The Standard Anemic Dog
by R. P. LISTER
R. P. LISTER is an English free lance whose light articles and verse are widely known on both sides of the Atlantic.
WHO would have thought (asked Lady Macbeth) the old man to have had so much blood in him?
She would not have asked the same of me, or of Whipple’s Standard Anemic Dog. For my own part, I have a certain amount of blood in me, as I can tell when I ram my hand into a thorn or slice a part of it away with a sharp instrument; but the amount is not great, and such blood as I have is not very red blood. It is short of red corpuscles, and it is even short of white, which is a condition only found in cases of acute starvation, pernicious anemia, and a certain rare tropical disease. I have none of these malaises; I eat like a horse, and have never set foot in the tropics. In former days I alternated between being as tough as an old, bloodless boot and as limp as wash leather. I spent a great deal of guineas up and down Harley Street, where interested specialists tapped me and counted my corpuscles. They established that these were few and pale; and at last, when my guineas were about exhausted, one of them went so far as to suggest n means by which this fewness and paleness could be combated. He had no idea why it was necessary, but it worked all right.
Nowadays, when i am toiling out in the field, banging and thwacking away with a huge spade in the cabbage rows, and flinging great ponderous clods of loam over my left shoulder with gay abandon, I often pause in fact, I pause as often as I toil — and, turning my ruddy, weatherbeaten face to the sky, speculate dreamily on what Lady Macbeth would have thought if her husband had been so misguided as to plunge his weapon into my apparently flourishing carcass instead of into that of the sleeping Duncan. She would have been bitterly disappointed in the result; the bedelothes would hardly need laundering. There would be nothing worth speaking of to smear the recumbent grooms with, and the subsequent band-washing would be quite pointless. She might just as well have plunged her dagger into Whipple’s Standard Anemic Dog.
I should, perhaps, elucidate this matter of Whipple’s ingenious dog.
It is a dog weighing exactly 10 kilograms; and it has exactly 60 grams of hemoglobin in it. An ordinary dog has 200 grams of hemoglobin in it, as any fool with a hemoglobinometer can
Whipple’s is a sad dog; but it; is pleasant to think that its condition is only a temporary one. After its time as a Standard Anemic Dog is over, it is allowed to revert to the condition of a normal, 200-grams-ofhemoglobin dog. I, on the other hand, do not so revert. If I reverted at all, it would he by neglecting the directions of the baflled but helpful gentleman in Harley Street; and I should then revert to the condition of a substandard anemic author, which is one I have tried from time to time and do not relish.
It is axiomatic in the journalistic world that “Dog Bites Man" is not news, but that “Man Bites Dog is.
I am not sure to what extent these principles should be modified where Whipple’s Standard Anemic Dog is concerned. It is certain, for instance, that “Man Bites Standard Anemic Dog" would be news; but whether “Standard Anemic Dog Bites Man" is, or is not, news would depend, I suppose, on the circumstances of the experiment and the availability of more interesting items for the press at that season when the event occurred.
I, personally, have never tried biting a Standard Anemic Dog; and, up to the time of writing, I have managed to avoid allowing a Standard Anemic Dog to bite me. I have, however, observed one very interesting hematological phenomenon, which I hereby record for the glory of Science. If any student wishes to base his research upon it, only the usual acknowledgment of the source of his inspiration is necessary.
It is a distressful matter to record, but I was once, for a short period, largely bitten by fleas. It was in London. towards the end of the war, when the flying bombs were at their worst; and as my bedroom was on the top floor, and the noise the crealures made kept me awake, I look to sleeping on the floor in a neighboring basement, along with a dozen or so other denizens of the neighborhood. The porter lived there, and so did the porter’s eat; and the porter’s cat had fleas.
The fleas bit me —“Fleas Bite Substandard Anemic Author is a suitable headline — and, having bitlen me, promptly became substandard anemic fleas. I used to ascend from that basement to my eyrie between six and seven in the morning and promptly have a bath. For all that, on several different occasions, during the day, a substandard anemic flea which had somehow concealed itself about my person and avoided being drowned would hop out of some crevice in my clothing and lie, gasping, at my feet, where it would no doubt shortly have expired if I had not taken the precaution of slaying it first.
The occasion I remember most clearly was one day at my office at the Ministry. The bombs had been bad, sleep had been short, the day was a trying one, and the war seemed to have been going on a very long time. As I sat in an extreme of deject ion and soul-weariness, regarding my desk and trying to summon up enough strength to phone someone in Wolverhampton, a substandard anemic flea leaped from me and sat, swaying and panting, on my blotting pad. My clerk and my several colleagues were not watching, and I surreptitiously slew the flea; but I often wondered how I should have fell if I had been at that moment discoursing on grave technical matters (as was sometimes my habit) with some lordly Air ViceMarshal, all bound about with blue braid.
The episode was the nadir of my own personal war. From then on things got steadily better till V-E Day, which I spent in Wiesbaden getting sozzled on raw white wine.
it is clear, from this scientific evidence, that the biting of substandard anemic authors (or metallurgists, as I then was) is virtually fatal to fleas, it may well follow that the biting of Whipple’s Standard Anemic Dog would be fatal to man. I leave it to some ambitious medical student, imbued with scientific ideals and bursting for self-sacrifice, to make the experiment.