One clear thought deserves another

Decoding needed when tryingto assess some patients' needs
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Feb 01, 2004


Michael A. Obenski, VMD
I have known Puzzle for years. Furthermore, I enjoy seeing the little pooch now and again even if his owners are a little wacky. (Aren't they all?) However, his most recent visit to my office did not go as smoothly as usual.

The first surprise came when I entered the exam room and found a whole new person at the other end of Puzzle's leash.

"Hello, Doctor," said the young lady serving as doggie escort of the day. "I'm Ann Biguous. My uncle couldn't bring his dog in today so he asked me to do it for him. There's something wrong with Puzzle's ears. They look dirty. I just noticed it while bringing him over here, but that's not what he's here for."

Beginning to notice a trend in the conversation, I tried again by inquiring as to whether there were any new problems to be brought to my attention.

"Puzzle just doesn't seem to get around as well as he used to and it looks to me like he's lost weight, but that's not what he's here for today."

Hoping that some reason for the visit would become obvious, I proceeded to examine the dog. He seemed to be in great shape. This was no surprise since I had just seen him a few days earlier for his annual physical and vaccinations. (That's right. I still believe in annual vaccination.)

It was time to try again.

"Why is he here?" I asked.

"He needs his nails trimmed, but that's not why I brought him in."

The floors had just been cleaned. So, cutting my wrists was not an option.

"Well," I said. "Tell your uncle that Puzzle looks good to me and have him call me if he has any specific questions."

"Oh! I almost forgot," she announced. "My uncle sent a note."

(Now we're getting somewhere.)

She handed me a piece of paper that had a few squiggly lines on it. It was the note from Hiram Glyphics. It may have been written in English. It was hard to tell. It looked like it was written by someone who held a pencil between their toes while receiving shock therapy.

I tried to read the first line. As near as I could tell, it seemed to say:

"Bog turtles throw pomegranates at the Lone Ranger."

This made no sense to me since turtles can't really throw very well. So, I decided to try again. After staring at the squiggles for a few minutes, I decided that it might read:

"Dog breathes through snorkel of the lost Beagle."


Now we were really getting somewhere. Obviously the sixth word was "the." Unfortunately, after many more tries, the other seven words didn't become any clearer. It was time to call in an expert. If anyone could decode this note, it would be my receptionist, Dee Cipher. She faces similar tasks each day when she tries to read my handwriting. I handed her the note.

Unfortunately, Dee had met her match. We were left with no idea what Mr. Glyphics wanted.

"What should I tell my uncle?" Ann asked.

"Don't worry about it," I said, "I'm going to write him a note."

I took a piece of clinic stationary and jotted down a few lines. Then I handed it to Ann and sent her on her way.

Afterward, Dee wanted to know if I really expected anyone other than her to be able to read my handwriting.

"Of course, not," I replied, "But if he can figure it out, he's going to wonder why I wrote, "Lobsters' skis tend to tangle in their parachutes."