You can't win in pill stampede

You can't win in pill stampede

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Aug 01, 2001

Last month, I received a phone call from Mr. Maykit concerning his dog's rash.

The call came in just before the end of his scheduled appointment. You see, once again, Kent Maykit had failed to show up for his office call.

"I can't make it to your office today, doctor," he said. "My car is in the shop. But my dog's rash looks awful bad. Could you give me some pills or something to make it better for a few days until I can bring him in? It's the exact same thing that he had last time and the pills worked fine then."

I had heard this scenario before. Mr. Maykit's record showed that, the last four times this problem occurred, he simply stopped by for some Rashaway Tablets, and in spite of his promises, I never did see the dog. What I can't understand is why are there so many people who can't make it in for an office call, but have no trouble driving over to pick up medication? At any rate, it was such a busy day that I complied with his request and headed for the pharmacy to get the pills ready. That's when the game began.

Games beginYou see, getting those pills would afford me the opportunity to play my favorite veterinary hospital game, Pill Hockey. This game is a true test of concentration, speed and dexterity, not to mention level of sanity.

I reached for the Rashaway Tablets only to discover that the bottle was virtually empty except, of course, for the one remaining still floating in the small sea of pill dust that all such bottles have at the bottom. Undaunted, I threw it in the trash and reached for a new bottle. It is at this moment that the game usually begins.

The drug company has an impregnable plastic collar around the top of the jar and the lid. Apparently, this is designed to keep the freshness in and the doctor out. Next, comes the round paper freshness seal which was glued to the rim of the jar with the same indestructible glue that they use on "easy open" cereal boxes.

Finally, there is the 2 cubic feet of cotton compressed into the one cubic inch space above the pills. If you make it this far, you have reached the first plateau and, the excitement begins. You see, as the cotton is removed, some of the pills attempt a bold escape. They do so by hiding in the cotton until it is removed from the jar then bolt for freedom. As they drop to the countertop and roll, it is your job to corral each wayward wafer and keep it from getting away.

Rollin', rollin' rollin'With lightening speed and dexterity you attempt to grab each one thereby knocking over the open bottle and setting off a pill stampede. Some will roll into the sink while others race toward the edge of the counter and head for the floor. Renegade tablets have unbridled enthusiasm. Anyone familiar with the laws of physics knows that perpetual motion is impossible. However, anyone who has chased a pill stampede knows that once a tablet is loose, it can roll forever.

If there is an open box containing little foam packing knurdles in the pharmacy, some of the pills will dive into it and be irretrievably lost. In fact, anything smaller than a Buick can be lost in a box of foam packing knurdles. They represent the Bermuda Triangle of the packing industry.

Many pills will find an immovable object to roll beneath. This is usually a refrigerator, a radiator or a bottom shelf. Such things are usually designed with a space underneath just small enough so that your hand won't fit and just big enough so that anything else will.

It is at this point that I usually realize that, if little fuzzy balls of pet hair were worth anything, I could retire immediately. (During this most recent game, I saw several toenails, a cookie, two rabies tags and several M&Ms scattered under there.

Once you have salvaged as many of the little discoid daredevils as possible, you begin counting them out to be dispensed. When you are almost finished, your secretary gives you an urgent message.

"Mrs. Forty called. You know, the one who was in four days ago with three dogs. Two of them vomited six times. Can you call her in the next 12 minutes?

In spite of having seen every episode of Sesame Street, you lose count and have to start over again.

Once the pills are safely counted out into the dispensing bottle, the game ends but the frustration can go on and on. Such was the case with the Maykits. Ten minutes before closing time, Mrs. Maykit called.

"Doctor this is Gerta Maykit," she said. "The dog looks awful. I think his skin is infected. I've got to bring him right over."

It seems that people who live 20 minutes away always call 10 minutes before closing. This usually necessitates a delay in my supper. As I waited for her to arrive, I seriously considered unbending a coat hanger and retrieving that cookie and those M&Ms from under the refrigerator.

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