We took Laurel's little papillon, Lula, to the vet this week for some dental work.
Nothing too remarkable about that, for two reasons. First off, high quality dental care in Puerto Vallarta is far less expensive than it is in the U.S. or Canada, roughly one third the cost of work I've priced in New Mexico and then had done here.
For a lot of people, dental care is the main reason for visiting. You can get a bridge or an implant in a spic-and-span, state-of-the-art office and then enjoy a tropical vacation with the savings. We figured the same should be true for dogs, and that turned out to be true.
The second reason Lula's trip to the dentist was all but inevitable is that her teeth were in terrible shape.
Like many small breeds, papillons often lack sufficient jawline for the number of teeth Nature gives them. Some of the teeth end up misaligned. In Lula's case a few were so badly askew they pointed horizontally from the side of her mouth.
She also has an astonishing underbite, and her lower jaw is offset sideways, as if she were smoking a cigar like one of those dogs in the poker paintings. But she's fluffy and cute, and since her puppy days we've always found her deformities endearing.
Alas, she's now nearly eight years old, and by the time she and Laurel arrived here for the holidays it was clear after one look in her mouth and one sniff of her foul breath that it was past time for serious action.
Our buddy at the SPCA referred us to a good vet, and he pulled out the five teeth you can dimly make out in the little plastic bag pictured above. For once the soft focus and low resolution on my iPhone camera serve all of us well.
What startled me is that the teeth were available for photographing in the first place. The doc handed them over to me without comment along with his bill, apparently in the spirit of business as usual.
It reminded me very much of automotive or appliance repairs after which the defective parts that have been replaced are handed back to you. I'm never sure exactly why.
Because they're your trash and not the repairman's?
Because you might want to try fixing them yourself?
Because you might otherwise suspect that the parts weren't really defective or even that they weren't actually replaced?
None of those explanations make much sense for diseased body parts, though Pam did have a moment of doubt when she saw them.
"Hey, those teeth look pretty good," she said. "I thought they'd be black."
But Laurel says the proof is in Lula's post-op breath, which she says now smells like springtime. I'm taking her word for that.