The participants stand on the outside of a veterinary exam room and try to figure out what is going on inside based solely on the sounds coming through the door. It's a bit like listening to television with the picture turned off (only more fun).
On this particular occasion, I was chatting with Tom Fledgling, a new associate at my friend, Arnie's, hospital.
Arnie was finishing up an office call when, suddenly, the game began.
Multiple voices were heard from inside the room.
"Wait! Stop that, Rusty! That's enough of that. Stay put! Okay, let's give it a try."
There was a short pause in the audio action, during which low voices could be heard. Suddenly, a woman screamed and a 10-year-old boy ran from the room with his hands over his ears. His expression was such that you would think a herd of brain-eating zombies was one step behind him.
I let Dr. Fledgling take the first guess as to what had occurred.
"That's easy," he said. "Apparently, Rusty would not hold still for his vaccination, but the owner finally got a good grip on him. When he got his shot, he must have nipped the owner. That caused all the excitement and scared the little boy."
"Nice try Tom," I said. "But, very naïve. If Rusty was a nasty animal, we would have heard growling. Besides, 10-year-old children never stick around until an injection is given. They always put their hands over their ears and run out of the room when they see you getting the injection ready. Apparently, it is some sort of instinctive juvenile behavior, although some kids will exhibit a variation by covering their eyes and staying in the room. My guess would be that the child was named Rusty. While Arnie was working, it was the boy they were trying to control as he opened drawers, fiddled with equipment and swung from the end of the exam table. Finally, as some aspect of canine care was being discussed, Rusty seized the opportunity to exercise the element of surprise. He did something like drop the ophthalmoscope into the sink, causing general panic of all in the room and forcing Rusty to head for the hills."
Tom was quick to find fault with my explanation.
"Arnie is much too experienced to drop his guard with a 10-year-old in the room," he said. "If the kid went near the ophthalmoscope, Arnie would have dived on top of it like a man covering a grenade to protect his friends in an old war movie."
The game was over. Now, it was up to Arnie to tell us which of our stories came closer to the truth.
"You're both pretty far off," he said. "Rusty is the dog, but he was just here for routine vaccinations. He wiggled and squirmed a little, but we had no trouble administering the vaccine. There was no biting episode and no damage to the equipment. Following some routine canine care advice, the office call was over."
Tom and I were disappointed. We still had important unanswered questions. What caused the woman to scream? What panicked the child?
"Oh, that's easy," Arnie said. "That happened when I told them to put the portly pooch on a diet."
Dr. Obenski lives in Zionsville, Pa.
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