Jim Clegg drove up as Rory walked to the office from the mailbox,
“Hi, Doc thanks for seeing me on such short notice. I’ve been worried about Frankie. It’s freaking me out.” The dog tied on the back of flatbed-looked like a Lab/Pit bull mix. “There’s a hole in his neck, and there's a thing in there that moves I can see it wiggle.”
“Oh it’s probably a grub, and that’s an air hole so that it can breathe. Let’s get him out so I can check this.”
Rory smiled at the geriatric happy dog. He was mangy and skinny; more gray than brown his right ear crinkled like a wrestler’s cauliflower ear. Frankie wasn’t a wrestler. He was a big dumb dog who had a zillion foxtails in his ears. The long-term problem caused him to shake his head so violently the inside and outer skin layers separated from the cartilage causing a hematoma. Rory had drained it before, but it never healed smoothly and was likely packed with foxtails again. But he wagged his tail happy to see a new person.
His wagging increased when Katie walked up. “Oh, he looks like a dog off the reservation.” She laughed at the shaggy, unkempt thing.
“He ain’t ever been right. It’s those spirits in the mines them evil spirits. They’re torturing him and gonna cause him an early death.”
“What evil spirits?” Katie asked.
“Jade, my last dog, died of poisoning by drinking water from the green trickle coming down the hill from the mine shaft. And every time I go there I feel like someone is watchin’ us the whole time.”
“Why do you continue to go?”
“Gold fever ma'am. Can't stay away for long. But those same things that watch us cause things to happen.”
“Outside usually never inside. Usually, sickness or a bad fall or someone dies. You know weird shit like this just happens like these giant worms living under the skin. It creeps me out. They might be finding a way inside me too.”
“That would be unusual Jim,” Rory reassured. “These aren’t uncommon, especially in cattle. They’re called warbles. They're maggots from large flies called Cuterebra. The eggs hatch into larvae small worms and dig under the skin of rodents squirrels and rabbits mostly but sometimes dogs and cats.”
“But I’m worried what if they eat into my skin Doc?”
“No that won't happen. The larvae they look like small worms hatch from eggs when exposed to the heat of a nearby animal. The adult fly is seldom seen, but she deposits eggs near the nests of rabbits or rodents. After hatching the larvae migrate through the nose mouth or skin wound of the rabbit or rodent and burrow under the skin. Then they start growing into the bigger stages just under the skin. They need to be close to the surface to make air holes to breathe through. They grow up to one inch long and a half-inch in diameter, but you need to have a scratch or wound already in your skin big enough for the first stage worms to get in. So don’t worry and don’t swallow any.”
“How exactly did Frankie pick this up just so’s I can sleep easier?”
“Dogs and cats can come in contact with Cuterebra eggs or larva by poking into a rodent or rabbit den. After migrating to the skin, the worm makes a breathing hole where pus drains from the surface to the outside. So don’t let Frankie hang around rabbit dens. Here see if you feel any other bumps while I shave around this one.“
I bet you can't eat just one! In some places grubs are used for people food.
“Naw I’m good watching you. Aren’t you going to wear gloves?”
“No, I just need to open the air hole with this curved blade. Now I'll push the tip into the air hole and pull back opening up the cavity. Next, I ask my lovely assistant Katie for forceps thank you dear, and we go hunting and picking. This is the fun part the un-stuffing part.”
No one said a thing as they watched Rory slowly pull a white grub carefully through the enlarged air hole. The hole still tight made a slight pop every time he pulled another cuticled rolled body part into the sunshine. Pulling with his forceps, he retrieved the entire grub doubling the length with his tugging to over an inch finishing up with a final pop.
“Now I wish I had a koi fish big enough to eat this fellow.” Rory was impressed with the maggot. “It’s big enough to put on a hook used for fishing. Oh look; those two black things must be the eyes above the mouth see? Do you want him?”
“No,” Jim said uneasily.
“I’ll just step on him then.” The fat grub popped under his boot. “I want to get Frankie on antibiotics, and we need to check for more bumps. Katie, can you see if Frankie has any others?”
“Only if I get to wear gloves.” She pulled a pair from her back pocket. “I tend to get the creeps like Jim.”
Rory went to his truck to pull up a pen/gent antibiotic shot. “I’m going with amoxicillin for pills. Let’s give him 500 mg twice a day. Katie, what do you think? Can you feel any more grubs?”
“No, I don’t feel anything else, Jim. I think you can sleep better.”
“So that’s it?”
“Yeah just give him a pill morning and night. And try to wash the wound once a day. I don’t want a scab to form until the inside fills in with healthy tissue.”
Audiobook coming soon
Cuterebra Warbles: Yéiitsoh Omen, Chapter 34