Defining moments in veterinary practice


Find out if telecrastinators and snoopophiliacs roam your clinic.

About once a week, my friend Arnie calls. That usually means that he has come up with another of his brilliant ideas concerning our profession. This week's conversation was no exception.

"Mike, I have an important question to ask you: What do you call that last piece of tape that comes off the roll? You know, the one with no stick to it because there's a thin layer of cardboard stuck to the back? I can't find it in my medical dictionary."

"Beats me, Arnie. I don't think it has a name. Does it?"

"Of course it does! It's a fuzzribbon."

"First of all, if you knew that, why did you call me? And secondly, where did you find that name?"

"I called to let you know that our profession is lacking a very valuable tool. We really need a more complete medical dictionary. I got the name fuzzribbon out of the new dictionary that I'm writing. There are countless common veterinary office occurrences that have had no name until now."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Arnie. Give me some examples."

"Sure! Just yesterday I ran into at least a dozen. I had trouble staying on schedule all day because it was Hucksterday. You know, a day when all the sales reps show up on the same morning. Anyway, there was one client I didn't want to keep waiting in the exam room for too long because she's a known snoopophiliac. Given an extra few minutes, she would rifle through every drawer and cabinet in the place. She had called and begged to be squeezed into the schedule due to a carpetastrophy. It seemed that her pooch's problem may have resulted in some damage to her rugs.

"By the way, this client has a tendency toward combosanctification and insists that the medical record lists her dog as a purebred Peke-a-pug. As we began to discuss the potential morbidity of the home carpeting, an interesting thing happened. She began to poochantiquate. The dog, who was 8 years old last year, suddenly became 12 or 13. Her exaggeration of the age went hand-in-hand with her rationale that he may be too old to sink a lot of money into. It was a clear case of costophobia."

"Wait a minute, Arnie, I get the idea. You know, I have one receptionist who's a telecrastinator. She never seems to get to the phone unless it rings six or eight times. I think she hopes that someone else will get it. Come to think of it, someone else usually does give in and answer the phone."

As the conversation continued, Arnie went on to tell me about several other new terms destined to become part of our professional jargon. For example:

Styrophobia: The fear of unpacking boxes full of little foam packing kernels. It's hard to find all the items that are supposed to be in there, and if your pen or an earring falls in, it could be lost forever.

Medapulver: The medicated dust at the bottom of an empty pill bottle. If you're in a hurry, this is often the only thing you'll find in the container. If there's another bottle available, it's usually buried in a box of little foam kernels (see styrophobia).

Fleanial: An angry retribution directed at a veterinarian who's foolish enough to diagnose a case of fleas on the pet of someone who "keeps a very clean house."

Pharmaphernalia: The plastic kidneys, refrigerator magnets, rubber fleas and other promotional doodads that are provided by drug companies and accumulate on veterinary office tables and clutter other surfaces in the clinic.

Filament deficiency: A condition that occurs at the end of a surgical procedure when the veterinarian tries to tie one last knot with a piece of suture that is obviously way too short.

Arnie and I plan to work on the new dictionary until it's ready for production. We figure, if no publishers are interested, some drug company may want to print it and give it to veterinarians as yet another piece of pharmaphernalia.

Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.

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

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