One day last month, I was cruising along a winding, two-lane country road when I noticed a man jogging up the street in the
opposite direction. A moment later, I saw a lady walking briskly along a crossroad. She was wearing earphones and apparently
listening to her favorite music as she waddled her way to fitness. Within the next few minutes, I counted six more people
running, walking or exercising outdoors. This adds up to a strange set of circumstances for a wintry Sunday afternoon in eastern
Pennsylvania. I wasn't surprised though. You see, it was Jan. 1, New Year's Day, and all those people had undoubtedly resolved
to slim down and get fit during 2006.
After a brisk workout, they probably planned a healthy dinner on the order of yogurt and a salad. I knew that within a week,
90 percent of them would be back to sleeping late, drinking beer and dining on stuffed pig's stomach. It happens every year.
(Cultural note: Here in Pennsylvania Dutch country, stuffed pig's stomach is a popular delicacy. In answer to the obvious
question: No, I have never tried it.)
At any rate, I was on my way to the office to see an emergency. It was Mr. And Mrs. Nutsabout and their cat, Chablis. They
weren't able to give me any details over the phone other than that it was a "dire emergency" that required immediate attention.
Upon arrival, the diagnosis was easy. The cat had been dead for some time. The problem was breaking the news to the owners
that the fat feline had gone from corpulent to corpse-ulent. In other words, he was no longer at death's door. He had in fact,
gone through and slammed it shut from the other side. Knowing Chablis, he probably sprayed urine all over it as well.
Tactfully, I informed them that the cat had been smitten with a somewhat serious case of death.
"We know that, Doctor," they said. "He died yesterday. We needed to see you today to get some pictures. We don't have any
photos of his visits to your office. So, we thought you could pretend to examine him as if he were still alive while we take
a few candid snapshots."
A few minutes later, Mr. Nutsabout went to their car and got his video camera. "We need some action shots, Doc," he said.
"See if you can make him look lively while you handle him."
This was a tall order considering that Chablis was as stiff as a Bordeaux. I did my best though, and soon they were on their
way home to bury their friend in the back yard.
Many of our clients are like the Nutsabouts to some degree. We are often asked to retrieve a lock of hair from a deceased
pet or to make copies of medical records as a keepsake. Such things seem to me to be a part of the normal grieving process.
Some people, however, go way overboard.
Take, for example, Mr. Blubber. His cat, Longone, died more than three years ago. He still calls us twice a month to reminisce.
Occasionally, he stops in and asks to see the exam room where he used to bring Longone in the "good old days." We enjoy his
visits. (He brings doughnuts.) However, considering that Longone has been part of the soil enrichment program at the Golden
Hydrant Pet Cemetery for several years, I find his behavior a little strange.
But none of my clients hold a candle to Mr. and Mrs. Tribute. They win the Super Glue Award for the most unbreakable human-animal
bond. Their veterinarian contacted me recently to tell me about them.
It seems that when their dog passed away, they wanted to do something to remember him. They asked our colleague if he could
keep the body for six days until the custom-made casket would be ready, and possibly longer if preparation of the grave site
was not completed.