Where did I go wrong? Words with clients


Does your veterinary clinic express 'annual' glands and remove 'grow-nads'?

Mr. Malaprop called me last week because his dog had suffered a minor injury.


"I'm glad I caught you at the office, Doctor," he said. "We're very worried about Wienette, our purebred miniature Datsun. She fell off the porch and got an inch-long altercation on the side of her head. I think she needs stitches. When I was a kid, we had a dog who got a wound like this, and when we didn't attend to it he got magnets. Anyway, Wienette is acting a little dizzy and I'm afraid she may have a percussion as well."

Twenty minutes later, pooch and owner were in my office and I was listening to some of the dog's previous history. "The only problem we've ever had with her was a case of ammonia three years ago," Mr. Malaprop said. "We had to use flea froggers to embalm the house, and we forgot to get her out until it was almost too late. That's the only medical attention she's needed except for getting her annual glands expressed once a year."

After I explained that the dog would have to stay for some minor surgery, he had just one question: "Will you be using color-forms for the amnesia or do you vets use other things now?"

His visit reminded me of a conversation told to me years ago by some large animal practitioners. They were amused by a phone call from one of their clients, a certain Mr. Blooper, whose monologue went something like this:

"I'm worried about the calf that one of my black Angry cows just had. She didn't nurse too good and I'm afraid she didn't get enough cholesterol from her mother's milk. Now she's got diarrhea and I'm afraid it could be E. cola. If she loses much more weight, she'll be emancipated. I thought maybe you could give her some commonbiotic. I know that would help a lot because it had pennsylvanium in it. Another thing that bothers me is that I've lost three calves this year, and they were all related. We try to take good care of the herd, and they are all up to date on their R.S.V.P. vaccines. Maybe it's some genetic problem, something wrong in their kodachromes."

I was amused by these conversations, though you may not be. That's your prerogative, but please don't rush to your computer and send me a nasty e-mail complaining how I always seem to be making fun of our clients. It seems that, just about once a month, some idealistic young practioner who had his funny bone surgically removed while in veterinary school writes to complain that I have wounded the sacred bovine. To which I say, "Lighten up."

Can't you see the humor in a client calling to schedule her cat to be neutralized, deneuterized or, most appropriately of all, denutted? I've had a client tell me that he wanted to wait two years before neutering because his cat's growth would be stunted if the grow-nads were removed too soon.

Aside from the butchering of actual words, many clients create entirely new terms. For example, I had to chuckle when a lady told me that her tomcat was ripe and needed his "naughty bits" removed.

And, of course, there are those people who can skillfully combine self-fabricated terms and twisted oldies. For example, a man whose cat I treated last month was concerned about his pet's inability to "do plopsie." Having observed some red spotting near the "reticulum," he asked me if cats can get "asteroids."

If you ask me, the list of misused and made-up words is endless and never ceases to bring humor to my day. As for those of you who have told me not to poke fun at such things, you probably think I'm doing so just to rile you. Nothing could be further from the truth. You're just being Polaroid.

Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.

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