" I assured her gently. Shaking her head in disbelief, she sat back down.

"All right. Do it, but don't hurt him!"

Gently I placed the little pellet of apomorphine under his eyelid, then cradled his head to stop him from pawing at his eye and knocking the pellet loose.  He relaxed against me, as if enjoying a cuddle, but before long his body started to tense again. A ripple ran through him from nose to tail, then another, then he leaned forward and began to retch.   Within moments, a thick sausage of pasty foul smelling material erupted from his mouth and landed on the exam table with a squishy plopping sound.  More followed, then still more.  A seemingly endless stream  that piled in front of the hapless dog, and splashed onto the floor at the feet of an astounded Mrs Worth.  She clasped a hand over her own mouth, gulped, then fled from the room trailing a muffled gurgling sound.

Barney's heaving slowed.  Now he dribbled a trickle of thick ropy saliva.  I rinsed the apomorphine from his eye then placed him in a cage while I investigated the vomit.  The steaming pile was thick and glutinous. speckled with dots that on closer inspection turned out to be birdseed.  Barney had eaten an entire brick of suet.  A mixture of rendered animal fat and birdseed left out to feed wild birds.  He had gorged himself until the noxious mix had filled his stomach, and then he had continued to eat, wolfing mouthful after mouthful until his esophagus was filled with the sticky mass.  Then, as he waddled homeward the concoction had congealed, and as it hardened it immobilized Barney's neck.

Chuckling to myself I glanced up at Barney.  He was standing at the front of the cage, tail wagging, head bobbing, back to his normal hungry self.  I grabbed a leash and walked him out to the hallway, where Mrs Worth stood trembling.  She took the proffered leash in one hand, but the other remained firmly clamped over her mouth.

I started to explain my findings, but she gagged again, and waved at me to stop.  Barney, excited by the hand waving, pranced around his mistress with a joyful bark.  She looked down at him, and smiled.