Editor’s Desk

Column: Rabies report our latest brush will scary disease

January 31, 2014 

WHITFIELD.022712.TI

Johnny Whitfield, columnist The Eastern Wake News and The Clayton News Star.

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

If rabies reports seem to you to be more frequent lately, well, you’d be right. The Wake County Health Department sends us notices whenever there is a confirmed report anywhere in the county.

In a county as big as Wake County, most of those reports originate elsewhere and I don’t give them a second thought. So you can imagine last week’s report about a case in Wendell caught my attention. I was drawn in even more when I realized that the report originated just a few blocks from my home. In fact, I generally walk my dog at night through the neighborhood where a rabid racoon got into a fight with a dog.

I feel for the family that had to make the heart-breaking decision to put their dog to sleep. I can only hope there are no children in that family that must suffer through the loss of a family member.

Needless to say, though, I haven’t walked my dog in that neighborhood in the last week. And just to be on the safe side, I’ll probably wait a little bit longer before I do.

Last week’s incident isn’t the first time our family has been touched by rabies, though. A few years ago, our daughter tried to break up a fight between our dog and a stray cat. The cat bit our daughter Pitt and we were able to capture the cat until Animal Control came by to collect the animal. The cat had to be quarantined for 10 days to ensure that he wasn’t rabid. If he was, they told us, Pitt would have to be treated. Well, as fate would have it, somehow the cat managed to escape from quarantine and the animal control folks couldn’t find it.

So it was off to the doctor for a series of rabies shots for Pitt. Those shots took about four trips to the doctor and, in at least one instance, there were multiple shots. I was glad it wasn’t me. Thankfully, I can report, Pitt never contracted rabies. But it was an ordeal for all of us, and most certainly for Pitt.

My first exposure to rabies was, perhaps, a little more traditional.

In sixth grade at Vaiden Whitley Middle School, Language Arts teacher Judy Shannon read a chapter or two each day to our class from the classic Fred Gipson work Old Yeller.

Like the lead character, young Travis Coates, I fell in love with the dog as Ms. Shannon read to us. I was heartbroken to the point of tears when Travis had to shoot Old Yeller, who had contracted rabies in an encounter with a wolf.. And, let me tell you, crying in class over a dog in a book is not a manly thing to do in sixth grade.

But the vivid descriptions of the sick dog made me pity Old Yeller as much as I ached for Travis Coates and what he had to do.

So here’s the lesson. Make sure your pet is vaccinated against rabies. You don’t want to be faced with the difficult decision the family in Wendell had to make. You don’t want to go through the pain of shot after shot like my daughter experienced. And you don’t ever want to suffer through the agony that Travis Coates endured.

It might make me cry.

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