Population: My veterinary clients.
I was on vacation last year when I ran into Dr. Skeptic. He recognized my name and had an important question for me. "How do you think up all those crazy things you write about?" he asked.
I was shocked. He thought I invented my subject matter? Crazy things happen to me all the time. I expect it. Why? Because I'm a veterinarian, and veterinarians tread water in a sea of buffoonery.
ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN OSTRANDER
I said as much to Dr. Skeptic, but he didn't agree. He said such things were not commonplace where he practiced. Really? Where was this guy from? The only state I know of where veterinary practice is uneventful is the state of unconsciousness.
Dr. Skeptic, however, seemed very much awake. I was perplexed by his description of an orderly world, but all I could do was assure him that my column was like the Dragnet television series—the incidents were true, but the names had been changed to protect the innocent.
Case in point: Mrs. Parsley and her cat, Goldy.
"Doctor, my poor kitty has been ailing for a month," Mrs. Parsley told me not long ago. I've been doctoring him at home, but it isn't working. He gets sick a lot, and I can't afford to run over here like this all the time."
A glance at the record indicated that I had indeed seen the cat several times. Three visits since 2004, to be exact. Her history proceeded.
"Last month he threw up once. I dipped his feet in yogurt right away. I heard that would stop any poison if it got into him somehow. It must have worked, because he stopped vomiting the next day. But ever since then, he hardly eats. I make his food at home. It's a combination of alfalfa sprouts, tofu and vitamin C."
While marveling that the cat had managed to live this long, I asked about his vaccinations.
"Oh, I don't believe in shots," she said. "I once had a cat who had a distemperment shot and got real sick a few months later."
I explained that Goldy appeared to be jaundiced and would have to stay for a few tests.
"Well, I guess that will be all right," she said. "I'll have my son call you. He's a doctor."
I perceived a light at the end of the tunnel. This woman had an intelligent family member I could talk to! A few hours later he called me.
"Hello, Dr. Obenski? This is Dr. Parsley. My mom explained that you're going to do some tests on her cat. Will you make the diagnosis by looking at the blood or will you run tests that use chemicals? I don't trust those so-called scientific tests."
The light at the end of the tunnel was growing dim.
"In humans we use 'organ builders' in this type of situation. There are certain 'vita-herba-cures' that can be given to strengthen all the internal organs."
It was a cave-in.
All of a sudden I realized who I was talking to. According to his newspaper ads, "The Great Dr. Parsley" could cure anything with "spirit healing, elixir of health, positive thoughts and magnet consciousness." He was in my office the next day with a bottle of "organ builders" for the cat. The fun began when I asked him about the dosage.
"I figured we'd use a surrogate," he said. "I mean, why not? We use them with humans all the time."
He introduced a strange-looking lady who put her hand on the cat's head. Dr. Parsley held the lady's hand and explained that her "special gifts" would analyze the cat and transfer the information to him through her pulse. A moment later he had his answer. Taking an empty dropper bottle from his pocket, he proceeded to fill it with tap water. Then, after adding a few drops of some gooey liquid, he announced that the cat needed "exactly three drops a couple of times a day."
Fortunately, the cat went home a few days later. I had treated it for infectious anemia along with the administration of the miracle drops. You can guess which treatment got credit for the cure.
The story you just read is true. The names, however, have been changed to protect the ignorant.
Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic forCats in Allentown, Pa.