Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Day 262 - Learning How to Express a Dog's Anal Gland

I have never expressed a dog’s anal gland. As someone that is overwhelmingly appalled by rear ends and everything they produce, expressing a dog’s anal gland is something I never wanted to attempt. In fact, when the process has been necessary for my two Dachshunds, Buddy and Baxter, I would almost always leave the veterinary examination room as to avoid the feeling of disgust that consumed me, and the periodic dry heaves that accompanied it, anytime I witnessed the process. Stated plainly, I found everything about the process to be absolutely gross, and I wanted to avoid having any part in its happening.

I'm so sorry, boys...

As a result of this perspective, I left the task up to our veterinarian and a veterinary technician friend to Rachael and me, Mary, anytime my dogs required the treatment. Unfortunately, a trait of the Dachshund breed meant monthly trips to have the procedure performed, and with a price tag of $30 with each trip to the veterinarian the cost started to add up. Of course, Mary was always willing to help us with the task when she could, but as a matter of inconvenience I always felt somewhat guilty about asking for her help. Knowing that was the case, Mary eventually offered to teach me how to express a dog’s anal gland as a part of my “I have never...” year. Although I was grateful for the offer to help me gain a new experience, I immediately dismissed the idea on the grounds that it would likely make me ill. I was open to trying new things, but as far as I was concerned there was no way I was getting my hands anywhere close to a dog’s backside. 

Despite my obvious aversion to the idea of learning how to express a dog’s anal gland, Mary and Rachael did their best to convince me to give the experience a try. Each time the procedure would be necessary Rachael would bring up the opportunity to learn any time I wanted to do so, and Mary would remind me of her outstanding offer each time she assisted with the process. As the months past, it became obvious such comments would persist until I ultimately caved and committed to learning how to express an anal gland. I wasn’t any keener on the idea, but I knew there was only one way to stop the recurring discussion of when I was going to give the procedure a try. In turn, as winter pressed into its third month I reluctantly agreed to take Mary up on her offer. After every crazy experience I had experienced over the previous eight months it was the most undesirable experience I had yet faced during my “I have never...” journey, but I was going to learn how to express a dog’s anal gland.

The tools of the trade

As to not cause anyone any degree of discomfort, I won’t go into the gritty details of tonight’s experience. Instead, I will start by saying the experience was everything a person would expect it to be; nerve wracking and absolutely repulsive. Leading up to the experience, I actually had a difficult time preparing for the lesson. After Mary arrived at our house this evening, she began to walk me through the process. As she did, my sympathy for my dogs and my fear I was going to do something wrong in the process caused me to slip into a state of uneasiness. With my palms sweaty I forced latex gloves onto my hands and listened on with a look of antipathy riddling my face as Mary nonchalantly explained the process. Everything in my mind told me I wasn’t ready to take on the task, but I knew I was moments away from facing it.


After a brief primer on the process, Mary instructed me to lift my dog, Buddy, up to the table we had prepared for the procedure. Following her step-by-step instruction I quickly found myself about to engage in the process of expressing an anal gland. As I engaged the procedure I closed my eyes tight and turned my head, doing my best to feel for the gland as Mary instructed me. “They will be at four and eight o’clock,” she said maintaining her calm demeanor, “Look for a marble sized bump, squeeze it until your fingers meet at the inside and outside of the skin, and roll them toward you.” As I tried my best to follow her direction, the instructions alone were enough to make my stomach turn.


Doing my best to make it work...

Struggling to complete the task, I looked to Mary in a state of discomfort. “It’s not working,” I said with a whimper, “I don’t think I can keep doing this.” With that remark Mary offered to take over and demonstrate the process for me. She was quick to don a pair of gloves, take my place, and provide a play by play as she seamlessly completed the process in a matter of seconds. A bit queasy at the sight of the procedure, I took a few steps back as Mary cleaned up the pungent expulsed material with paper towel. “I just don’t know if I can do this,” I said walking to the side of the table. My remark evoked a series of encouraging comments from Mary and Rachael while I paced the kitchen floor wondering whether to continue. “It’s alright. Since Buddy is done you can give it a try on Baxter. He is much easier,” Mary said as Rachael put Buddy on the ground and set Baxter on the table. “I promise,” Mary said, “Just give it one more try.”

Round 2...

I sighed heavily at the thought of trying the process again, but I knew a second attempt was necessary if I was to complete my “I have never...” objective for the day. “Fine. Ok. I’ll try it one more time, but then I’m done,” I said moving quickly as to get the process over with as soon as possible. After replacing my gloves and preparing for my second attempt at expressing an anal gland, I once again followed Mary’s instructions as I worked through the process. As before, my attempt was at first unsuccessful, causing me to reel back from the table wincing. “You have it. Just give it one more shot,” Mary said bluntly. Slightly hesitant, I moved back to the table and worked through the process once more, but unlike my previous attempts my finger fell on a small round object that fit Mary’s prior description of the gland. In response, I moved my hand through the squeezing motion Mary had earlier described to me until I felt a sudden release. Looking down I noticed my attempt had been successful. I expressed a dog’s anal gland.

Success? ...Thank God that's over with.

Although I expected to be excited by my success, the disgusting smell of the excretion and the reality of the material on my gloved hand caused me to wince as I quickly moved to the garbage can. “This is so gross!” I exclaimed as I did my best to free my hands of anything related to the process. “That’s it! I’m done! I did it, and now I’m done.” My reaction caused a series of chuckles to escape from Mary and Rachael, but my comments were not intended to be humorous. I was absolutely disgusted by the experience, and I just wanted the experience to end.

Thankfully, a little clean up, getting Baxter back on the floor, and a good hand washing were the only things left in the process, which filled me with a sense of relief. Working through the final stages of the process, I quickly decided that my first experience expressing a dog’s anal gland would be my last. Given my experience and the overwhelming feelings of displeasure that came with it, spending $30 each month or treating Mary to a periodic meal are both well worth the investment to avoid having to take on the task alone. While I’m sure the task would get easier to handle with time and repetition, expressing dogs’ anal glands is not something I want to practice enough to become desensitized to the process. As a result, I’ll simply leave this one to the professionals and hope that I never find myself in circumstances where I have to express an anal gland ever again. At least I walked away with a new respect for the people that subject themselves to expressing animals’ anal glands every workday. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m sure glad they are there to take care of this nasty little task when my dogs need it.

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