The Clothes Dryer Affair: A Harvey Mystery

Fourth in a series.

Dogs with separation anxiety may panic if they feel confined. With the crate left open and outside access through his dog’s door, Harvey had the choices he needed all along. It’s hard to writhe and worry while trying to survive, so I advised Don to bury food toys in an outdoor digging box before leaving the house. Now this hungry spaniel had to work for a living, damn it. No more hanging around and having a stomach ache. Carefully dosed anti-anxiety medication as well as home treatments with a pulsed electromagnetic field device (Canine Calmer) reduced Harvey’s anxiety, making it much easier for him to succeed. Still, the poor dog struggled with some mysterious unresolved behavior.

Residency training in veterinary behavioral medicine has prepared me to diagnose and treat a myriad of dysfunctions between the ears of non-human species, but rushing wildly for a dryer? It was new.

Diane and Don lived in a semi-rural outpost north of Santa Fe. The local wildlife? “Oh, yes,” exclaimed Diane. “We see deer, bobcats and coyotes and…” She didn’t mention the rodents, but there was no need to ask. Clothes dryers vent to the exterior of a home. It was late fall. A warm place to nest for the winter – well, who among us doesn’t want that?

Please don’t get me wrong. I like all creatures big and small. But deer mice in northern New Mexico are known to carry hantavirus, a dangerous human pathogen. Realizing Diane’s propensity for Olympic-level hand-wringing, I kindly suggested that the inside of her dryer might be worth a look. She could call an exterminator.

Diane, Don and a securely leashed Harvey watched eagerly as the brave rodent first responder gently removed the back panel of their dryer. There were nesting mice huddled inside, three of them. These little vermin were right to hide. Waiting patiently, also inside the dryer, lurked a voracious 5-foot-long bull snake. Harvey, of course, was thrilled. He knew from the start.

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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He offers in-person and group consultations via Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week, he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Register for free at Post questions about pets at or by mail at 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109

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