Awkward client moment: What to do when a client toots


There's really not much you can say after a client breaks wind.

I had been working on the horse for several hours, trying to figure out why it was limping. It was one of those really tough lameness cases that requires all the patience you can muster up and then some. Thank goodness the client was a fun-loving, happy person who was interesting to visit with and anxious to lend a helping hand.

It was during a 10-minute waiting period between diagnostic nerve blocks that she decided to tell me a joke. We are about the same age, and the joke was something about kids and getting older. I really don't remember the joke, except I remember that I didn't think it was funny.

But she did. She told the joke and began laughing and laughing. Normally, I like it when people laugh at their own jokes, but she laughed way too hard. In fact, she laughed so hard that she tooted. Yep, tooted. It was just me and her standing there, and she had just tooted a C sharp. What is a person to do? Here is a brief recap of what went through my mind:

> That lady just tooted. I'm now horribly uncomfortable and have no idea what to do. I should just stay calm and not change expressions. Let her make the first move. Maybe she thinks I didn't hear it? No, that was way too loud—all the horses looked over to see who did it. I must resist the urge to step away from her, and I shouldn't breathe in for a minute or so.

> Should I say something and just get it over with? I could make a joke out of it, and she would probably laugh along with me. Let me just check her expression. That should tell me if she is embarrassed or ready to joke about it. Nope, she is not looking too joke-worthy right this second. In fact, I think she is turning red.

> I need to do something to make her feel comfortable. Maybe I should laugh at the stupid joke now. Maybe I should toot, too, and then she would feel better about her toot.

> We need something else to take our attention. Something that will move us on to the next subject, and we can act like nothing ever happened. Come on Bo, think of something to talk about. Any other time I could think of a topic to talk about in a millisecond. Why do I have to freeze up under pressure?

> Oh no, I feel the urge to laugh. I shouldn't. But that was an amazingly high-pitched toot that must have lasted a full second. I could have tuned a guitar off the purity of that note. Bahahahahahahaha. No, no, no, I must think about something that is not funny at all: baseball, cryptorchid pigs, fishing shows, having to sit through The Nutcracker last Christmas. Yes, it's working! I'm losing the urge to laugh.

As luck would have it, one of the other doctors came around the corner and asked me a question. I have never latched on to a question as quickly as I did to that one. In fact, I answered instantly and even said we needed to go to the other barn to check it out. I came back in about 15 minutes and everything was OK. She was composed again, and we went right back to working on her horse. Wow, what a moment.

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Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

For a complete list of articles by Dr. Brock, visit

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