Good veterinarians talk to animals. Great veterinarians hear them talk back.
Let's face it. You have to be at least a little bit crazy to be a veterinarian. From there, it's just a short jump to being like me—a whole lot crazy. One of my symptoms is that I regularly talk to animals. Wait! That's not quite true. I don't just talk to animals, I actually converse with them. You may understand. You may not. Mrs. Earful certainly didn't.
She overheard me giving an impromptu lecture to the cats in C-ward last week and went ballistic. It's hard to describe the look on her face. It was the type of expression you might exhibit if you saw a giraffe roller skate across your back yard.
ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN OSTRANDER
"Doctor, I can't believe what I just heard. Are you talking to those animals?" she asked.
I formulated a clever answer: "Yep!"
Somewhat horrified, she ran to the waiting room to share her discovery. Apparently, as a self-appointed whistle blower, Mrs. Earful was anxious to let the cat (conversation) out of the bag.
"I just caught Dr. Obenski talking to the animals. Is he unbalanced or what?"
Unfortunately for her, no one cared. Mr. Babble was too busy telling his pooch that the surgery would be no big deal, Guy Macho was whispering baby talk into his cat's ear and my staff already knew I was crazy.
I talk with the animals—so what? Who doesn't?
Take this morning for example. As part of my daily routine I grabbed a can of "Yum-Yum Kitty Stew" and headed for the barn. Brindle went with me. Brindle is a purebred farm dog of questionable parentage—though I'm reasonably certain that most of her DNA is of canine origin. We arrived to find Dixie and Yoo-Hoo dancing around the cat food dish. Jake was busy pounding his left hoof on the stall floor and complaining.
"Hey! How come you're feeding the cats?" he asked.
"Because I like kitties too," I told him.
They all burst out laughing. "Ha ha, Michael likes Kitty Stew." I tried to point out that I said "kitties too," not Kitty Stew, but they were too busy laughing at me to listen. (Jake never really understands barn humor, but he always chortles along with the group because he doesn't like to feel left out.) As the hilarity faded, Patrick chose to urinate on the floor of his stall. Brindle was absolutely appalled.
"That's so rude. What's wrong with you Pat? Were you born in a barn?"
Now they all became hysterical because, except for me, everyone present was in fact born in a barn. A few minutes later Heidi and Gretchen, the neighbor's dachshunds, stopped by to ask what all the laughing was about. Jake tried to explain it, but he didn't really understand it himself. As the doxies left, Brindle decided to resurrect another oldie but goodie.
"Hey, wiener dogs," she called out. "Don't be long!"
Of course, Jake didn't get that one either. So Yoo-Hoo asked him, "Jake, why the long face?"
Now, everyone except Jake was laughing again. I tried to explain that all horses have long faces, but Jake didn't understand even though I tell him this almost every day.
So that's a typical morning conversation in my barn. You may understand. You may not. As for Mrs. Earful, she demanded a copy of her pet's record and went elsewhere. Anyone else who has trouble understanding my behavior is invited to stop by anytime. I'll have Jake explain it to you.
Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.