Focused on the problem at hand: tracking down a stray doughnut

Focused on the problem at hand: tracking down a stray doughnut

Feb 01, 2007

An office call with Mr. Sidetrack is always a little frustrating. So, since he was 10 minutes early for last week's office call, I decided to postpone my grief as long as possible.

I heard a rumor earlier that day concerning the possible existence of a stray jelly doughnut back in the lunchroom.

Naturally, I decided to investigate. Two steps into my probe, the receptionist ambushed me.

"Dr. O," she announced. Mrs. Railed is on the telephone. She says it's very important.

I waved goodbye to my 10 minutes of freedom and picked up the nearest phone.

"Hello, Doctor. This is Dee Railed calling about my cat, Choo-Choo. I was calling about his skin condition, but I just noticed something else. It might be important."

"Ok," I said. "What's up?"

"Oh, my gosh! There's a squirrel in my backyard. You should see it, Doctor. It's running up and down the tree. Choo-Choo was staring out the window, and I thought something was wrong. Now, I realize that he was probably staring at the squirrel. Can you hold on a minute? My favorite commercial just came on. Wait! It's not the one I thought it was. We can get back to our conversation."

I decided to pop the question. "Why are you calling today?"

"Doctor, my other cat just came into the room. There is nothing wrong with him. He's getting a drink of water. He and Choo-Choo get along just fine."

I decided to try again: "What can I help you with today?"

"This telephone cord seems to be all twisted up. Does yours do that, Doctor? Oh, never mind, I just realized that I can't talk right now," she replied. "I have to pick up my kids at school. We'll have to talk some other time. It wasn't important, anyway."

After she hung up, there was nothing left for me to do other than to head into the office call with Mr. Sidetrack and his dog, Tangent.

As soon as I walked into the room, he hit me with some important news.

"I just found something, Doctor. It's not what I made the appointment for, but there is a lump on Tangent's shoulder. It's about the size of a pin head."

I asked why he made the appointment.

"Well, Doc. Right now, this big lump is the most important thing. Also, I just don't understand what would cause a dog to scratch at his ears until they bleed."

I looked at the dog. His ears looked fine.

"I don't understand," I said. "According to my records, Tangent is here because of a breathing problem."

"That's right, Doc," he said. "I'm not talking about Tangent's ears. It's my aunt's dog that is scratching."

The man was obviously suffering from a drought in his stream of consciousness. I asked him to describe the breathing problem.

"Do you think he's thirsty, Doc?" he asked. "He has been breathing heavily for two weeks, and his belly looks big. Maybe we should get him a bowl of water. Oh! And don't let me forget to ask you about chocolate before I leave. My neighbor heard that it wasn't good for dogs."