Axioms guide, as well as rule, veterinary life

Axioms guide, as well as rule, veterinary life

Words to live by: 'Everything is funny when it happens to someone else'
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Mar 01, 2003


It was a strange phone call, indeed.

At least, that's what my secretary thought.

"Doctor," she said. "There's a man on line one who keeps yelling the number six."

I asked her if that was all he had said, and she replied that his exact words were: "Six! Six! Get Obenski to the phone. Tell him that I have a classic six!"

Sensing that it had to be my friend, Arnie, I picked up the phone to ask him what was going on.

"Mike," he said, "You know how some dogs arrive at your office with pink stuff on their face because the owner tried to give them Pepto Bismol?"

"Sure," I said. "It happens all the time. Sometimes it's axomicillin, though."

"That's right," he said. "In fact, in this case, that's exactly what it was. These people came to me for a second opinion. It seems their dog was being treated for gingivitis. The pooch had pink smears dribbled and caked all over his face. I asked them if the dog had been giving them a hard time about swallowing the antibiotics. Do you know what they said? They said, "Swallowing? What do you mean 'swallowing'? We've been putting the medicine in his ears."

"That certainly sounds like a six to me, Arnie," I said, referring of course, to axiom number six of veterinary practice.

Now, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with the 13 axioms of veterinary practice, let me point out that number six states: "When someone brings a pet to your office, you cannot automatically assume they have any brains."

You see, there are certain universal truths which govern the day-to-day happenings in a veterinary hospital. To date, Arnie and I have documented the existence of 13 such rules. Arnie just fell victim to number six.

The next day, Arnie was on the phone again.

"Eleven! Eleven!" he shouted. "My six turned into an eleven!"

I asked him to tell me about it.

"Well, the dog's mouth had been getting worse for weeks, and it turned out that there were some gum tumors. The owners were really upset. They love this dog. So, after giving me the usual lecture about how much they care and how money is no object, they had me operate on the dog. Surgery went great. The recovery was uneventful. Everyone was happy until they saw the bill. All of a sudden, I got a dose of axiom number 11: 'There is absolutely no correlation between what people want and what they are willing to pay for it.' You should have heard them, Mike! 'You must be kidding!' they said. 'We thought it would be about 20 bucks. He's just a mutt, you know. For that kind of money, we could have gotten a new dog.' They went on and on, but you get the idea. It was a typical eleven."

I couldn't help but laugh at the situation. Arnie, however, failed to see the humor.

"I'm gonna get beat for this whole bill," he said. "I don't know what you are giggling about, Mike, because I don't see what's so funny. I'll talk to you later when you're not so busy laughing at my misfortune."

And with that, he said goodbye.

I called him right back. As soon as his receptionist answered, I gave it to her with both barrels.

"Nine! Nine! Get Dr. Arnie to the phone and tell him it's a nine!"

I could hardly wait to point out that axiom nine had just gone into effect. It says: "Everything is funny when it happens to somebody else."