Roxanne Von Drake was really nervous about her upcoming psychiatric appointment. She had thought about canceling it at least twice, already. It was embarrassing enough that she had almost had a nervous breakdown in front of all her friends when one of them asked her to go with them to the beach. Now she was expected to spill her guts out to a total stranger! Even so, she had heard nothing but good reports and testimonials from her psychiatrist’s former patients. Roxie made up her mind to give it a try.
Roxie signed in with Dr. Stone’s secretary and sat down in the waiting room. The room was adorned with a big potted palm in the corner and a few beautiful landscape paintings. There was also an aquarium near the secretary’s desk with a variety of exotic fish, plastic seaweed, colorful gravel and even a bubble-blowing treasure chest. Roxie smiled; it reminded her of her old gold fish tank from when she was a child.
In front of her was a coffee table with a few old magazines of Teen Fur and Foxy Lady. As she shuffled through the stack, one caught her eye. It was a month old edition of Psychologists Monthly. A picture of Dr. Stone was plastered across the front cover. She was smiling and holding up a feather. The caption read “Why Laughter Heals.”
Roxie curiously turned the pages until she found her doctor’s article. She gasped! There, beside the text, she found a big, full-color picture of her doctor… in a clown suit! Floppy shoes, rainbow tie, even a big red nose!
“Oh boy!” Roxie thought “Can I ever pick ‘em! This Doctor looks like a complete quack!”
She shook her head and tuned back to the page. The title read “Why Laughter Really is the Best Medicine: By Dr. Christina Stone” but before she could read anymore, she heard something weird. It sounded like giggles and laughter. Poor Roxie thought she was going crazy!
“Great! Now I’m hearing voices. Well, laughter anyway. No… Wait…”
The laughter was coming from Dr. Stone’s office! It stopped for a moment, and then started again, a little more hardy this time.
“Gees! Maybe she really is a crackpot!” Roxie whispered to herself. She rolled up the magazine and bopped her head a few times. “Stupid, Stupid, Stupid!”
As she listened, the laughter grew louder and louder. It sounded more like it was coming from a man than a woman. Then suddenly, it stopped. Roxie held her breath as she pressed the magazine to her chest, not knowing what to expect. She let out a shriek as the door burst open and out hopped a kangaroo in his mid-twenties. He was carrying his shoes in one hand and his socks in the other.
“Hehaha… Oh dear! Ha! I’m sorry!” he grinned. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Roxie was so embarrassed; she couldn’t help but blush around the ears. She was totally undone and her hands were shaking terribly. The kangaroo, still smiling, put his hands to Roxie’s cheeks, patting them lightly.
“Aww! Cheer up!” said the kangaroo. He snickered as she smiled uncomfortably and began to laugh all over again! He was holding his sides as he left the office, and none too soon in her opinion.
“That’s it, I’m out of here!” Roxie cried, but just as she was about to stand, the secretary’s buzzer sounded. The poor dog nearly leapt out of her patent pumps!
“Ms. Von Drake. Dr. Stone will see you now… Wow, that was some jump!”
“Oh! Oh dear! Um…thank you.” Roxie said nervously, climbing down from the chair’s backrest. Beneath the fur, her cheeks were twin beets! She covered her face with the magazine and rushed into the doctor’s office, slamming the door behind her. The secretary couldn’t help but giggle; this was going to be good!
Roxie took shallow breaths as she stood at the Doctor’s doorway just inside the room. Dr. Stone’s office was very lovely. Victorian Era accents, gorgeous drapes, hardwood desk and leather couch. The walls were lined with shelves where a few statues and busts sat here and there amongst a cornucopia of books. It was just what you would expect to see in a Physiatrist’s office.
Dr. Stone was watering one of the room’s many potted plants. She looked up at her patient and gave her the once over. Roxie was a middle-aged dog with black fur and white hair. She was dressed in a gray skirt suit and heels. As well appointed as she was, her face betrayed a look of dismay.
“Ah! Ms. Von Drake! Come in come in!” Dr. Stone called from across the room. “I’m so happy to meet you! Please, have a seat.”
Roxie gulped and made her way over to the doctor’s couch. She sat tensely perched on the edge of the seat, keeping some distance between them. She couldn’t help but fidget with her coat buttons, not sure if she felt better with it drawn shut or left open.
“So…how does this room make you feel?” Dr. Stone asked in a manly deep voice; a falsely stern look on her face.
