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In Memorium: Life, Death and Leaves (October Re-run)

It’s  October again.  Sadly, I have nothing to add to the tribute of a month that is simultaneously my most favorite and most un-favorite of seasons.  I present, therefore, a rerun form two years ago while I contemplate creating some new content.

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”–Albert Camus

Lest the general levity of this blog give you a false impression of my worldview, let me state that sometimes life sucks.  For the most part, I use humor and satire as a defense and an escape, a diversion if you will.   This has been an incredibly bittersweet week; I have never experienced anything remotely like it.   My last post was Freshly Pressed–perhaps the ultimate honor for a WordPress blogger.  Yet while this was going on, three people I know died.  They were an 82-year-old uncle whose death had been anticipated, a 58-year-old work colleague whose demise was an unexpected shock, and most tragically, the 29-year-old son of one of my poker buddies whose death from illness had been feared for some time.

If you will permit me then, a tribute to these lost souls with the only piece of poetry I ever wrote which I would deem publishable.  It’s well over 35-years old–the sort of thing one could only write in one’s youth.

The Leaves

Words ©1976, 2012  Mark Sackler

Sit and look at the leaves,

Amber arms descending from October’s trees.

Covering delicate grasses,

sweeping the highway,

bedding the rain,

Solemn songs to life departed,

Sit and look at the leaves.

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New Feature: Tales of a Veterinary Spouse

Another oldie but goodie.  New stuff soon–I promise.

“The best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter-he’s got to just know.”–Will Rogers

Episode One: You called me for what??

You may laugh, but this is literally true.  I finally became inured, but she ruined my appetite many times.

You may laugh, but this is literally true.  She has ruined my appetite many times.  Image credit unknown.

I don’t know if a veterinarian is the best doctor in the world, but I do know this:  to survive thirty years of marriage to one, I may be the most patient spouse in the world.  The early years were the worst.  Why?  In two words: on call.  Thanks to a proliferation of 24-hour veterinary emergency clinics, she no longer gets those middle of the night wake-up calls.   But here are just two of the many gems she dealt with through the years.

Phone conversation Sunday afternoon late summer day

Panicked client: “Help! My dog can’t get up!”

Dr. Sackler:  “What’s happening.”

Panicked client: “My dog can’t get up.”

An effective restraint device?

An effective restraint device?

Dr. Sackler: “Well can you describe the situation?”

Panicked client: “I see my dog outside struggling to get up and he can’t get up.”

Dr. Sackler: “Well stay calm and go out there and take a closer look.”

The dog’s collar ID tag was caught in a slot between planks on the wood deck.

Phone conversation at 1 AM, Monday Morning

Ditzy client: “Dr. Sackler, I swallowed my dog’s heart worm pill, what should I do?”

Dr. Sackler: “Mrs. So-and-so, I can’t help you.  If your dog had swallowed your birth control pill, that I could help you with. But I can’t advise you on a human accidental dosing, you have to call your medical doctor.”

Ditzy client: “OH, It’s the middle of the night, I can’t bother my doctor!”

Dr. Sackler: “What am I, chopped liver?”  CLICK!!

The second story was so ridiculous, my daughter, who was in 9th grade at the time, wrote it up and submitted it to Readers Digest for their On The Job column.  They published it–sans the closing chopped liver line– and paid her $300.  Oh, and it also turned up a couple of years later on a page-a-day calendar created from that column.  Those were fifteen minutes of  fame my wife could have lived without.

That’s enough for now, but stay tuned.  These stories are just the tip of the iceberg–they get better.

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Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #8: Doggone Pets

“Armadillos make affectionate pets.  If you need affection that much.”–Will Cuppy

“I…discovered you can get used to a man, much like you do a household pet.”–Terry McMillan

There is no greater futility in the Sackler household than to complain about the animals that share our home.   Not their numbers, their habits, their exotic variety nor their ruling of the roost.

“What did you expect?  You married me when I was a veterinary student ,” is invariably the response I get.

Heck, I married a vet; I did not marry the Bronx Zoo.  And , as I often point out,  I was a sportscaster when we met.  This has not kept her from complaining about all the games I watch on TV.  The least she could do is accept it and keep the chips and dip coming during the NFL playoffs.

Hermit crab.  You'd be a hermit, too, if you looked like this.

Hermit crab. You’d be a hermit, too, if you looked like this.

