Mr. Change shuffled into the clinic and deposited his carcass in the nearest chair.
His movements were like those of a person, still half asleep, groping their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
In the past, each time he drove his wife to the clinic with one of their dogs or cats, he would flop into a chair and appear to sleep sitting up. This visit was no different. There was one time when he made it all the way to the exam room before shifting into neutral, but usually he just got as far as the closest chair to the door.
In the 16 years that the Changes had been clients, no one on the hospital staff had ever seen him make anything that could be described as a fast move. The receptionists would joke that someone ought to hold a mirror under the man's nose to see if he was still alive.
His wife, Wanda Change, usually arrived five minutes ahead of her husband. She accomplished this by sprinting from the car to the clinic door while her husband meandered at a snail's pace. She tended to move quickly, speak quickly and always be full of energy. In short, she was the opposite of her husband.
On this particular occasion, Strudel, the Dachshund, was very ill. One glance at the dog and Dr. Goodvet could tell from the difficulty breathing and the fluid retention that serious heart disease was present. Through his stethoscope, he heard strange sounds which he recognized immediately. They were the same sounds his 1954 Nash was making just before it died on the highway. In both cases, the diagnosis amounted to "bad valves." The Nash had been towed away and disposed of. Strudel would be luckier. He would get a miracle treatment known as the "blue pill."
What was in the blue pill? The answer is simple: "heart medicine." You see, it was 1964 and the Food and Drug Administration either didn't know or didn't care how many medications you crammed into one pill. And so, Strudel would be taking a variety of drugs, hormones, vitamins and what-have-you, all wrapped up in a neat blue sphere.
I feel compelled to tell you the story of the blue pill because I have been under fire lately. Several colleagues have said that I am making up the stories I report to you. They say the veterinary office incidents that I describe are too outlandish to have actually happened.
And so, I have something to say to those of you who don't believe that these incidents occurred exactly as I have reported them:
"Congratulations on your recent graduation from veterinary school!"
And now, whether you choose to believe it or not, I will subject you to the saga of the blue pills as told to me by Dr. Goodvet himself.
It seems that he no longer remembers exactly what was in those pills, but they seemed to help some heart conditions a great deal. In the case of Strudel, that was surprising because the dog seemed to be at death's door when treatment was begun. None the less, Wanda Change kept coming back for refills of the prescription for almost a year. Each time, she reported favorable results.
On more than one occasion, it was suggested that the dog be re-examined, but Mrs. Change never got around to scheduling the appointment. Eventually, when she was told that there could be no more refills without an examination, she was forced to confess. "To tell you the truth, Doctor, Strudel died a few weeks after he started the pills. I wasn't surprised. I know he was very sick. But you know what? He developed a funny habit while he was on those pills. That silly old dog kept grabbing people's legs and even tried to hug the cat, if you know what I mean. I've been dissolving a blue pill in my husband's coffee every day since then."
Dr. Obenski owns the Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.