Where did I go wrong? Blockheads with bullhorns in veterinary waiting rooms

Where did I go wrong? Blockheads with bullhorns in veterinary waiting rooms

Luckily for veterinarians, they're glad to "educate" everyone in the waiting area.
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Sep 01, 2012


Michael A. Obenski, VMD
Like most veterinary hospitals, we have a sign in our waiting room that states all pets should be kept on a leash or in a carrier. Mrs. Cubenoggin seemed to be attempting to follow that rule. She held her end of the leash firmly as she gave her name to the receptionist. After that, she proceeded to wander the room exchanging pleasantries with the other clients. Apparently, no one had the nerve to tell her the other end of the leash was empty. Knowing that I like advance warning if I'm about to see a crackpot with an invisible dog, one of the technicians asked her what was going on.

"Muffin is waiting in the car with my husband," she said. "I just wanted to come in first to make sure that there were no fleas in here. We figured that swinging this flea collar around the room would kill them off before they could jump on Muffin. We keep several of these hanging around our house, too. It's the herbal kind that works without using any dangerous chemicals."

Believe it or not, my technician kept a straight face during her explanation. Unfortunately, one of the other clients in the room decided to join the conversation. It happened to be our practice's biggest know-it-all, Fuller B. Lony.

"We've never had a flea problem," he said. "Not since we discovered brewers' yeast. We feed it to the dogs every day, and haven't seen a flea in two years." He proceeded to lecture all present on the miracle of brewers' yeast. The man is a walking encyclopedia of oddball theories and misinformation.

Everyone on my staff is familiar with him because one day last year we voted to enshrine his name in a place of prominence on the door of the treatment room refrigerator. The name Fuller B. Lony joined those of other memorable clients in a place of distinction we call "The Blockhead Hall of Fame."

At any rate, after his yeast lecture, we were careful to deprogram and re-educate each client who had been present. That still left Mrs. Cubenoggin to deal with and I suspected there was more buffoonery yet to come. You see, I had spoken with her on the phone the previous evening when she called to describe her dog's problem.

"Doctor, can we rush Muffin over to see you right away? She stopped eating, and we're very worried," she said. "She had a big dinner about a half hour ago, then, all of a sudden, refused to eat dessert. I know you're about to close, but we could be there in 10 minutes. We don't want to go to our regular vet because he told us last year that Muffin needed blood tests. After we thought about it for a week, we figured he might be right. But when we called him on New Year's Eve to schedule the tests, he made us wait two more days."

Even knowing these things, I felt that my best course of action would be to enter the exam room and face the Cubenoggins.

I was not prepared for what I saw next. The dog looked OK, but the people were wearing surgical masks. I was tempted to say something like, "Is this a stick-up?" However, I restrained myself. They explained about the colds they had suffered lately and how the masks protected little Muffin.

We mutually agreed (at my insistence) that Muffin would stay for some testing due to a previous history of liver problems.

"Doctor, it'll take us 20 minutes to drive home. After that, we'll stay by the phone all day," Mrs. Cubenoggin said. "Call us as soon as you can."

Exactly 20 minutes later she was on the phone: "We were so worried we just had to call. What did the blood tests show?"

I explained that I needed a little more time.

"Call us the minute you know anything," she said. "Are you sure that your people won't get mixed up and give our dog to someone else? Is she let out of her cage once in a while for exercise? Are you sure you have our name and telephone number written down? Don't lose them."

I glanced at the door of the treatment room refrigerator as I assured her I would be keeping her name in a prominent place.

Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.

For a complete list of articles by Dr. Obenski, visit http://dvm360.com/obenski/