But I digress.  Our current pet count is nine, a rather typical number.  Six dogs in the house, two horses in the paddock, and one cat in the barn, appropriately named Barney.  In the past, our  critter count has numbered as high as 17 at one time, and not all of them with four legs.  Critter is an appropriate term, as it is a rather extreme stretch of the imagination to call some of them pets.   These have included rabbits, hedgehogs, guinea pigs, guinea fowl,  turkeys–both domestic and wild–chickens, hermit crabs a gecko and a donkey.  We’ve also had visits from–but thankfully not made homes for–an iguana, a boa constrictor, an African millipede and Madagascar hissing cockroaches.  The variety, and the stories that go with them are never ending.

One of the earliest tales  dates to our first apartment during Cheryl’s years in veterinary school.   We had a visit from a very special friend, Kate–the very woman who had introduced us in the first place.   She entered to find us in a frenzy.

“We can’t find Archibald.  Archibald got lose.  Help us find Archibald!”

Kate was all too happy to comply and began scouring the premises with us.  She looked under the couch, behind the dresser and basically mimicked whatever searching patterns she saw us following.

Ten minutes into this, she suddenly stopped, and stared at both of us with a quizzical look.

“Um, excuse me for asking, but what are we looking for?  What exactly is Archibald!?”

A good question, if a bit late for the asking.  Archibald was  a tiny hermit crab.  And it was Kate who ultimately found him–once she knew what she was looking for, the quest was not so daunting.

Guinea Fowl.  Proof that god has a sense of humor.

Guinea Fowl. Proof that god has a sense of humor.

From my perspective though, the most annoying of these fauna have been those that shatter the calm with odd and unusual calls.  Screeches, brays, cock-a-doodle doos.  The Guniea fowl screamed bloody murder during their spring mating season.  The first spring we had them, they did this while stampeding on the roof over our heads in the middle of the night.  Fun.   A donkey and a rooster on our premises made noises, while I worked from a home office, that must have sounded to my customers on the phone as if I was selling grain out of a silo in Iowa.   More on these lovely experiences in a future installment;  in the meantime, step a way from the barn.  You never know for sure what might be in there.

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Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #6: Say what!?

“I got a big mouth.”–Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Note: This material is rated PG-13.  My wife should have realized that before she retold this story to a bunch of Catholic middle-schoolers at a career night.  Have you heard the phrase “he (or she) has a mouth that could make a sailor blush?”  Cheryl could make Larry Flint blush.

blah blah blahIt was the late night for office hours at the clinic–a Thursday to be specific.  It was a few minutes before 8 PM closing, and the doctor undoubtedly was tired and ready to go home.  But she had just come back from a seminar that focused on bonding new customers to the practice, and wouldn’t you know it, the last appointment of the day was a newbie.

The woman was in her mid 20’s or so, and the kitty she had just adopted was her first pet ever.  Despite the fatigue of a long day, Cheryl was determined to execute a perfect “bonding” experience.  She launched in her “new kitten” spiel,  and  all was going well for the first few minutes.  But then the office manager stuck her head in the exam room and interrupted.

“Pat D. is on the phone, Cheryl,” she reported matter-of-factly, “he wants to know if he can bring his dog in for a semen sample.”

“What?  You’re kidding me.  The lab has already picked up today and I am out of gas.  Tell him to bring the dog in tomorrow morning.”

So much for that, or so she thought, and immediately pushed the “kitten spiel” button and resumed the pitch.

But something had changed.  The customer seemed distracted, even a bit perturbed.

“How do you do that?” The young woman asked, two minutes into the resumed talk.

“Huh, do what?”

“How do you get a semen sample from a dog.”

Cheryl is never one to mince words or be diplomatically indirect under any circumstances.  At 8 PM after a 12 hour day of appointments, this was certainly not going to be an exception.   Making the appropriate gesture, she curtly replied, “hand job!”

Thinking that would be the last of it, she forgot about it and resumed the kitten spiel.  But the woman was still not paying attention, and two minutes later interrupted Cheryl again.

This really is how it's done.

This really is how it’s done.

“C’mon how do you really do it?’

“Huh, do what?”

“How do you really get a semen sample from a dog?’

“Well,” she replied impatiently, “really, you get a cup and you stimulate the dog manually and, well, I can show it to you in a text book if you want.”

The woman frowned and Cheryl resumed the kitten talk, but it was readily apparent that the client was still not satisfied with the answer.  In fact, she appeared downright angry. Within a couple of minutes, she abruptly changed the topic for a third and most emphatic time.

“You’re just goofing on me,” and by now she was almost yelling, “HOW DO YOU REALLY GET A SEMEN SAMPLE FROM A DOG?”

Cheryl had had enough.

“Look at it this way lady, I’m not gonna give him a blow job!”

That ended that.  Permanently.  She never saw that customer again, and to this day she reckons it was worth sacrificing one client just to have the story.

Oh, and she really did tell that story at a Catholic middle school career night.  The students loved it; the nuns were horrified. She never got asked back, and I’m guessing she thinks that was worth it as well.

