'People are strange, when you're a stranger'
Quite right, Jim, they are. What the Doors lead singer neglected to mention, however, was they're strange when you're just about anything. They are especially strange, for some reason, when they are in a consulting room talking to me.
Now, the purpose of this post is not to make fun of anyone, or to suggest that I am in any way less strange than any of the rest of us - we're all human, aren't we? (Oh...except you at the back with the tentacles). It's more to jot these things down so that I don't forget them, as my life would be considerably less stressful but also greatly less amusing without the general public involved.
And what are 'these things' of which I speak? Well, they're all things that have said to me or a colleague at some time or another in a consulting room, usually with a straight face and an earnest expression. I'm not mocking any of the people involved. It's cruel to mock the afflicted. (Ooh no, stop it! Ooh.) (That was supposed to be a Frankie Howerd impression, if you're confused. It might not work so well via the medium of the written word)
(And we'll skip over the basic cliches that everyone is allowed to say, and in fact do say to me on a regular basis. I'm sure every profession has them - the comments that come straight out of people's mouths when they hear what it is you do for a living without way of their brains, but that somehow they seem to feel is original. You know what I mean - for doctors it would be to automatically list everything wrong with you at the current moment as if the doctor cares. For builders it's the same, only with houses. For archaeologists it's to make some highly amusing comment along the lines of 'oh, you'll have to come and dig up my garden, ho ho ho'
(Note - I am sadly not immune to this curse. Upon meeting a marine cartographer when I was slightly the worse for wear with drink, I am ashamed to report I honestly said 'Oh, that must be easy then, it's all blue.' Not only this, when he didn't laugh I assumed he hadn't heard my witticism, so I said it again, louder. I'm sorry.)
Well, for vets you get either one of two responses. Please avoid either of these, as they will make any vet to say it to want to sneak into your room at night and sterilise you sans anaesthetic. Firstly 'A licence to print money, that is.' No, you seem to have me confused with the Royal Mint. Now kindly drop dead.
Secondly, (and by far the most popular)....'Huhuh huh huh you put your hand up cow's bottoms heheheh hehe he huhuh huh'. Yes, yes I do. It's my job. I have also wanked off a dog for the same reason. Yes, rubber gloves and lubricant were involved. Are you over it now? Oh no, you're still laughing. Tee hee. Now drop dead.)
There is something about a consulting room which... you know, I was about to write something along the lines of 'turns otherwise sane people into gibbering lunatics' but I'm starting to question the usage of the phrase 'otherwise sane people', so I think I'll just leave it. Here are some situations I have been in whilst talking to the dreaded 'general public'.
- Once, not very long ago, whilst I was kneeling on the floor examining a dog for its vaccination, the owner asked me if I could have a check of its bladder. I felt it from the outside and it felt fine (not the easiest organ to check, the bladder, in fairness - you're much better going off clinical signs initially). The owner didn't seem entirely satisfied with my response that it all seemed okay, so like a good vet I proceeded to procure an anamnesis.
(That's 'get a history' to mere mortals who are not blessed with the wondrous Latin language of obfuscation so beloved of doctors and medics. My favourite word - Idiopathic. It means 'I don't know.' So idiopathic vestibular syndrome means that there's something wrong with your dog's brain, and I have no idea what that is. Fortunately, no-one else has any idea either so I can't comfortably, and quite officially, say 'I dunno' and still sound clever. The next best word is, of course, iatrogenic. That means 'caused by your dumb-ass vet'. an iatrogenic ruptured tympanic membrane would mean I poked my otoscope too far down your dog's ear)
I asked what the clinical signs were in this case to make the owner worried about her dog's bladder. There were none - the dog was peeing absolutely normally. However, the client told me, she knew there was something wrong there. I asked how, and looking slightly sheepish, she said 'Well this might sound a bit strange but...'
(Always a worrying phrase to hear!)
'...well, I have this horse whisperer comes round to see my horse, you see. And she told me that my horse had been speaking to my dog, and my dog told my horse that she's got a pea-sized lump in her urethra.'
Quite how this cross-species conversation got started, I do not know
'Yeah, not so bad. Yerself, Fido?'
'Well, now that you mention it....')
but I love the idea of them standing in the stable like old women waiting for their hair appointments, discussing their various ailments. I never found out how much Doctor Doolittle charged the client for her 'services', but I checked the dog's urethra rectally (hehe, yes yes. It's my job.) and funnily enough no such pea-like lump was found. The annoying thing is, I bet the client still believed her wondrous horse-whisperer over me. I wonder where the dog learned the horse word for 'urethra'?
- A colleague of mine recently saw a dog with a small slice wound in its paw, next to a little wart. When she asked how it happened, the owner told her that her daughter had been trimming the dog with scissors. Thinking that she had misheard, she suggested that the client would be better taking the dog to a grooming parlour to cut its hair.
No, the client said, she was trimming the dog, not the hair. She liked to cut warts off. The owner thought it would be okay, because she trimmed warts of her brother as well, and this usually turned out fine. It lead to the memorable line in the clinical notes 'Advise owner not to allow daughter to use scissors on dog in future.'
- My wife was on a house visit to examine a week-old litter of bulldogs (born via caesarian, of course). Aside from the owner not having a great grasp of basic maths...
(Five puppies, two boys. The repeated question (at least three times) 'So how many girls?')
...she soon demonstrated a rather limited understanding of genetics too. Whilst my wife was examining the pups, it became clear to her that the dog and the bitch who had produced this particular batch of dogs both had the same mother and father.
'Erm...you mean they're brother and sister?' My wife asked, nervously.
'No!', said the client, obviously taking some offense at the fact that anyone would be as stupid as to breed brothers and sisters together. 'They're from different litters!'
- I was once asked by a rather creepy looking gentleman whilst I examined his cat 'Would there be any problem with him eating a lot of human hair?'
- My wife called a client in to the consulting room, a rather large and somewhat hairy woman, who plonked the cat basket on the table, and then announced before she had said a word
'Just so you know, I'm a TS, all right. A trans sexual. I don't want there to be any question of that.'
Sadly, for comedic purposes, my wife did not then ask to examine the client's pussy. Oh what the hell, it's my blog, I can say what I like. She politely asked to examine the client's pussy.
- Just last week, I had a regular client of mine come in for an appointment for a vaccination of their cat. I was sure I had vaccinated it relatively recently, so was slightly confused. As she came in, she put the basket on the table, and said
'I hope you don't mind, there's nothing wrong with him, but I got a cotton bud stuck in my ear this morning, and the doctors was full. Can you get it out for me?'
- Not really the client's fault, this one, but I once did an unexptedly smelly fart during a consultation and succesfully blamed it one the dog's anal glands
- Honourable mentions must of course go to the numerous times I (and I'm sure every other vet) have had to examine dogs because they have developed two large lumps around their penis whilst playing with the owner (um... your dog has an erection, Mrs Smith) and the many many hamsters I have examined with a pair of large lumps just underneath their bottom (erm... your hamster has a pair of testicles, Mrs Jones)
Well, I think that'll do for a start. There are more, but they'll have to wait for another time. Thank you to all the weird, wonderful, and very ssstrange people who make my day job just a little more bearable, and certainly a whole lot funnier.