By William Thomas

Earlier this month, a three-year-old Great Dane from Portland, Ore. was found to have eaten 43½ socks.  His owners starting asking questions when the family budget revealed they were spending more money on socks than water, heat and hydro.

Although the dog’s name has not been revealed, we’ll refer to him as Hamlet, the greatest Dane of all. Whereas Shakespeare’s Hamlet dealt largely in soliloquies, the Portland Dane apparently had a toe-to-heel fetish for wool.

One day, Hamlet just started writhing and retching and was immediately rushed to the nearest animal hospital. The vet was certain it was something the dog had eaten, but he had no idea at the time it was the argyles. Argyles disagree with everybody.

X-rays at the DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital revealed the dog’s stomach to be bursting with “a large quantity of foreign matter.”  After two hours of surgery, the vet removed enough socks from Hamlet’s tummy to outfit a Boy Scout troop.  A spokeswoman for the hospital claimed:  “It was the strangest case in the hospital’s history.”  No real upside to this story, but you have to admit – better socks than 43½ shoes.

Hamlet was discharged from the hospital the day after his surgery and about an hour after, he ate his own hospital gown, the kind that ties up in the back and leaves your bum exposed to the elements, and by elements, I mean a dozen people watching from the waiting room who snicker as you leave even though by then you have pants on.  I hope that didn’t sound too personal, but it happened.

Hamlet’s owners are in seclusion and not commenting on the matter, except to say they’re being treated for third-degree blisters on their feet after two years of wearing shoes … without … and wait for it … socks.

The hospital found the sock pile in the dog’s stomach so strange that they entered the incident, with corroborating x-rays, in a national veterinary magazine’s annual contest called “They Ate WHAT?”

Amazingly enough, Hamlet did not win. An exotic frog treated at a vet clinic in Plano, Texas won the $1,500 first prize after he consumed more than 30 small ornamental rocks from the bottom of his tank.  When told he did not win, Hamlet offered to redeem himself by eating the frog, the stones and the “Welcome To Plano, Texas” sign.

Fact of the matter is, veterinarians equate the stomach of a dog to a Mexican piñata.  They never know what kind of crazy stuff they’re going to find in there until they open it up.

Years ago I wrote about the dog in Montreal who swallowed and, after a week’s worth of cod liver oil, passed the owner’s cell phone.  At the time, I was able to confirm that indeed some incoming calls were lost, mainly in the lower colon.

And then there was Nukey, a massive Siberian Husky owned and poorly operated by my friend John Grant. Nukey had a thing for money, the cash kind that John kept rolled up in a wad on the top of his dresser. Nukey had eaten cash before, but never an $800 roll like the one John was adding to daily, saving enough to buy a new windsurfing board.  Gulp!

Once John’s wife, Nancie, talked him out of backing his car over the dog in the driveway, John began his rescue and restoration program. It was quite a sight in John’s backyard that February:  there was a very big dog not taking a poop being followed around by a man with a pair of tweezers and a bucket of warm water.  Most days it seemed like the dog knew the game was on and he intentionally would not cooperate.

On the real cold days, John would have to work faster.  Never mind if everything was freezing up, Nancie had made it very clear that this was an outdoor operation.

But when Nukey made his move, John was onto that pile like a prospector panning for gold in a Colorado creek.  John tweezed every morsel of paper money out of the lumps Nukey left on that back lawn, washed them, dried them and taped them all back together.  As long as you have the serial numbers, he assured me, the bank has to cash them.

When you think about it – Nukey stealing people’s money and giving them back crap – he was kind of the Bernie Madoff of the canine world.

Dog— man’s best friend or his worst embarrassment? John’s nickname is “Tweezer Man.”  Does that answer the question?

For comments, ideas and copies of The Dog Rules – Damn Near Everything! go to www.williamthomas.ca