Earning your reputation

September 9, 2020

As the new veterinarian in town, Dr. Brock wanted to cultivate a good reputation. But would he fail before he even got started?

Josh was a fuzzy old gray dog with eyes like Marty Feldman and a raging underbite. I estimated him to be about 25 pounds and 15 years old when I first saw him tucked under his owner’s left arm as she stood in the waiting room. The woman holding Josh had the look of a diner waitress, and her face was torqued into a worried expression that I assumed was related to her dog.

She stood there tapping her toe as she waited for her turn to check in, holding Josh securely in her left arm and a white plastic sack in her right. I had only been in Lamesa a few days and knew almost no one. Every client who came through the door was a brand-new relationship to cultivate, and I looked at each one as a new friend.

When we met in the exam room, I went to work examining Josh, who I learned was actually 16 years old. As the client jabbered on about how worried she was, I checked the dog’s temperature, heart, lungs, eyes, ears, throat, lymph nodes, and skin. Everything was normal, but Josh did appear to be a little arthritic.

I went on to the next phase of the exam, the history, and began quizzing this worried lady about her dog’s clinical signs: Has he been vomiting? No. Has he had any diarrhea? No. Has he stopped eating or drinking? No. Does he cough or wheeze? No. Is he stumbling around or acting crippled? No. I was just about out of questions and had not even a clue as to why she was so worried about ole Josh. But just as I was about to ask a second round of questions, the woman reached into that sac of hers, pulled out a grungy stuffed bear, and handed it to me.

I held it in my hand and examined for a moment the gross-looking little bear with matted hair. It looked like some low-quality stuffed animal from the carnie row at the county fair. I was waiting to hear how this matted toy had anything to do with Josh, but she just stood there and looked at me like I was holding the obvious answer to the entire world’s health problems.

The client did not utter a word, but her raised eyebrow suggested I had no idea what to do as a veterinarian if that stuffed animal did not reveal the problem. I began looking close at it again during the uncomfortably long pause. I looked to see if maybe it had button eyes and one of them was missing (maybe Josh had eaten it). I checked to see if it was chewed or torn (maybe he had eaten some stuffing). Nope on both counts.

Finally, after what felt like 5 minutes, she began to speak.

“That is Sweetie Pie,” she said, referring to the stuffed animal. “Josh humps that bear two to three times a day and has for the last 15 years. I am extremely worried about Josh because he hasn’t humped it one time in the last two weeks. I am completely sure something very bad is wrong with him.”

I quickly released my grip on the bear and handed it back gently to the client. What the heck am I supposed to do about this, I wondered. Dang, Josh is something like a 90-year-old human. I am not 90 yet but, from what I’ve heard, 90-year-old dudes aren’t doing much twice-a-day humping.

I was brand new in town and I wanted people to like me and refer their friends to Dr. Brock. I could tell by her look that she was not going to have any sort of respect for me if I didn’t get ole Josh back to his business. I scanned my brain for any information they gave me back in veterinary school that would help me, but came up empty.

Come on, Bo, I said to myself. Think of something here, buddy. You can fix this. Use your common sense if you can’t find any science. These were the thoughts rushing through my head as I stood there trying to act like this was a common problem.

I had seen commercials on television for men with low testosterone, and all those fellas seemed to be totally happy after a few doses of the hormone. So, I decided to give Josh a little shot of testosterone in the muscle. I didn’t give much—I didn’t want to cause health problem—but just enough to make Sweetie Pie look as beautiful to Josh as it did 15 years ago. I had no idea if it would help, but this lady had not bought into my logic about 90-year-old men when I tried that first.

After about a week, the client called the practice. She was happy as could be as she informed me that I was the best veterinarian Lamesa had ever seen, adding that Josh would sometimes hump Sweetie Pie up to 4 times a day now.