If you enjoyed this story, just wait for the next Tales of a Veterinary Spouse, which will deal with extracting semen from a rather larger species.

Cheers.

Signature    On twitter @MarkSackler

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Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #4: No Hablo Inglés

Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.”–Robert Benchley

We  have a house full of animals.  At the present we have a very manageable three dogs, two horses and one cat.  OK, the horses are in the back yard, not the house.  You get the picture.  In the past we have had chickens, guinea hens, turkeys (both wild and domestic), rabbits, hedgehogs a rooster and a donkey.   I  had to put my foot down regarding the latter two.  I work from a home office.   The noises coming from our backyard wrecked havoc while I was on the phone making business calls.  It sounded like I was selling farm supplies out of a silo in Iowa.

OK, I knew there would be animals in my household.  I signed on for that.  But Cheryl doesn’t just collect animals.  She collects other veterinarians.  They come here; they live with us.  They stay for a few days, weeks, months, or in a couple of notable cases, years.   They come from all over the world:  from Venezuela…Columbia…Chile…Afghanistan…Turkey…The Philippines…all over.  If there were Martian veterinarians we would have housed one by now.   Just for variety, we also had a law student from Beijing.   Never mind how or why they have landed in our hacienda;   I could write an entire book on the characters that have lived with us.   But today, let’s talk about just one.   Dr. Gibson Fernandez.

mariachi-helps-to-speak-SpanishAh, Gibson.  He hails from Maracaibo, Venezuela where he is a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Zulia.  He did an internship at my wife’s veterinary hospital back in the late 1990’s and has been spending the month of August with us every year since.  He just happens to be be one of the most personable and likeable people you have ever met.  I swear, he has more friends in Connecticut, just from his one month a year,  than we do living here our whole lives.  The phone starts ringing days before he arrives.  “When is Gibson coming?” “Is Gibson there yet?” “Can Gibson come out and play?”

Gibson is smart, funny, affable and a loyal friend.  Everybody loves Gibson.  It seems he has but one small failing.

His English sucks.   Even after fifteen years of visits and an ESL course,  he still never fails to leave us in hysterics with his lingual gaffs.  You think Desi Arnaz sounded funny?  You ain’t heard nothing yet.  On his most recent visit the three of us were in the car when we crossed over one of Connecticut’s major rivers,  the Housatonic.

“Isn’t that the Titanic?” Gibson queried.

Sen͂or Gibson.

El Doctor Gibson.

We almost drove off the road laughing.   Here are three of his best gems from years gone by.

Scene #1:  A warm summer’s day.  Gibson comes in from the yard and proudly states, “I killed all of the Wops under the deck.”

We are presently paying the Irish mafia to protect him from the Italian mafia

Scene #2:  A balmy summer’s eve.  We are eating dinner out on the now Wop-free deck.  Gibson licks his lips as he devours the barbecue chicken I have just finished grilling and proclaims, “Mark is a good cock!”

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! Gibson!!  That’s not a complement.  Well at least, not coming from you.

Scene #3: A typical day at my wife’s office.  Or rather, a typical Gibson visit day.   But as he and Cheryl are working up a case, the groomer is having a hard time in the next room with a rather hissy cat.

“Bad pussy! Bad pussy.”  The groomer scolds the feline.   Cheryl and Gibson hear this and Cheryl ignores it.  But Gibson immediately goes next door, picks up the cat, and begins examining its genitals.

“What are you doing?” Cheryl asks.

“Well,” Gibson says quite seriously, “Donna said it has a bad pussy!”

It’s OK.  We still love Gibson.  We love him the way Lucy loved Desi, bad English and all.

Signature@MarkSackler

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Cosmic Quote(s) #20

“The hardest thing to understand in the world is the income tax.”–Albert Einstein

“The income tax has made more liars out of Americans than golf”–Will Rogers

“Be wary of strong drink.  It can make you shoot at tax collectors…and miss.”–Robert Heinlein.

Hahaha.  I can laugh now.  It’s April 16.  It’s all over….except the crying.

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Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #3: Surgery, yes. Kitchen, no.

“Anybody who finds it easy to make money on the horses is probably in the dog food business.””–Franklin P. Jones

Mark's Spitz

Mark’s Spitz

My wife is a great surgeon.  You know how I can tell?  She is the one that is always asked to carve the Thanksgiving turkey.  We figure, if she can spay a dog or cat, she should be able to cut up a bird.

The one thing she is not generally asked to do is prepare the Thanksgiving dinner,  for reasons the following story will illustrate.

We had been married for three years, and were living in our first apartment after her graduation from veterinary school. It was just the two of us and our first dog, an affectionate and lively spitz named Doodlebug.

