Aren't we lucky we don't have to deal with people?


I could hardly believe my eyes, but there he was.

I could hardly believe my eyes, but there he was.

Wearing the somewhat traditional Day-Glo orange colors of a hunter, some clown was crawling along the paddock fence not 15 feet from my Appaloosa gelding.

It was a year ago on the first Monday after Thanksgiving, a date that is significant for two reasons. First, it is the opening day of deer season in Pennsylvania.

Second, the leaves are off the trees by late November, so I could clearly see this jerk through the wooded area that stood between us.

I don't allow hunting on my property, and even if I did, you'd have to be an idiot to hunt so close to horses. So, I launched a verbal salvo of the variety that you might expect Sergeant Snorkel to deliver in the direction of Beetle Bailey.

I questioned everything from this guy's intelligence to his ancestry.

Then, the unexpected happened. He turned and bolted straight toward me. He maintained a low posture almost like crawling, but moved faster than I thought a human could go. Not knowing who he was or what his intentions were, I got a little scared. The feeling turned to just plain embarrassment however, when I realized that the "hunter" I had been yelling at was the neighbor's Golden Retriever, Bowie. Like many rural pets, the pooch always wears an orange vest when he goes out during hunting season.

I had read the situation incorrectly, something that I am apt to do on occasion. Some of my clients, however, seem to have sharpened their powers of faulty observation to a level far beyond anything I have achieved.

Take for example, Dee Crepit, who runs a local business named, appropriately enough, Dee Crepit Pets and Supplies. Her powers of observation border on non-existent. She comes to see me about twice a year with a sick kitten that she is trying to sell. It may be 6 months old, weigh 1 pound, have four teeth and border on unconsciousness. Still, she will say: "This kitten was perfectly fine yesterday. It was eating and active, and growing nicely. Today, when I came into the store, it looked like this all of a sudden." Anyone could see, looking at such a patient, that it took weeks or months to arrive at the current pitiful condition. Yet, she claims otherwise. Each time I see her, I marvel that anyone could be so obtuse.

A colleague who practices in northern Michigan once recounted a similar incident. On a bitter day in 1967, he had been called upon to examine a horse that was down. The owners lived in a small rented farm house on the outskirts of town. A dozen or so of them shared, in commune fashion as was not uncommon in the '60s, everything from beds to toothbrushes. As near as our colleague could figure, they pretty much spent their days sitting by the fire, smoking pot and contemplating whatever it was they chose to contemplate.

Twice daily, one of them would bundle up and brave the elements in order to give a shot of penicillin to the horse that lay in his stall covered with blankets.

The examination of the patient was very brief. The veterinarian discovered, as soon as he began to insert a thermometer, that the horse was frozen solid. The news was taken hard by the inhabitants of the house. They all agreed that he had been a wonderful pet for the short time they had him and that he would be missed. However, as they came to stand around the body and eulogize their lost friend, it became apparent that no one had ever actually seen the horse moving during the two weeks they had lived in the house. Apparently, he was already frozen when they moved in.

This incident and the case of Dee Crepit are isolated occurrences involving just one client each. There is, however, one example of faulty observation that seems to be common to a very large percentage of our clients. For that matter, even our acquaintances and relatives often seem prone to sharing in the common mistake. They see our practices. They observe our lifestyle, and still they say, completely erroneously, "You're lucky to be a veterinarian, because you don't have to deal with people.

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