I was recently granted an exclusive interview with a world-famous inventor. He'd just found the solution to a perplexing problem
of interest to veterinarians and was anxious to share his discovery with the world. He summoned me personally to share his
So, late on Christmas Eve, I crossed the miles and years to arrive at his house, where his assistant met me and escorted me
to the sitting room. There sat Alexander Graham Bell.
ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN OSTRANDER
"Dr. Obenski," he began. "I called you here because I have a solution for a problem: get people in touch with their veterinarians
in the middle of the night. I've invented a machine that will set minds at ease. It's an electronic device called the Televet."
"You mean like a telephone?" I asked.
"What's a telephone?" he replied, puzzled.
"Never mind. This device sounds ingenious, but what makes you think that all vets want to be bothered?"
Mr. Bell's enthusiasm was not daunted. "You vets will be anxious to get one of my new machines. With the way things are now,
a typical emergency starts with a breathless rider on a winded horse showing up and yelling something like 'Doc, come quick!
There's trouble at the McMaggot ranch.' With the Televet, you could have a meaningful conversation with the McMaggots, ascertain
the important facts and sometimes even avoid rushing out to see a problem that isn't really an emergency."
"Do you realize that if Televets existed, any crackpot on the planet could bother me at any hour?" I said. "If you expect
the general public to use this thing intelligently, Alex, you're dreaming."
"No, you're dreaming, Mike. By the way, what's that ringing noise I hear?"
I was immediately rocketed back through time and space to my bedroom, where the ringing of his own invention terminated my
interview with Mr. Bell. It seemed that I was about to participate in one of those meaningful dialogues that he predicted.
"Doctor, this is Mrs. Loudsoft. Are you in your office?"
I somehow managed to convey the message that we rarely stay open after 3:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve.
"Well, Doctor, we hate to bother you, but we have an emergency here. It's our dog, Dialer. He's real sick. Can we bring him
Foolishly, I tried to ask a few questions to determine what was wrong with the pooch. However, as any veterinarian can tell
you, if clients have their minds made up about their emergency, you'll never get a straight answer. Besides, they have one
standard phrase that has pried more veterinarians out of bed than any other: "We're afraid he won't make it till morning."
Half an hour later, the dog was on my exam table. Mrs. Loudsoft was expecting a house full of company the next day and had
no intention of spending any more of her holiday cleaning up "poo-poo" from the rug.
I treated the dog for what turned out to be his annual episode of holiday diarrhea and then hurried home. I had to get back
to Alex's sitting room. Maybe I could convince him to invent something else, like the food processor or the Hula-Hoop. He
didn't realize that things were better in his time. The breathless rider who showed up in the middle of the night only came
for real emergencies.
I got back with no trouble, but I must have miscalculated the location. I wasn't at Alex's house. I was on horseback, thundering
down the road to the McMaggot ranch, on my way to a good old-fashioned life-and-death emergency.
The entire family was awake when I got there. These people were rugged pioneers, not the type to get easily upset. Nonetheless,
they were distraught over a problem with the livestock.
"We hope you can do something, Doc," Mr. McMaggot said. "We're fit to be tied. Nuggets has been making doo-doo outside of
his litter box."
Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.