In A Rush?
I decided to get a puppy’s opinion about vaccines. Time for a fresh view.
Vaccination regulation is shaping up to be our generation’s great public health debate. Vaccines save lives, billions of healthcare dollars, and are overall safe. But many still oppose vaccine requirements because of diseases they’ve never encountered. Instead of starting the same, tired debate, I took a look at how we protect our canine friends, and in turn, ourselves.
What about vaccine regulations in another population, against a disease that most doctors have never seen? Consider rabies.
Regardless of how cavalier we are about our health, we steer clear of stray animals because we understand the dangers of lyssavirus. No wonder there isn’t an outcry for “philosophical exemptions” from pup’s rabies shot. (See where I’m going with this?)
State-regulated rabies vaccinations prove their worth via a simple observation. When’s the last time YOU saw a rabid dog running around?
I wanted perspective, so I interviewed a 4-month old golden doodle, named Riggins, en route to a shot appointment. He was scared of needles but overall, I respected his assessment of vaccines.
“Riggins, pleasure to meet you, dog. How’s your day?”
“It’s alright. I peed on a dresser.”
“It happens. Where are you headed?”
“Getting vaccines today, including rabies. Mom’s making me.” Riggins let out a reflective, yet soft bark, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
“Why do you feel like Mom is making you?” I inquired.
“State laws. Makes sense, though. Great grandpup had rabies in Kansas and infected a family.”
“Right, so you feel you’re protecti-“
“RIGS, YOU DON’T NEED VACCINES!” Blurted a bystander. In an odd turn of events, Riggins’ acquaintance, Andrew Barkfield, interrupted our conversation.
“Andy, relax. Rabies isn’t really a thing anymore because of vaccines. And they’re safe. Also, that pigeon wants to battle.” Riggins defended his choice while negotiating whether or not to fight a pigeon.
“Natural immunity is all you need.” Barkfield’s tail was stiffened and his hind legs tensed. “My owners are going to protect me against canine distemper and rabies by letting me hang out with a bunch of infected raccoons. Think measles party. Besides, do you know how evil vaccine ingredients like formaldehyde are?! FOR-MAL-DE-HYDE!”
“We have formaldehyde already in our blood, dog. From DNA. Don’t be scared of big words.” I was astounded at Riggins’ brevity. “Oh, and have fun at that raccoon party. I hear rabies brings out the best in them.”
Riggins marched on, albeit, I think Barkfield got under his paws.
“So Riggins, that other pup was telling you not to get immunized. But you told me you didn’t have a choice? Doesn’t this bother you?” I’ll admit I had California’s SB277, on my mind, so I wanted to get back to this question.
“Look, rabies regulations aren’t about controlling pups. It’s about protecting my crew at the dog park. And I’m not about to lick dogs into sickness. Barkfield just thinks every dog problem is due to vaccines.”
I was impressed at his selfless attitude and understanding of epidemiology. However, he went straight back to his puppy instincts when he realized that needles were involved.
“NEEDLES?! I’m going to pee on your carpet. Twice.”
“Riggins, you knew you were getting vaccines! Surely you knew this meant a shot.” I tried to calm him.
“Dude, I’m a puppy.”
“Yeah but you knew – nevermind.” I was already perplexed enough by this dog’s cranium so I just stopped talking.
In a desperate, impulsive move, Riggins darted behind a chair, acting like his furry behind was also concealed.
“Riggins, let’s get your shots!” The veterinarian calmly proposed.
“There’s no Riggins here.” Typical puppy rebuttal.
“Riggins” His mom chimed in. “It’s a pinch and then it’s over.”
Riggins pondered his baseline vaccine knowledge as he eyed the needle in all its metallic glory.
Riggins then preached. “Alright, well, my pup counterparts in Asia and Africa, where 95% of rabies deaths take place, would do anything to be protected. I’m doing my part and not spreading fear. Bring on that needle.”
“HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” Riggins braced himself.
“All done!” Everyone cheered.
“Wait, that’s it?” Riggins then lifted his head up high, his fur glowing. “Thanks, doc. Honestly, you made that easier than peeing in an elevator. Shake.”
“Hey, Riggins.” I went to give him a belly-rub. “How does it feel to be part of the herd immunity that’ll keep dogs and humans protected from rabies?”
“Hah, you better be happy I did. Did you know that rabies is universally fatal in humans without treatment?! WHERES MY TREAT? Ruff.”
He got plenty of dehydrated meat treats that evening. Once a dog, always a dog. But now he was also a public health warrior for immunocompromised and younger puppies everywhere.