Roxie looked around. Her eyes stopped near the foot of Dr. Stone’s desk. A box of clown props and costume accessories peeked out from behind the chair. Her breathing grew even more frantic…
“Oh, Ms. Von Drake” Dr. Stone cooed reassuringly. She gently patted Roxie’s shoulder and noted as her patient came back to a normal breathing rate. “There’s nothing to be afraid of here. Just relax.”
“Thank you,” Roxie smiled. “I’m okay now…”
Dr. Stone took out a pen and notepad, put on her glasses and seated herself in the chair beside the couch. “I’m sorry; I just like to start my sessions off with a little joke to ease the tension. Hmmm… By the looks of it, you’ve got a lot of tension! Tell me, how can I, as your doctor and new friend, help you?”
Roxie didn’t know where to begin. She stretched her legs out on the couch and made herself more comfortable.
“Well… This whole thing got out of hand about a week ago… One of my friends wanted to invite me to the beach…”
Dr. Stone coughed politely cutting her off.
“Oh, I’m sorry to interrupt, but I almost forgot. Before we go any further, let’s get rid of these heels, shall we?”
Roxie’s ears shot straight up! This was turning into a very long day and getting her aching paws out of those stuffy shoes would feel like Heaven just now, but she was still too nervous. Roxie swiftly pulled her feet out of reach and smiled sheepishly at the doctor’s confused expression.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that I only recently had the couch reupholstered.” Dr. Stone explained. “It would be a shame for it to get all scratched and scuffed. Besides, you’ll feel a lot more happy and relaxed without them.”
She couldn’t take this; Roxie was about to suffer a nervous breakdown and this so called doctor was worried about her furniture getting scratched! She clenched her teeth and pressed her feet flat against the floor.
“Well, actually…that’s the reason I’m here…”
“Oh? Are your shoes glued to your feet?” Dr. Stone asked with a giggle.
This time, Roxie couldn’t stand it anymore!
“OK! I’ve had it with your crazy antics, Doctor! If you’re not going to help me, I can just leave right now and never come back! Are you EVEN a doctor, Ms. Stone?! Are you sure you don’t work for Ringling Brothers?! I’m not paying good money to have my brain analyzed by a clown! Good day!”
Roxie got off the couch and was about to stomp out the door, but she couldn’t help looking back over her shoulder. This time, though, Dr. Stone’s face was quite serious. She had a gleam in her eye that Roxie couldn’t quite put her finger on, but she could tell her words had cut deep to the core. She walked back and retook her place on the couch.
“… I’m sorry, Dr. Stone. I… I didn’t mean it…”
“That’s alright, Ms. Von Drake. I’m sorry too. Sometimes I forget that all of my patients, one way or another, are different. The rest of my patients laugh at my jokes… That’s how you differ from them, but you are much the same in that you have come here for help, and my job is to help in anyway I can.”
For the first time, Roxie smiled, but just a little. Dr. Stone was being truly sincere and she decided to give her another chance. She settled down against the backrest and, remembering what the doctor had said, lay sideways so that her shoes hung off the edge of the couch.
“So, Ms. Von Drake, you insist on keeping your heels on?”
“Well… it’s just that… I’m just not used to showing off my foot paws.”
“Thus, why you’re here?”
“Mm hm. Please, explain,” said Dr. Stone as she got her pen and pad ready.
“Well, like I said before, a friend of mine invited me to the beach. I gave every excuse in the book why I couldn’t go, but he and the rest of my friends insisted. I… I shout at them… said some things I shouldn’t have. I ran to my car and drove off…
Roxie couldn’t help but sniffle as a few tears trickled down her face.
“I cried… I cried for almost the whole day! I couldn’t believe how far my embarrassment and fear has taken me! I couldn’t believe that I actually lost control and screamed at my best… friends!”
Roxie began crying even harder, her voice barely able to continue.
“I’m t-t-tired! I’m s-sick and tired of b-b-being made fun of! Of everyone staring at me like I’m some kind of accident that e-e-very-o-o-one needs to f-f-feel sorry-y for!”
Roxie lay her face across her arm on the couch back and continued sobbing. Dr. Stone’s heart was breaking as Roxie poured hers out before her. She turned aside just long enough to wipe a tear from her own eye. As hard as it was, she couldn’t let Roxie see her in such a state.
“There there,” Dr. Stone said comfortingly. “Here.”
Roxie’s eyes were all pink and watery as she looked up and took a tissue from the outstretched box. She wiped her tears and blew her nose before turning back to the doctor.
