Overheard conversations in the condiment aisle

Published 10:10 pm Thursday, December 4, 2014

It is well known in the medical field that a doctor will cringe when, outside his or her office and particularly at cocktail parties, they are approached by someone who seems to think nothing of asking, “My Momma is about to have surgery but the doctor wants to take her off blood thinners. Is that a good idea?”

Or: “I hate to bother you, but my PSA count came back sort of high. I’m not sure whether or not to ignore that. Should I think about surgery?”

Or even: “Does this look infected to you?”

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Oh, yeah, I’m guilty, too – the last time hitting up our town GP (and faithful acolyte, Todd) right after church service to enquire whether or not I should seek rabies shots after being bitten during a home invasion carried out by an enormous squirrel.

I didn’t, after being told the risk of infection was extremely low. However, I did live with some trepidation during the incubation period of several weeks, and tested my response to water by pouring a chaser to my evening tipple a couple of times a day.

Doctors may take comfort in knowing they are not alone in this awkwardness. Veterinarians, especially large animal vets, equine in particular, are often in the cross hairs of a client hoping to save the $65 barn call.

My vet, Bibi, is the epitome of patience (at least through her digital tone) in responding to my numerous texts regarding my young horse, Forrest, after we went through a frustrating period of stone bruises and lameness.

Swinging by the grocery store to pick up a few bits and bobs before heading home, Bibi remained approachable to my friend, Libbie, who tells the story of wondering aloud how her horse’s fecal exam, to test for worms, was going.

Somewhere in the condiment aisle, as Bibi reached for a bottle of olive oil, and eavesdroppers, unaware a horse and not a human was being discussed, Libbie was instructed, in order to tell quickly if pinworms were present, to simply stick a piece of scotch tape around the anal area, remove, and a diagnosis of eggs could be seen and confirmed.

That’s the thing about equine vets. In general, they don’t try to blind you with science. My former, now retired, vet, was quick to tell me he wasn’t satisfied with the state of my horse’s, um, deposits, after a colic attack, as they didn’t appear to contain enough moisture.

“I don’t want to see dry #*$@!!” he growled, “Keep soaking his hay for the next several days. They gotta be wet enough to stick to the wall!” And with that, he took an ungloved handful and hurled it at the stall door, where a couple clung before plopping back down into the shavings.

“Not quite there yet,” he said.

“So,” I mused. “Sorta al dente?”

“Exactly.” He said, cramming his cap back over his brow and departing, his obese Jack Russell waddling after him.

There are things that we horse owners, holding a twitch (a loop of rope attached to a wooden handle) twisted round our horse’s lip to keep them quiet and distracted, watch our vets do that would be agonizingly embarrassing if we were to witness the same being done to a human.

And in some bizarre state of synchronicity, whenever I roll up my sleeves to do any of these things (having to do with male, equine, hygiene) by myself, that seems to be precisely the same time the Fed Ex truck pulls up, parked by a wide eyed and horrified (or perhaps, impressed) driver.

So while you doctors, caught in commutes home in your German cars to your gated communities (not you, Todd), begin to gripe to your spouse over ‘blue tooth’ that Mr. X or Mrs. Y cornered you at the tennis club and complained about their aching elbow, just remember, especially this winter, that somewhere out there in the middle of the night, there’s a large animal vet, up to their elbow, or, frankly, arm pit, palpating a horse with a bellyache or pulling a breeched calf free after a battle in the muck of a cow barn.

And tomorrow night might be just the same. Or worse.

But at least the horse or cow won’t corner them at a cocktail party like humans do.

And if this Christmas season, with all its holiday get-togethers, makes you doctors and surgeons blanch at the thought of attending, don’t worry, it won’t be so bad.

Just borrow a twitch. Works like a charm.