I used to get an emergency call from Mr. Stant three or four times a year. It was always after hours and went something like this:
"Hello, Doc. This is Percy Stant calling. Dungbutton is having trouble with plopsie again. He seems real sick. Can I rush him right in?"
Knowing that Dungbutton had a history of pseudo-coprostasis, I would arrange to meet them at my office. And a glance at the pooch's record would cause me to become aggravated all over again. Every visit recorded was a Sunday night emergency.
"He crouches when he walks," Mr. Stant would say. "I'm not a vet, but it looks like a pain in the rear to me."
"I know, Doc," Mr. Stant replied. "That odor has been there for three days, but I kept putting off bringing him in. You see, on Sundays he watches TV with me. That's when the odor really bothered me. So I called you."
At each visit I would explain to Mr. Stant that he should check the dog regularly and catch the problem before it worsened. That way the pain in the rear could be avoided. For everyone. But he never listened. For Mr. Stant, a condition became an emergency when it began to inconvenience him.
Luckily for me, I haven't seen him or the plugged pooch for several years. We now have an all-night emergency clinic in my area, so I've become accustomed to sleeping through the night.
I don't miss the good old days of being on call, but I did learn a lot about people. For one thing, frantic callers often seemed more concerned about their furniture than their pet. A routine declaw became an emergency procedure if new furniture was on the way, and new carpets could transform occasional urinary incontinence of three years' duration into an immediate life-threatening catastrophe.
Mrs. Whey is a prime example. Mrs. Whey has the only dog in the world who practices voodoo. There is no sticking of pins into little dolls—this technique is much more graphic. You see, in the living room, Mrs. Whey has a large hooked rug depicting a map of the United States. And whenever Bombsa gets diarrhea, she becomes an extraordinary bombardier.
Two weeks after Bombsa targeted Louisiana, Hurricane Katrina hit. Five years later, one poop on the Gulf Coast brought about the biggest oil spill in history. I suspect that a few drops may have hit Philadelphia at some point, thus explaining the Eagles' dismal football record.
At any rate, Mrs. Whey's concern was always for the well-being of that geographic carpet and not the pooch, whose health seemed to be the least of her concerns.
Personally, I would prefer emergency calls to involve actual emergencies. I see no reason to panic if Muffin runs out of vitamins or someone needs advice on how to trim Jack's toenails. However, we sometimes do a great service to our clients by simply talking to them over the phone. Such was the case many years ago when Rhoda Gravure called me late at night.
"Doctor, I'm worried sick," she said. "Andy was in a fight with a wolf, and he's hurt. I just can't get to sleep because I'm so worried about him."
The situation was confusing—Mrs. Gravure doesn't own a dog. "Oh, it's not my dog," she replied. "It's Mark Trail's dog in the funny papers."
I was, of course, able to predict an uneventful recovery for the famous bowwow and calm her.
By the way, last week Bombsa Whey was in my office for routine vaccinations. The rug soiling was no longer a problem. "Oh, she still has occasional diarrhea," Mrs. Whey announced. "But I'm making a new hooked rug—with a picture of my ex-husband."
Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.