From the editor: In January we invited readers to submit their own versions of "Where Did I Go Wrong" in the second Mike Obenski Writing Contest. More than 200 entries poured in and among them Mike Obenski found four worthy of appearing with "the master." This month, Dr. Mark Peter's entry, "The Terminator," garners second prize. Next month the third prize winner will appear; in September, the honorable mention.
Ham-fisted motorcycle thug has soft spot and big wad of cash for Doc
From the editor: In January we invited readers to submit their ownversions of "Where Did I Go Wrong" in the second Mike ObenskiWriting Contest. More than 200 entries poured in and among them Mike Obenskifound four worthy of appearing with "the master." This month,Dr. Mark Peter's entry, "The Terminator," garners second prize.Next month the third prize winner will appear; in September, the honorablemention.
By Mark E. Peters, DVM, PC
It was in the summer of 1984, about a year after I'd opened my solo smallanimal practice, that it began.
On a fine June afternoon, my front door was wrenched violently open andin strode a fellow with a very bloody Pit Bull Terrier in his arms.
When I say "fellow," I want you to picture the bad guy in themovie, "Raising Arizona-a huge, long-haired, bearded, black-leather-clad,fingerless-glove-wearing, metal studded, um fellow. He was followed closelyby five or six companions of more or less the same description.
"Hey, Doc," he growled. "Ah need yuh ta tek cara mah dawg!"
Unsettling as this situation was, especially having erupted so suddenly,I summoned my best calm and professional demeanor (which I'd been practicinga lot lately) and said, "Fine, sir, bring him into my examination room."
In truth, just then, I didn't feel like I had much choice. Into my examroom he came, bloody dog and all, crowded closely by his minions. My examroom isn't very big, and I soon felt that it had been invaded by a herdof curious, if somewhat menacing, buffalo.
'Gee, Doc, I dunno'
The dog in question, whose name I don't recall, had suffered a largenumber of lacerations, macerations and puncture wounds-the origins of whichwere baffling and mysterious to his presenters upon questioning.
In spite of his injuries, the dog was amazingly stable and unconcerned,though all of you who have worked with the breed know you practically haveto shoot them to kill them.
In any event, I anesthetized the brute, dealt with his punctures andlacerations, placed a few drains, gave him a big shot of antibiotic andin a day or two, sent him home with his scary owner.
Hoping to discourage further visits, I charged what I thought was aninordinate amount. I think it was more than 300 bucks. He paid it happily,drawing a hairy paw from a pocket and peeling the cash off of a thick roll.He was wearing a sort of horrible gap-toothed grin and I construed thisas gratitude. This was reinforced by a number of bone-jarring thumps onthe back, administered upon his departure.
In the beginning
Before I go any further, I think a bit of background is in order.
I was born and raised in Council Bluffs, Iowa, but was new back in townafter a seven-year stint in undergrad and veterinary school at Iowa State.It was widely rumored, I came to find out, that a certain part of town,roughly "down by the river," was home to lawless and immoral behaviorof all kinds-gambling, drug-dealing, dog fighting, girls you wouldn't takehome to meet your mother and who knows what else. Of all such, I was happilyignorant, content mostly with trying to avoid foreclosure on my small enterprise.
Back to our story
Getting back to the hairy cabal described earlier, it seems they tooka shine to me and a pattern developed that continued throughout that summer.The "Terminator" or one of his henchmen would barge in about oncea week with a chewed up, to one degree or another, dog. I even devised myown evaluation system grading them on a kind of triage basis, Mangle 1 throughMangle 5, the last being, obviously, the worst. We got used to it. I'd sayto my vet techs, "OK girls, henchman in Exam 1, Mangle 2, you knowthe drill. Stat!"
To those readers, presumably colleagues, who are intently frowning atthis moment, let me say that I had, from the outset, an ethical problemregarding this matter.
The dogs were obviously injured from fighting, but I was fresh out ofschool, unsure of which authority I should contact, and whether if I didso, it would violate doctor/client/patient confidentiality. I sought outan older practitioner in the community whom I'd always respected. I satin his office and explained the situation, of which he was mostly alreadyaware.
He looked wearily over the top of his glasses and said, "Hells amatter with you son? You'd best just stick to veterinary medicine; keepyou in one piece."
So that's what I did. They brought 'em to the clinic in whatever gradeof Mangle, I patched 'em up and they paid handsomely in cash.
Until the last one.
Late that summer, a #4 Mangle was brought in, not by the Terminator,but by one of his associates who seemed to be in a big hurry. I performedmy usual ministrations, and the same henchman picked up the dog the followingday. Oddly for them, he said he had no money just then and "The Boss"would be in to settle up the next day.
Well, the next day came and nobody showed up. There were rumors of abig police bust "down by the river" with lots of arrests and allthose implicated headed to The Big House for a long state-funded vacation.After that, it got pretty quiet.
Three years later, in the summer of 1987, I went, late on a Saturdayafternoon, to a small butcher shop in the neighborhood to purchase a steakto grill that evening. As I exited, the steak in hand, and started to getinto my car, a very ominous looking car pulled in tightly behind me, blockingme in with no conceivable route of escape. It was a very grubby white Cadillaclowrider, about a '63, and it was absolutely bristling with big, hairy motorcycleguys. There were at least a dozen of them jammed in there, yelling and throwingstuff and chugging beers. In the rear view, I see the driver heave his considerablebulk from the seat, and after a cursory weave to get his bearings, makea beeline for me.
He was just huge, truly the stuff of nightmares, and as he bore downon me, I began to panic. The driver's window was open and for some reason,perhaps violent trembling on my part, it wouldn't roll up. Ham-sized fistsgrabbed the top of the driver's side door and this apparition stuck hiswhole head through the window. We were about an inch apart and his breathsmelled like stale beer, tobacco and something dead.
In a flash, I recognized him! It was the Terminator! His bloodshot eyesgot all narrow and as he poked me in the chest he growled, "Wal, ifit ain't the Doc! I b'leve I got a bone to pick with you, Mister!"
At this point, I just wanted somebody to shoot me and get it over with,but then the Terminator extracted his head, took a step back and so helpme, started to giggle!
"Hee, hee! Skeered ya didn't I, Doc! Truth is, haw, haw, I b'leveah owe yuh some money, and you ain't even had the decency to send me a !!##%$!bill!"
'You OK, Doc'
Immensely pleased with himself, he pulled out the usual roll of cash,whipped off some hundred dollar bills and dropped them in my lap. He cuffedme then, playfully, on the head like a momma bear would her cub. As he lurchedaway, he stopped and turned. Waggling a hairy finger at me, he said, "ByGaw, Doc, you OK!"
Shortly, the lowrider pulled away in a kind of flurry, empty beer cansflying in every direction and all the boys giving me a vigorous thumbs upshouting, "Hell, yes, Doc! You all right!"
I haven't seen 'em since. Truth be known, I kinda miss 'em.
I was born and raised, happily in Council Bluffs, Iowa. I entered IowaState University in the fall of 1975 and graduated from veterinary schoolthere in 1982. I worked for a year in a multi-veterinarian practice in Lincoln,Neb., then opened my own practice in Council Bluffs in the summer of 1983.My wife, Diane, and I live on 57 acres in the Loess Hills, north of CouncilBluffs with three dogs, lots of wildlife and a pet raccoon named Tinkerbelle.Don't ask.