Animal Psychosis

Damon Runyon

When I am in Southern California I throw all my sick-dog business to Dr. Eugene C. Jones, a smallish gentleman of highly professional mien, because he has a pet hospital of such appointment and sterilized atmosphere that I am hoping to later sneak in a few of my ailing friends, hospital accommodations in S. C. being mighty scarce these days.

I used to be real handy at doctoring up hunting dogs and pit bulls and just plain dogs, but when these house critters like Nubbin, the little red cocker spaniel, fall ill I send them to an expert because what could I get if I tried to help one and missed?

I could get plenty of hell, that is what I could get. Period.

So I told the lady to take Nubbin to Dr. Jones and she came back real excited because it seems that besides giving the doc a run down on Nubbin’s dopey demeanor and refusal to eat filet mignon and paté de foie gras she threw in a narration of the little dog’s habit of taking one of the lady’s bedroom slippers, called “mules,” or any article belonging to the lady that it can get hold of and lie in a secluded spot with its head on the article all day long.

“And what do you think?” the lady said. “Dr. Jones says Nubbin has a psychosis. He says the veterinarians are making quite a study of that now. We have got to give her B-1 vitamins. That will equalize her emotions and bring about a more normal state. Aren’t you surprised?”

“At what?” I inquired. “The vitamins?”

“At Nubbin’s psychosis,” replied the lady.

I said uh-huh because I did not want to let her down on her news, but as a matter of fact I was not greatly surprised. According to the dictionary, psychosis is any psychic process or condition, whether in man or the lower animals, and I have long been a close observer of such condition in both. I mean man and the lower animals, with special reference to race horses.

I never bothered much about studying dogs, though the fat one called Sissy has struck me as being a bit on the simple side because she does nothing but eat and sleep. She will eat as long as there is a morsel to eat in sight. She will eat when it is obviously an effort to her and no pleasure. She reminds me of a roly-poly dame who knows she should refrain from eating but just can not help it.

Now psychosis in many race horses manifests itself in their friendship for goats or chickens or other critters, without which the horse is very restless. They correspond, I suppose, to Nubbin’s “mules.” The great Whirlaway had to be escorted to the post by his own lead pony, which was obviously a form of equine psychosis, because it was difficult to get him there without the pony.

Some of these horses will refuse to eat and lose weight when their favorite companions are kept from them. The late “Hummin’ Bob” Smith once told me about a horse he trained by the name of Articulate that loved a mouse that hung around its stall and when this little mouse was carefully effaced by a stable hand one day the horse was greatly put out and wouldn’t run a lick until they got another mouse, this time a white one. Bob said Articulate was color blind. I guess maybe he was spoofing me.

I think Articulate was one of the best named horses that ever raced on American turf. He was out of an imported mare called Utter. Old Bob liked neat names. I am sure he had something to do with the superlative title that Mrs. Dodge Sloan, for whom Bob was training, applied to a foal by American Flag out of Golden Melody.

The title was National Anthem.

I had a horse once named So Sorry that I bought for $400 out of a yearling sale at Saratoga. It was by Big Blaze out of that good mare Taps and I gave her to a farmer in New Hampshire because this horse developed a psychosis at a very early age.

This horse’s psychosis took the form of an aversion to getting in front of other horses. I suppose if we had had time to analyze the emotional history of the horse we might have found why and corrected the matter, though remembering So Sorry’s lack of speed I do not see how.