“Oh… sniff… I’m sorry… your couch… I’ve got tears and snot all over it!”
“Oh… uh… that’s perfectly alright… It’ll wipe clean.”
“But you said… About my shoes…”
“I said I didn’t want it scratched and scuffed. Is your nose so sharp as that?”
“Well, than, dose it drip acid?”
“Now, that’s better!” Dr. Stone said with a smile. “You, people like you, are one of the many reasons why I went into this profession and why I believe what I believe. I was tired too. I was tired of seeing everyone around me worn down and depressed, like the world was just too much for them to bear! After some time studying, I discovered the effects of laughter. Laughter, my dear, is a very powerful thing! Humor can pick someone up even when they’ve hit rock bottom. Laughter can heal, emotionally, and even physically! So, I try and make my patients smile and laugh any way I can. I have to be completely honest with you, that’s the reason I wanted to take off your heels.”
Roxie, though having come this far, was still not quite ready for that. Instead, she began pulling off her black leather gloves. She held out her hands, palm up.
Dr. Stone looked down. She was puzzled as there seemed to be nothing wrong with her patient’s hands. One was black with dark pads and the other was white with pink. Both were elegant and dexterous.
“I’m a mixed breed,” Roxie explained. “I’m half Dachshund; half Dalmatian. I’m usually embarrassed by my markings…”
She opened her blazer, revealing the blotch pattern on her neck.
“…That’s why I don’t take off my shoes in public, and why I always wear gloves and sometimes turtle necks or scarves. I’m very self-conscience…”
“Ms. Von Drake, I’m very proud of you! This is a big step forward since we first started talking. Congratulations!”
“Congratulations?” asked Roxie, confused “For what?”
“For having the courage to not only show me your feet, but your hands and chest, too! I’m so proud of you! You overcame your embarrassment and fear to open up to me so that I can help you.”
Roxie blushed a little around the ears and smiled.
“But I haven’t shown you my feet…”
“Oh, but won’t you?”
She knew things couldn’t possibly get any weirder, so Roxie took a deep breath and put her feet back within the doctor’s reach. She waited as Stone removed her high heels and set them neatly aside. Even through the grey tinted silk, the good doctor could see that Roxie’s paws were as mismatched as her hands.
“Now, um, if you don’t mind, let’s begin the second phase of your recovery process.”
“What should I do?”
“Oh, just hold still a moment…”
Roxie, still a little confused, shrugged and leaned farther back in her seat. Dr. Stone waited until she looked comfortable before reaching out and dragging a finger up Roxie’s left paw. Her eyes twinkled as the old dog leapt in her seat!
“Eep! Hehaha..hey! What was that for?”
“Well… I’m sorry, but we got off to a rocky start. I should have explained more at the beginning of our session. You see, I practice the psychological treatment of Tickle Therapy!”
“Tickle… therapy?” Roxie asked nervously. “Really?”
“Oh yes! I’m quite serious when it comes to my practice. Heehee. You see, Tickle Therapy helps my patients laugh more than they usually do. That helps to release chemicals in the body that aid in the healing process. In some of the studies I’ve read, ticklish laughter has helped people overcome stress, emotional pain, and even weight disorders! So… Shall we continue?”
Roxie was still a little concerned about her doctor’s methods, but decided to give it a chance. The fact was that she was extremely ticklish, but perhaps that was for the best.
“OK. Ready when you are.” Roxie said, squinting her eyes and scrunching her toes.
“Oh, Ms. Von Drake, the therapy won’t work unless you’re completely relaxed and at peace. This might be hard for you, but you simply can’t fight the tickling or hold anything back. Just let all your laughter come out!”
“Well… er… Okay.” said Roxie, relaxing herself as much as she could. “Commence tickling!”
“Heha… Alright, Ms. Von Drake” said Dr. Stone, smiling. “Let’s begin!”
She spread her fingers wide and began to gently tickle Roxie’s upturned soles. Roxie couldn’t help but yelp and laugh once more!
“Oh! Hehahahaha… heeehehahahaha!”
“That’s it, Ms. Von Drake. Just relax and let the tickling do it’s work for you.”
Dr. Stone’s fingers expertly explored every inch of Roxie’s feet, from the base of her heels up to her paw-pads. When Dr. Stone tickled the base of Roxie’s toes, just above the foot-pad, Roxie let out a little scream and burst out laughing harder than ever!
“OH! HEEHEE… HAHA… HEHEHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
“Oh! It looks like I’ve found a sensitive spot.”
