RECORD PETS: By fur the best way to kill fleas.
NO ONE wears fur these days. At least no one who lives in today's world where fur-wearing is viewed as a sin second only to not recycling your waste.
Unfortunately Mrs Smythe doesn't live in the 21st century, so she still thinks it's okay to flaunt her fur with pride.
Granted, the poor animal to whom the luxurious coat once belonged has no doubt been dead for decades and consigning the garment to the bin won't allow it to rest any easier but, nevertheless, on most people this coat would cause considerable offence.
Somehow, the fact Mrs Smythe is totally unaware that it is not politically correct makes the situation much more bearable.
Mrs Smythe is odd in other respects too. Having hardly embraced the 20th century, never mind the 21st, this octogenarian dwells in a time-warped house with open-plan cobwebs in the kitchen and inch-thick carpets throughout.
The antiquated clanking, clunking plumbing system belts heat out uncontrollably, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The windows in her house are painted shut with layers upon layers of white gloss and her dogs - nobody is quite sure how many - have the run of the house, bedrooms included.
Electricity, being modern, is used frugally and with caution; a reading light is permitted but vacuuming is considered a wasteful exercise.
All this makes Mrs Smythe's abode the ideal breeding ground for fleas.
These little blighters, of which the most common - even in dogs - is the cat flea, ctenocephalides felis, have an unusual lifestyle.
The adult flea must eat a blood meal from a pet before it is able to produce its eggs. Once this has been done, a female flea will then lay between 11 and 46 eggs per day for up to 100 days. That's an astonishing figure of more than 2000 eggs per flea.
Some of these eggs will stay onthe pet's coat but more than 70 per cent of them will have fallen off within eight hours. They will then develop into larvae, with both these life stages surviving best at Mrs Smythe's average room temperature of around 24C.
The larvae just love burying into deep carpets, where they survive by feeding on flea faeces dropped from the coat of a passing pet.
Finally, the larvae become pupae, which develop rapidly into adults when they sense a potential host is walking around.
Thus it was that, despite Mrs Smythe's protests to the contrary, it was pretty obvious what was wrong with the dear lady's poor, scratching dogs. Even she, with her failing eye sight and her trembling hands, could see the tell-tale black particles in her dogs' coats that the fleas leave behind.
It was simple to prescribe a safe, spot-on parasiticide that not only kills adult fleas but also prevents the larvae developing in carpets.
But how was I going to tell her she needed to treat that fur coat too