Celebrating the legacy of a very chilly veterinary team member.
We all will go sometime. All of our patients, friends and acquaintances will someday pass on. Nonetheless, it's hard to say goodbye when the time comes. This month, my hospital lost an old friend, G.E. Thermadore (or Therm, as we liked to call him).
Therm had been employed here for more than 30 years and always performed his many duties faithfully. He will be missed, even though any appliance store can replace him. You see, Therm was our hospital's main refrigerator.
As we bade him a fond farewell and sent him off to keep the meat fresh in the happy hunting ground, I noticed that every part of him bore witness to the history of our clinic. On top, carefully preserved for many years, there was a layer of dust and organic debris. I guessed, from the looks of it, that my cleaning people might have been planning on starting a mushroom farm. Most of the tillable acreage was undisturbed, but toward the front there were several stray items that had, over the years, found their way to this "land of the lost." Apparently, an occasional hurried person, motivated by a sudden need to have both hands free, would place something on top of Therm for just a few moments. Naturally, such items were usually forgotten. This explains the presence of the needle caps, pencils, syringes and even the apple core.
Illustration: Ryan Ostrander
On the front, Therm served as the hospital message center, auxiliary library and main source of inspiration. There were messages, memos, pictures of family pets, cartoons from the newspaper comic section (many yellow with age) and a distinguished list of zany clients you might have seen me refer to in the "Blockhead Hall of Fame."
How did Therm hold all these things? Magnets, of course. Therm had a collection of drug company magnets, which I daresay was unrivaled anywhere in this country. All of the trends in veterinary pharmaceuticals over the past 30 years were chronicled in Therm's magnet collection.
On the inside, Therm had a great deal more to say about us. There was always the reassurance that, if one of our patients had an anaphylactic reaction, Therm would be ready with a bottle of epinephrine that had expired in 2008. He also harbored two bottles of a mystery injectable that had lost their labels sometime before the dawn of written history. Not knowing exactly what they were, no one had the nerve to throw them out. There was also a small mayonnaise jar that contained either a stool sample or mayonnaise. You couldn't tell for sure because the jar had been in there since before the epinephrine was new.
As we moved Therm out of his long-occupied niche, we noticed that his left side was yellow. This was apparently due to the efforts of our hospital mascot, Harvey Wallspritzer. Due to his habit of moisturizing walls, Harvey had lost his home several years ago. In the clinic, though, he is a good boy, except for the occasional dousing of Therm, who never seemed to mind. We cleaned up after Harvey regularly, but I guess we never realized that he was shooting between Therm's left side and the wall.
When the truck came from the appliance store to take him away, we found that Therm's legacy was even more extensive. On the floor where he had stood, there were dust bunnies, miscellaneous pills, a few toenails and two patient records (one of which I spent most of 1999 looking for). We also found three pennies, an Indian Head nickel and a petrified cat testicle.
Life must go on, though, and within an hour, Therm's replacement was wheeled into place. It was like having a stranger in the building. He didn't have Therm's personality. He was cold. I knew it would take the staff awhile to accept this new team member. All, that is, except Harvey, who delivered a formal welcome within two hours.
Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.