Where did I go wrong?
"Dr. O," she said, "there is a lady on the phone who is hysterical. All she will tell me is that she was baking cookies and needs to talk to you right away. She keeps screaming that it's an emergency."
I took the call and was barraged with seemingly useless information. "Doctor, we were baking cookies! We were baking cookies! That's how it happened. It was all so fast that I didn't realize what was going on until it was too late. What can I do? Has anything like this ever happened before?"After politely asking her to calm down and get her wits about her, I explained that I needed more details as to the nature of the emergency.
"We were baking cookies when Tangy, our cat, got into the kitchen." Her voice still sounded a little shaken, but she was talking with less hysteria now. "All of a sudden, he jumped up on the counter right near the dough."
Now I realized what was going on. She must have been one of those people who are so fussy that they panic over the thought of an animal being anywhere near their food. I began to explain that a few stray cat hairs in the kitchen would be very unlikely to cause any human fatalities. She quickly interrupted.
"You don't understand, doctor!" When he jumped up on the counter, I grabbed him and put him back on the floor. I went right back to work, and that's when it happened. It was all so fast. I guess I wasn't thinking. What should I do?"
I guessed that she was upset because she neglected to wash her hands after handling the cat. Big deal! Once again, I began to explain that she probably was worried about nothing. Once again, she interrupted.
"There's more to it than you think, doctor. We were baking cookies. The cat jumped up. I moved him away. I got a little sloppy while stirring the batter. I wasn't thinking. I'd hate to tell you what happened next. It's too embarrassing."
I told her that she would have to give me a hint as to the nature of the problem.
"I licked poop! There was batter on my hand. Not thinking, I licked it off. It wasn't batter; it was poop! I actually licked poop. Am I going to be all right?"
After getting her to calm down, I told her to bring me a stool sample from the cat and to call her family doctor. She vowed to rush right over, and she arrived within minutes. While we ran the fecal exam, her two children insisted on humiliating her by announcing that, "Mom ate poo," to anyone and everyone that they saw. Her attempts to quiet them went unheeded. Fortunately, owner and feline eventually checked out fine. I'm not sure about the kids, though. I suspect they got punished for teasing mom when they got home.
As a reward for our calm handling of the incident, a grateful owner delivered two dozen cookies to our office the very next day. That was two weeks ago. Those cookies remain untouched.