“Yes! HEHEHAHA!! Please stop! HEHEHAHAHAHA!!”
“I’m sorry, Roxie. But you’re treatment’s not over yet!”
Dr. Stone then began concentrating her tickling to Roxie’s toes, tickling their base, in between them, and even neat the claws. Roxie threw back her head, squealing, laughing! She kicked out her legs, almost catching the doctor in the face!
“Oh my goodness!” exclaimed Dr. Stone as Roxie regained her composure and her breath.
“Oh shoot! I’m so sorry, Doctor! I hope I didn’t hurt you!”
“No, you didn’t, Roxie. I’m OK. Well, at least I know how ticklish you are and where you’re most ticklish. Now, let’s see how you react to different tools…”
Dr. Stone took her pen and held down Roxie’s right leg. She began dragging the pen up and down Roxie’s black paw. Needless to say, this sent Roxie into a fit of giggles!
“Oh! Hohohhehahaha! Ooh! Hehahaha… HEHAHA!”
“Now, that’s it, my dear! How about here?” Dr. Stone asked scribbling the pen up Roxie’s arch.
Roxie squealed and kicked her feet once more. Dr. Stone stepped back and straitened her glasses.
“You’re a kicker; this can be a problem… I’m sorry to have to do this, but you’ve left me no choice in the matter. I’m going to have to sit on your legs...”
“Oh! That’s too silly!” pleaded Roxie. “Please don’t do that! I promise I’ll stay still from now on.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s for your own good!”
Dr. Stone climbed over the foot of the couch and sat on Roxie’s shins. She began to tickle Roxie’s feet once more: one foot with her hand; the other with the pen. Roxie was just about to jump out of her skin! Never had she been tickled this badly before! She threw her head back and pounded her fists on the couch!
“HEHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! OH PLEASE!! STOP!! HEHEHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
“Not yet, Roxie” said Dr. Stone as she concentrated her tickling to Roxie’s toes once more. Roxie just could fight it anymore! She lay back on the couch, just laughing for all she was worth!
“HEHEHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! *gasp* HEEHEEHEEHEEEHEHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
“You’re doing great! Just let it all out, Roxie!”
“HEHAHAHAHAHA… Oh! HEHE! Kay! HEHEHEHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
Dr. Stone stopped, suddenly, allowing Roxie to catch her breath.
“Just a little break. How are you doing, my dear?”
“Just… peachy… Whew!”
“See? You’re got you’re sense of humor back!”
“Yeah… A regular goody-no-shoes! Hehahaha…”
“Ooooh! Good one! Now, let’s have the socks, too!”
Dr. Stone drew the stockings from Roxie’s legs and cast them aside. Pulled a bottle from her bag and poured some of its contents onto Roxie’s feet.
“Ooh! That’s cold!” She yipped as she felt the liquid cover her toes.
“Heh, sorry. I guess I should start warming this stuff up before use!” said Dr. Stone. She began massaging the oil into Roxie’s paws. Roxie found that she absolutely loved to have her feet rubbed. She beamed a great big smile as she laid down on the couch, almost cooing at the relaxing experience.
“Is our session over now, Doc?”
“Nope. Not yet.”
Roxie got a bit nervous.
“Then what are you massaging my feet for? With massaging oil, no less?”
“Oh, this isn’t massaging oil; it’s baby oil! You’ll be surprised just how much more sensitive your feet get after a little bit is rubbed into these tough old paw-pads!”
Roxie’s expression turned from confused to panicky in half a second!
“Oh no! No no no! Please don’t do this!”
“Aww! Don’t be scared, Roxie. Just lie back down and relax”
As Dr. Stone pulled a hair brush from her tool bag, Roxie made one last second plea for mercy.
“Oh my gosh! PLEASE DON’T! I barely lived through the first half! Don’t torture me anymore!”
“I know this is really hard for you. But in the end, you’ll feel a lot better. Just trust me and hang on for a few more minutes”
“Oh! Alright!” said Roxie as she nervously sat back down on the couch, awaiting her imminent torture. “I guess this is it…”
Dr. Stone scratched Roxie’s paw-pads to see if the oil had taken its effect. Roxie screamed and started laughing even louder than before!
“OH! HEHEHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! OH MYBHEHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! “
Dr. Stone stopped, then began to brush Roxie’s soles with the brush!
“OH MY GO…OSH! BWUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I CAN’T THEHEHAHAA I CAN’T TAKE IT!! HEEHEEHEEHEHEHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!”
