A horse vet goes to the airport ...

Bo Brock, DVM

Bo Brock, DVM, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas. His latest book is Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing From Rural America.

dvm360, dvm360 October 2019, Volume 50, Issue 10

When a veterinarian leaves the confines of the clinic (or the field, as it happens) and exists in the real world, you never know what might unfold. Dr. Brock shares his intimate experience at an airport.

Can the security dogs at the airport tell you're a veterinarian by that horsey smell you're emitting?

When I travel, I usually leave from the airports in Lubbock or Midland, Texas. Both are relatively dinky. The security line takes less than 10 minutes to get through. I almost always have to catch a connection in Dallas or Denver, but seldom have to go through big-city airport security lines.  

But on one particular trip, I was catching a flight early one morning at an airport I'd never been to before. I always try to arrive two hours early. And boy, was I glad I got there early for this episode.

There were four of us flying together: my wife, Kerri, my youngest daughter, Kimmi, and her husband, Aaron. We had gone on a wonderful trip and were now headed back home to reality.   

Check-in was quick and I was beginning to wish I had slept another hour instead of hustling across town to the airport at 4 a.m. The friendly counter staff pointed us toward the security line and told us to leave our checked bags to be inspected.

We all got in line and dutifully waited as it trudged along. Then I noticed something I'd never seen before: a 15-yard-long, widened section of the security line, with a dog sniffing people as they went through two by two. I was still a ways back in line, which gave me some time to ponder what the dog might think of me-or, for that matter, Aaron, who's a pharmacist.    

Aaron and I got to discussing it, and I told him I thought the dog would be more likely to single him out than me. He argued that he wasn't wearing any of his work clothes and didn't think the dog would pay him a bit of attention.

I looked myself over. I was definitely wearing clothes. I was even wearing work shoes. But still, I thought, these dogs were surely taught to key on drugs and not horse smells.   

Our moment arrived. The dog politely sniffed us both, and as far as I could tell, he just moved on. We walked about 10 yards when a tall fella in a blue uniform caught me by the arm and informed me that the dog had alerted security staff about me. I needed to come with him.

I was taken back to an enclosed area, away from the general public. Once there, the tall man called a young lady over. She took my carry-on, watch, cap, jacket, belt, shoes and shirt. This left me standing there in my undershirt, sagging pants and a pair of socks that weren't even the same color. 

The tall fella put on a pair of black latex gloves. (I wasn't liking the way he popped them into place.) I thought, surely getting singled out by a dog doesn't warrant a body cavity search! 

But the way he was looking at me-well, I began to worry. He asked me questions. I said I was a veterinarian and I was sure the dog had honed in on some scent from the clinic. He asked if I could prove I was a veterinarian.  

I'd never really considered that I might have to prove my profession. Who carries their diploma around? It definitely wasn't in my carry-on, which was currently being emptied out by the female officer.  

I told the man I had no proof that I was a veterinarian but I could say some fancy things like “tensor fascia lata” or “navicular disease,” if that would help. He did not find that funny and called the lady over.

She approached and began rubbing my hands and arms down with a cloth, which she then put under a magic machine that must have been able to tell if I was a veterinarian. 

When no buzzers went off, she came back with another little cloth and rubbed my neck and the side of my face with it. Once again, no buzzer went off at the magic machine. This seemed to disappoint them.

I was getting a little anxious because of the time. I told the male officer that our plane would be boarding soon and I was sure the dog had picked me out because he liked the smell of horse poop. Once again, he did not think that was funny.

He said he was going to give me a thorough pat-down. He laced his fingers together and explained that when he got to my private parts, he would use the back of his hands to conduct the search. 

Private parts? Well, I could think of a whole bunch of my parts that I consider private. He went up and down both of my legs using the palms of his hands to search for anything abnormal. He did the same thing with my arm and torso. He then told me to lean against the wall with my hands up and my legs spread. 

I had a feeling the laced-finger technique was about to come into play. Sure enough, now that my legs were good and spread, he went to work.   

Without my belt, I was afraid my pants were gonna fall down and he would continue the exam through my baggy Duluth Trading Company boxers.  

Finally, satisfied that I was not a criminal, the officers handed me back my stuff in a gray airport tray and told me I was free to go. I came back into the general population with one hand holding up my pants and my stuff smashed into a tray. I must have looked pretty dejected, because when my family spotted me, they started laughing and pointing.  

The moral of the story is this: Veterinarians, if you go on a trip through an airport you haven't been to before, get there two hours early, and don't wear your work clothes or shoes unless you want some guy to backhand your business.

Bo Brock, DVM, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas. His latest book is Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing From Rural America.

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