Cocktail hour


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. Shelley Hylton-Herring's entry, "Cocktail Hour," garners honorable mention.

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. Shelley Hylton-Herring's entry, "Cocktail Hour," garners honorablemention.

"My other vet said I shouldn't worry about that tumor, "Mrs. Nightingale said, in reference to the bowling ball-sized growth attached to Wispy's ankle.

The little Poodle dragged the rear limb around like a prisoner attachedto an old ball and chain on work detail, but the other three legs were bouncingand pawing and waving in the air in a desperate attempt to escape the weightof this mass, which was large enough to create its own gravitational field.

Wispy was not even Mrs. Nightingale's dog. She was one of countless rescuepets presented for treatment at our clinic after Mrs. N decided the dogwas unadoptable. She specialized in Poodle collecting. The more hair packedinto the ears and the looser the teeth, apparently the more valuable thespecimen. I could never tell all these pets apart, but certainly Wispy hadat least one identifying feature.

"At what point did your other vet tell you this, Mrs. N?" Iasked. "Was it perhaps sometime in the 1970s?"

Oblivious to sarcasm or chastising of any sort, Mrs. N continued. "Whathas me worried today is the lump on Wispy's ear. I am just beside myselfworrying if she has cancer and I'll just die if I lose her. She is justmy favorite little thing!"

Mrs. N had tears in her eyes, aghast at the possibility of losing oneof the 30 curly coated children that called her basement home, and judgingfrom the odor, called it the bathroom as well.

I picked up the dog in one hand and the tumor in the other and set themboth on the exam table. Wispy sneezed and a tooth fell out.

"It's right here, doctor," she quavered, her hands shakingas she pointed out the tiny wart that had crusted over with blood and mattedthe hair. The tears had now escaped and were waging war on the pancake powdercoating Mrs. N's cheeks.

I didn't tell Mrs. Nightingale, but I used to work for her "othervet," and obviously he never told her to ignore the small planet onthis dog's leg, but more likely the estimate for removal was what sent herout of orbit from that clinic and caused her to land in ours. I had fondmemories of that clinic, and was sure that if she'd brought her recordson this dog, they would have some delicious descriptions of said mass andover the years probably ranged from "pea" to "plum"to its current "cantaloupe" size. My previous boss spent his daysin a gastronomical delight of description. Ear wax was creamy. Stools wereraspberry jam and pudding. Walnuts, gumballs and cherries described lymphnodes, lumps and swellings. The icing on the cake of this vet's day wasthe creation of "The Cocktail."

The cocktail was a special mixture reserved for those cases that couldnot be diagnosed but the pet was doing poorly and the owner needed sometreatment. It had to be carefully mixed in the syringe. Shaken, not stirred.It began with a solid base of penicillin, then a careful infusion of B vitamins.

What came next depended on the symptoms of the pet in question. Dipyroneand dexamethasone were favorites, but a dash of depo or a bit of banaminewas not unheard of. The volume was not important. Big dogs received about6-12 cc's, smaller ones got 3 cc's and an IM injection. Such a Ponce deLeon infusion there had never been! Owners were delighted when their anorexic,depressed pooches began eating and dancing within hours, and many requestedthe injection for themselves.

I was tempted to refer Wispy back to the kitchen for resection of themushmelon on the leg and the caper on her ear, but I was familiar with Mrs.Nightingale's rescue fund account and it would only purchase the blue platespecial.

"Would you like to have all the tumors removed and the remainingteeth wiped off the surface of the gums with a tissue, or do you preferthat I simply cauterize the wart on the ear?" I asked.

Mrs. N stopped her sniffling and looked at me wide-eyed.

"You mean she'll live?" she asked incredulously. "Oh,doctor, if you could just patch her up long enough for me to get this oneadopted, I'm sure her new family will take care of everything else!"

A breed of their own

Mrs. N was not the only rescue personality we dealt with. A breed alltheir own, the rescue people were dedicated and single-minded. Determined,strong-willed, passionate and devoted to their time-consuming effort. Somemight not believe at first contact that this species was alien, but overtime, it was obvious that they hailed from an alternate universe. Many ofthem only pretended to understand English.

"Honestly, Kitty, I really don't think this one is going to live,"I broke the news to Miss Kholecter from feline rescue. Furry foundling number52 lay on my exam table looking more like a taxidermist's failure than thebarely live cat that it was.

"Well, when you get her fixed up, she'll look a lot better. Havethe girls give her a bath, would you? I already have a home for her. Theapplication is all approved, thank God they don't have any children andall their doors and windows have been inspected and secured so we won'thave any accidents. I've checked all 10 of their references, including thepastor and previous employers for the past five years, and they should bemailing me the results of their HIV testing this week."

"Kitty, " I said.

The frenetic woman dressed in a crocheted cat sweater with dangling catearrings and a plastic purse full of Pounce teats stopped chattering andlooked at me.

"Kitty, this cat is dead," I tried speaking in her language.

She rolled her eyes.

"Well, if you can't help her, Dr. Herring, I'll take her to my friend'svet. She gets this "cocktail" injection when her cats are sickand it fixes them right up!"

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