There were two patients waiting to see me, and both had arrived at the same time. Which one should I see first?
One of the exam rooms was filled with sounds of growling and snarling. I wasn't looking forward to that. However, the other office call was labeled "Caution!" indicating that patient No. 2 was not to be trusted either.
I opted for the quiet room, where Ann Ticipation was waiting for me with her 12-year-old son and their dog, Bruiser.
"Be careful, Doctor," she said. "Bruiser is a tough one."
The dog took one look at me and immediately proceeded to pee on the floor.
"You had better call in some help," she announced. "Bruiser is a watch dog. If he thinks there is any danger here, there is no telling what he might do."
My technician entered the room with a muzzle and heavy gloves. Her arrival sent both mother and son into a fit of laughter. The boy had plenty to say: "You may need more than that to handle Bruiser," he said. "I heard that he sent the last vet running out of the room in a panic. I don't know how you are going to get a needle into him. He's a tough one!"
The big dog curled himself up in the corner and went to sleep. So, we were forced to slide him out into the middle of the room to proceed. During routine examination and vaccines, the pooch turned out to be a perfect gentleman. However, it was obvious that his owners were sorely disappointed by Bruiser's good behavior. They had been so looking forward to their dog giving us a difficult and dangerous time while simultaneously serving as a great source of amusement for themselves.
Ann Ticipation was quiet, but the kid just wouldn't give up. He kept jabbing his finger in the dog's side during our exam, and saying things like, "They don't know you; do they boy? Are you gonna let them give you a needle?"
He was obviously trying to provoke the poor old pooch. I told him the dog was afraid and that he should knock it off. He was not deterred, however, and continued to poke at the big mutt. "Scared? I don't think so! You're not scared, are you boy? You're a tough guy."
The dog just didn't seem to be in the mood to bite anybody, but I was.
I gave the kid one more "Knock it off." After that, he left the dog alone.
Unfortunately, finishing with them would mean that I now had to enter the other room and face one of my worst patients, Honey Sweets. Her owner, Dee Nial, seemed oblivious to the dog's behavior. Meanwhile, Honey Sweets growled, barked and snapped repeatedly at imaginary veterinarians. Unlike the previous client, Mrs. Nial didn't think that the technician and the heavy gloves were funny at all. She thought they were unnecessary.
"Oh, you won't need those!" she said. "Honey Sweets wouldn't hurt a fly. She is the most gentle little dog I've ever known. I'm afraid those big scary-looking gloves might frighten her. Please try to be gentle."
Personal experience told me otherwise. Even after two years, the sight of those crooked little teeth embedded deep in my left hand was still fresh in my mind. And so, we proceeded with the exam fully padded and prepared. All the while, Dee Nial persisted in reminding us of Honey Sweets' frailty. "Please be gentle. Don't frighten her. She is such a kind, quiet little thing. I hope you aren't scaring her to misbehave."
When she left, Bruiser and his owners were still in the reception area. The big dog was asleep by the window.
"Be careful!" Ann Ticipation announced. "Bruiser is a tough one. Better not get too close."
"Oh, dear," said Dee Nial. "I hope he doesn't frighten my poor little dog."
Meanwhile, Honey Sweets was barking her brains out at the big dog. Bruiser never even woke up. I don't think the two owners will ever wake up either.
Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.