“Just let the tickling continue to work with you, Roxie”
Dr. Stone dropped the brush, much to Roxie’s relief, but then a familiar noise reached her ears, setting her nerves on edge once more. It was the sound of an electric toothbrush! Roxie felt the bristles slip in between her toes and practically lost her mind!
Poor Roxie went into silent laughter. Her body continued going through the motions, but no sound escaped her lips. Dr. Stone smiled with content. This was the critical point she strove to reach with each of her patients. Roxie’s body was finally releasing every chemical it needed to heal itself from the inside out. She just lay back on the couch, too weakened to fight it anymore.
All at once, her laugh came back.
When Dr. Stone heard Roxie’s breath becoming shallow, she knew she had to stop. Finally, she turned off the toothbrush. The Tickle Therapy session was over and Roxie lay there, drenched in sweat and tears, gasping every bit of air she could.
“I’m real sorry that you had to go through all that,” Dr. Stone said with a smile, “That must have been tough to endure, but how do you feel now that it’s over?”
Roxie paused to think. Aside from being soaking wet, she felt better than she had in years!
“I feel great!”
“Haha! I’m so happy to hear that!”
“Yes! I feel fantastic! I’m not sad anymore! I’m not depressed anymore!”
“That’s just what I wanted to hear, Roxie! I’m so happy for you!”
Dr. Stone got up from the chair and went over to her office water cooler. She handed a paper cup to Roxie and watched as she drank it down in a single gulp. The therapy had really taken a lot out of her.
“Would you mind if I told ya’ something, Doc?” asked Roxie “Just promise you won’t tell…”
“Trust me; I am a doctor, after all. Anything you say here is strictly confidential.”
“Well… To tell you the truth…” Roxie blushed. “I rather liked it!”
Dr. Stone couldn’t help but laugh.
“Hehaha! I knew it! Ms. Von Drake, you really are one of a kind! I’m so glad you came around! Now, whenever you take off your shoes, just remember all the laughs we shared!”
Roxie stood and wrapped her arms around the doctor. She squeezed as hard as she could and Dr. Stone, never one for formality, hugged her right back.
“Thank you, Dr. Stone. I won’t be shy about my paws any more! I don’t care what others say!”
A tear came to Roxie’s eye just as the clock chimed.
“Well, your session is over for today…”
“I’m afraid so, but we can schedule another session whenever you like.”
“Really? That’d be great! I’ll give you a call!”
“Alright then! See you soon, Ms. Von Drake! Remember to smile!”
And with that, Roxie padded out the door, socks and shoes in hand. Dr. Stone sighed and went back to her desk. She took out a framed picture, a photo of herself in high school. She had braces, thick rimmed glasses and a pony tale sticking out from either side her head. She could still hear the haunting call of the awful names they used to call her; the mean things they used to say. They disappeared, replaced by Roxie’s words of kindness and gratitude.
“I won’t be shy… I don’t care what others say!”
“Miss Von Drake…” Dr. Stone whispered to herself. “If only it was that easy…”
She smiled and clutched the picture in her bosom.
“But nothing worth while ever is…”
A single tear drop fell on the photo.
Roxie had made her way down to the boardwalk, a block or two from home. She paused for a moment at the edge of the sand before slipping her paws out of her heels and taking that first step. The sand was warm and soft beneath her paws and she couldn’t help but wiggle her toes in contentment.
“Oh, what a feeling! Hehaha...”
“Yeah,” quipped a tough, scruffy voice. “It’s heavenly…”
She turned and noticed a Labrador sitting on a scrap of newspaper. She instantly recoiled. His clothing looked pretty shabby and he smelt like he hadn’t bathed in weeks!
“Oh, but it is,” she thought, regaining her composure. She looked a little closer and realized that walking barefoot may not be quite so fun when one doesn’t have a choice.
“Hey!” Roxie called out to him.
“Yeah?! Whadya’ want?”
“Cheer up!” Roxie smiled warmly. “You’re one of a kind!”
She patted his cheek and walked away, whistling the tune of “Wonderful Words of Life”
The Lab watched her walk away, and couldn’t help but smile. He rubbed his cheek, not used to the feeling of another’s touch. He got up off the sand, shook himself off, and started walking off in the opposite direction. The first can he came to, he reached into his coat pocket, took out a bottle of prescription pain killers, and tossed them in. He had a feeling he wouldn’t need them any more…