A veterinary client's very different meaning for "nostalgia"


When "say what you mean, and mean what you say" fails miserably in the veterinary exam room

The man drove into the clinic parking lot pulling a trailer with a goat inside. He was an obtuse specimen who appeared to be in his late 50s. I've seen his type many times. They have a know-it-all air that drips with arrogance.

Know-it-all is one of my least-favorite personality traits, and I decided years ago to do my best to subliminally torture them every chance I get.

Obtuse man ambled up to me and put his left hand on my shoulder while he shook my hand with his right one. He explained that this goat, who was soon to be the grand champion at the Houston stock show, had recently took sick. That's what he said: took sick. Like it was something sitting on the counter, and the goat picked it up and left with it. He went on to explain that the goat belonged to his grandson and that he had been elected to bring it to the veterinarian because everyone else was busy.

He muttered through a long diatribe, trying to leave me with the impression the he was almost a veterinarian by the drool of self-inflating "veterinary accomplishments" he had performed on all the animals in Gaines County over the past 35 years.

When I asked about the goat's symptoms, his response was: "He's still eating OK, no diarrhea, running a bit of fever, and is just real nostalgic."

What? I had him repeat it because I wanted to make sure that I had not misunderstood. The second description was even better: "The nostalgia is what has me the most worried. They often get that way just prior to comin' down with somin' awful."

He used the word with such authority that I wondered if maybe it really was a medical word. So I looked it up on my phone while he rambled on about other nostalgic animals he'd seen in the past.

The first definition was "longing for the past." But to my surprise, it actually does have a medical definition: "home sickness." I wondered what medical term he could be confusing nostalgia with. After a few minutes, I was convinced he meant "lethargic."

About this time, Dr. Emily Berryhill walked up and asked me what was wrong with the goat.

"He's nostalgic," I said. To my surprise, she didn't bat an eye. This made me want to laugh out loud. She has been around me when know-it-alls start this ceaseless babbling and has become accustomed to my having fun with them.

"How long has he been nostalgic?" she replied, with a perfect poker face.

"Well, there've been many nostalgic animals in the area this goat is kept in lately, and some of them have progressed to symptoms worse than mere nostalgia," I answered, hoping I could get her to at least look like she was suppressing a laugh.

"Well, are we gonna' treat this one the same as we have the last few with chronic nostalgia, Dr. Brock?" she asked, without a hint of humor.

"I guess we should," I said. "Would you please get the nostalgia medicine for this fellow?"

She turned and walked away, never having shown one smidgen of emotion. I, on the other hand, was about to let loose a spewing laugh.

We treated the goat and sent him home with the proper medicine for a lethargic goat. I guess to this day that fella thinks nostalgia is a proper medical term. I would love to be there if he ever figures it out. We laughed about it for days after it happened. In fact, it has become our common descriptive term in daily life as a substitute for lethargy. If you ever come to Brock Veterinary Clinic and hear one of the doctors or techs describe an animal as nostalgic, you'll know what we mean.

Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

For a complete list of articles by Dr. Brock, visit dvm360.com/brock

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