Wrapping up my life as veterinary student inevitably meant I would have to face the formidable accumulation of veterinary school “stuff.” I took to sorting mountains of binders, notebooks, papers, posters, publications, illustrations and whatever else had accumulated in my den over the past four years. Sorting, then packing, saying goodbyes, tying up loose ends…all part of the moving out and moving on process.
And while paging through case logs, rotation notebooks and externship journals, I might as well have been flipping back pages in time. While most notes are typical medicine notes (TPRs, PE, differential diagnoses lists for cases and treatment protocols..), I also relived some long-forgotten memories of the past four years.
Some entries were random, vague, disorganized, occasionally only a single word was written on the notepad, underlined for emphasis and punctuated repetitively…obviously important to never forget things like “prednisolone” or “CRYO.” But amidst cryptic scribblings and drawings resembling hidden treasure chest maps (more likely illustrating aberrant migration of a parasite) I found some nostalgic gems. Hopefully I can find time in the very busy upcoming weeks to get five or six of my favorite entries posted.
The DIY Client
I’m going to call him Mr. DIY, though I don’t mean that in a condescending or disrespectful way. He is the client you are happy to see on the schedule. Mr. DIY is as personable and friendly as they come. He adopted his Australian cattle dog mix, Heeler, from the local shelter five years prior. He showed up to appointments in his work truck, Heeler riding shotgun. As a home-renovation contractor, Mr. DIY swore to me that he didn’t take a job if he couldn’t take his dog.
I met Heeler the same day that Mr. DIY happened to earn his nickname. In the middle of coaxing Heeler onto the scale, another client (soaking wet from the waist down) came rushing up to let me know that there was “water exploding from the toilet.” I headed toward the bathroom, noticing the evidence of the exploding toilet that was streaming down our hallway and pooling in our treatment ward. Mr. DIY didn’t hesitate and he had the water shut off before I got to the bathroom. He gave the toilet an exam of his own, and gave our one-toilet hospital the bad news. For reasons we are all aware, some things should not be flushed down the toilet…and consequently, our shut off valve in the pipe behind the toilet had broken and that had lead to the water “explosion” or geyser. Having 14 employees, a full schedule and no toilet caused some distress amongst our staff.
Mr. DIY said nothing as he paid the bill and loaded Heeler into his work truck. 20 minutes later, Mr. DIY returned and promptly replaced the broken plumbing. He had the toilet up and running, refused payment and became the hospital handyman hero instantly.
So, when Heeler appeared on our schedule a couple months later, I was surprised to find that the presenting complaint was for “a tick more stubborn than my ex-wife.” Mr. DIY had removed many a tick from dogs and people during the 20 years that he spent as a volunteer maintaining hiking trails in parks and wildernesses. In the exam room, I was starting to feel embarrassed when I couldn’t locate the tick. My. DIY kept assuring me I couldn’t miss it, especially because this tick became epically larger after each removal attempt.
Mr. DIY explained how he usually plucks the tick out, no complications. Occasionally, he has to light a match to coax the ticks. But after trying many different tactics per day for several days, even using the end of his cigarette failed. And every time Mr. DIY attempted, Heeler would whine or cry in pain. The tick only grew, and it looked infected according to the concerned owner.
I combed over Heeler methodically with my hands. No tick. Mr. DIY enthusiastically rolled Heeler onto his back and immediately pointed out the tick.
I didn’t say anything because I was surprised and triple checking my mental assessment. I was certain that I was not looking at an engorged black tick, but a swollen, inflamed black nipple. I looked at Mr. DIY at about the time he noticed something else. He pointed caudally a couple inches and said “Shit, there’s another one right there!”
Another nipple. I did not laugh, purely because I was envisioning Mr. DIY’s three-day history of his failed attempts to remove the tick, and how Heeler just whined and fussed.
Careful on my approach, I said it didn’t appear to be a tick (or two), but rather Heeler’s nipples. Mr. DIY laughed at what I presume he thought was a joke, “Heeler’s a boy.”
I was caught between an awkward and more awkward. Instead of stating any more facts, I said nothing as Mr. DIY face contemplated. I could tell the exact moment when we were both on the same page. Guilt and embarrassment followed as Mr. DIY was probably rewinding his memory to replay the last three days…while I was reminded by the award dinner scene from the film, Meet the Fockers…