Perhaps you're one of those individuals who suffer from the delusion that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Well,
I have good news for you. There is a cure for your misguided thinking. All that is necessary is to spend a day answering my
telephone. In fact, you could be cured within minutes if the first call you take happens to be from Mrs. Tiquity.
Through years of trial and error, she has mastered the art of making calls to ask stupid questions. We haven't seen her in
the office for almost six years, but she calls several times a month. She disrupts our schedule, usually wants to talk with
several staff members each time and often asks the same question over and over.
She is also our favorite client. You see, Ann Tiquity is just about the sweetest little ol' lady in the world. She is a joy
to talk to, and our team members have developed a personal relationship with her. She's sort of a clinic telephone mascot.
Her call last week was about dog breeds.
"Oh, Doctor, I must tell you what happened to me this morning. I was sitting at breakfast, and I heard my neighbor talking
about someone's Schnauzer. It was Mr. Fogy from apartment 2-B. Well, I don't appreciate that type of talk being used in the
dining hall. So, I told him to watch his language. Then, he told me that a Schnauzer is a breed of dog. That sounded funny
to me, but when he said that he was referring to a giant Schnauzer, I knew he was pulling my leg."
I was able to confirm for her that there really is a giant Schnauzer, thereby saving Mr. Fogy from the wrath of Ann and her
friends at the retirement home.
Sometimes, Ann calls with important news.
"Doctor, have you ever heard of the worldwide inter-web? Apparently, it is a sort of encyclopedia where you can look up anything.
You should check into it. My friend, Arte Fakt, says that you can find any sort of information on it, but you need a computer
I listened politely and promised I'd look into it. She then spoke with several other staff members to fill them in on this
new scientific development.
Unfortunately, although we all enjoy her calls, there is an occasional depressing episode. A tearful receptionist will come
to me and say, "Ann is on the phone, Dr. O, and it's one of those calls you have to handle."
"Hello, Doctor. How is Rusty doing? Do you think he can come home soon?"
She doesn't remember that Rusty died almost six years ago. I answer that there has been no change in Rusty's condition. It
is an answer that I have cleared with Ann's doctor. It is a call that makes me sad, but it is nowhere near as depressing as
the one that invariably follows a few hours later. Ann is sobbing during this second call.
"I'm so sorry, Doctor. I feel so foolish to have bothered you. Please forgive me. I remember now that Rusty died. You must
think I'm a senile old fool. I miss him so."
There is nothing I can do but listen quietly and assure her that she is never any bother. I do this knowing that the she will
be her old self in a few hours and will call again with an inane and amusing question like the following:
"Doctor, can you settle an argument? If a lion and a tiger had a fight, who would win? My friend Bea Fuddle from apartment
1-A says the tiger. But I thought lions were the kings of the jungle. Why do they call them that if they aren't the strongest?"
You'd think it was a prank call if you didn't know Ann. Believe me, she was dead serious—and quite disappointed when I didn't
know the answer. Her thought processes remind me of the way my mom saw the world in the latter years of her life. This brings
to mind the old joke about the person who was beating his head against the wall. When asked why, he replied, "Because it feels
so good when I stop."
Well, Ann is a pain in the neck (or somewhere further south), but it's a pain that will be worse when it goes away.
Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.
For a complete list of articles by Dr. Obenski, visit