Thursday, January 25, 2007

The dog is getting very old

Town Musician

Zony, our dog, is getting senile, has been for several years now. I am wondering if we have mercury or another toxic substance around the house. She can't hear; she can't see; she is deaf. When she is lonely she starts to howl. She remembers the wild and wishes she were out there with the wolves. Our dog Pepper, who is dead now, did the same thing. She howled in complete unison with the police and fire-engine sirens. It's as if she had wanted to go back to her roots.

Mercury does things to us, too. It sneaks up on us in such a way that we can't recognize it as a poison. It doesn't work like ordinary poison. There is a delay, and mercury makes you lose your short term memory. So you won't remember that you got poisoned.

I read an interesting story to that effect today. A man, not identified by name, wrote to a Minneapolis newspaper responding to some letters to the editor. He wanted to know more about the subject of these letters, namely mercury. He wrote that when he was in high school in the '70s he did a science project that was titled "The Effect of Mercury on the Nervous System." In order to find out what effect mercury had on rats, he used a closet of a room at school to heat mercury so that it would evaporate. His test animals were rats. As his project progressed he noticed that his rats started to behave strangely. They became very aggressive, even cannibalistic. Several mornings in a row he found that some of the rats had been eaten by the others so that only parts of them were left over. His classmates thought that his project was gross. Things became very disturbing and he broke up the project before he had planned to do so. He took his report to the science fair and everyone was impressed. He said he couldn't remember whether he went on to the regional fair. But what was more disturbing was that at that time he didn't connect the experiment and its effect on the rats to any toxicity that might have affected his classmates. The man is now fifty-two and has multiple sclerosis. He is just now sorry that he exposed so many of his classmates to mercury fumes. I suppose he knows now that symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis are thought to be caused by mercury. But even though he saw the destructive nature of the mercury on the animals, he did not transfer that knowledge to a useful application on himself or his fellow students. He also wondered -- better late than never -- why his teachers even allowed him to do the experiment he did. His question in the letter was: Is there a doctor who can test for mercury? I can tell him that there are many. If he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, he probably won't find one. The subject is not on current doctors' minds.


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