The case of the pungent client

The case of the pungent client

Apr 01, 2012

Chapter One: Aromatherapy

Mrs. Clowder is one of my most loyal clients. She is also the most aromatic of them all.

Luckily, she doesn't come in too often. But when she does, her olfactory assault can cripple the practice for several hours. You see, she has about 40 cats. (No one has ever completed an exact count.) As she walks in the door, the smell of feline urine is enough to make your eyes water. (Each visit is a real tear-jerker.) One whiff gives you the suspicion that she never changes the litter pans. In fact, you get the impression that she could actually be the litter pan.

Now, if you are a proponent of the benefits of aromatherapy, then you must admit that the opposite is possible as well. By that, I'm talking about the possible ill effects of aroma toxicosis (also known as odoritis or reekism). I'm not sure whether she suffers from such an ailment, but I know that we do whenever she comes to see us. The effects last for several hours, until the clinic exhaust fans have done their job.

Chapter Two: The Housecall

Several years ago, I was called to her house to remove a cat that had somehow gotten caught inside a radiator. It was quite an experience. Once I entered the front door, I was confronted by a narrow hallway with miscellaneous junk piled high on each side. The passage led to an even more cluttered living room. The odor was overwhelming. (I've never been exposed to tear gas, but I'm guessing it couldn't be as bad as this smell.)

In fact as the fumes overtook me, I felt like I was riding through a catheter only to wind up inside a tom cat's bladder.

Later, after a shower and a change of clothes, I called the health bureau. Following their investigation, she was ordered to have the house cleaned up and to reduce her herd to a maximum of eight cats. She responded by moving to another county where they didn't know her.

Chapter Three: La Kook-a-racha

She didn't blame me for turning her in. So, we still see her at least a few times a year. Her last visit was particularly remarkable. As soon as she arrived, we quickly ushered her to our best-ventilated exam room. (That is our usual procedure.) I entered the office call first, followed by my technician, who decided to wear a surgical mask for the occasion. She politely explained that she was coming down with the flu and didn't want to give it to the client. (It wasn't the flu; it was reekism.)

All went well until an invasion began. My tech and I saw a cockroach crawl from Mrs. Clowder's purse and run across the floor. Almost instantly, the room reverberated with the impact of leather on tile. It was my technician performing the fastest shoe-bottom euthanasia that I had ever seen. The roach was history.

Mrs. C was impressed too. "You know, Doctor," she said, "I have seen bugs like that at my house. I never imagined that you had them here, too. Your place looks so clean."

Apparently, she had not seen the source of the roach, and I thought it best to let the subject drop.

We all had a good laugh about it after she left. (We did that laughing outdoors until our lungs were clear.)


Year after year, she keeps coming back. She thinks we have roaches in the hospital, yet she keeps coming back. I've turned her into the local health department twice, but she doesn't hold it against me. Because of me, she had to move to another county. Apparently the extra 20-minute drive doesn't bother her either, because she remains loyal. At first, I thought that if she did want to get even with me, she certainly has found the best way to do it.

Dr. Obenski lives in Zionsville, Pa.