Cheryl was actually making some semblance of effort to be a wife as well as a vet.  One afternoon on her day off she decided to make brownies.  Dinner?  She made reservations; when  I got home from work, we went out.  The cooling brownies were left on the kitchen table sharing half of a large round serving plate with some store-bought chocolate chip cookies. (Keebler, Nabisco? Whatever.)    The table was, she thought, out of the dog’s reach, so the goodies were safe, and we left.

The table was out of the dog’s reach. BUT, the chair left slightly out from the table was within reach,  so that Doodlebug could jump up on that and then reach the plateful of fun.  She did.  And she ate every single one of those mass produced cookies and did not so much as sniff my wife’s brownies.  When we got home, there was the plate:  the cookies on one side were gone, crumbs and all.   The brownies were untouched.  My wife was devastated–and I laughed so hard it’s a miracle I did not crack three ribs.   Amazing.  Our dogs will eat just about anything, including cat poop, horse poop and their own poop.   What they won’t eat is Cheryl’s brownies.  Now you know why we eat out a lot.  Bon appetit!

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Tales of a Veterinary Spouse, Episode 2: It swallowed what?

“On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”–Peter Steiner.

Dharma Sackler"I prefer horse poop."

Dharma Sackler
“I prefer horse poop.”

It was 8:30 AM on a Monday morning and my car’s FM radio was blaring the “oldies” station out of Hartford.  I was about to switch channels and look for some jazz, when the DJ’s voice blared out a challenge I simply could not resist.

“This morning, we are asking our listeners to call in and tell us what outrageous or funny things your dog has eaten or swallowed, and we’ll play back the best ones on the air.”

I never call radio stations.  Never.  Well, hardly ever.  This had to be an exception.  I am so getting on the air, I thought, I have a professional advantage.

I did, and the DJ had a field day with it.  Below are my three favorite “I can’t believe it ate the whole thing” stories. The first two were used on the air, the third one Cheryl contributed for this post.

1. Clean insides make great doggie colonoscopy prep.  The owner was panicked.  The dog ate an entire box of Brillo pads!  No kidding.  What to do?  Believe it or not, they were not toxic in the least to the mutt, and they were simply passed within a couple of days.  A freak occurrence, you say?  Well, my wife insists she has seen this at least twice.  Keep your Brillo pads safe–they are very afraid.

2 I now pronounce you dog and wife.  It was an emergency call on a Sunday evening: “My diamond engagement ring is missing,” the dog’s owner lamented, “I laid it on the table and it disappeared a few minutes later.  DoRING you think the dog could have swallowed it?”  Maybe.  My wife instructed the owner to bring the dog in Monday morning for an X-Ray.  There it was, square in the middle of its abdomen.  The extrication solution?  Choice A: megabucks for surgery.  Choice B: follow him around with a pooper scooper for the next few days.  They chose the latter and eventually got the ring back, stinky but none the worse for wear.   My daughter, ever on the uptake with this stuff, took the x-ray to school for the one of the greatest “show-and-tell” stories of all time.  Oh, and by the way, the dog was a schipperke, just like our little imp in the first image above.  Unfortunately, with ours, the horse poop caption is quite literally true.

3. This too shall not pass. The obvious  question, then, for Dr. Sackler, would be to identify the most outrageous thing a dog swallowed that could not pass.  What has she removed surgically that was almost beyond belief?

Answer: An entire rhododendron bush. Well, all the leaves and small stems, anyway.  It seems dogs can stomach Brillo Pads and diamond rings, but rhododendron is quite toxic.  I can’t imagine what that stuff looked like coming out of the dog’s gut.  Check that, I mean I won’t imagine.

Anybody out there have any good stories along these lines?  While I wait for responses, I’ll work on my next actual Millennium Conjecture.  Like that diamond ring, it seems to be lodged in my gut and will likely stay there until I can figure out how to pass it.

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New Feature: Tales of a Veterinary Spouse

“The best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter-he’s got to just know.”–Will Rogers

Episode One: You called me for what??

You may laugh, but this is literally true.  I finally became inured, but she ruined my appetite many times.

You may laugh, but this is literally true.  She has ruined my appetite many times.  Image credit unknown.

I don’t know if a veterinarian is the best doctor in the world, but I do know this:  to survive thirty years of marriage to one, I may be the most patient spouse in the world.  The early years were the worst.  Why?  In two words: on call.  Thanks to a proliferation of 24-hour veterinary emergency clinics, she no longer gets those middle of the night wake-up calls.   But here are just two of the many gems she dealt with through the years.

Phone conversation Sunday afternoon late summer day

Panicked client: “Help! My dog can’t get up!”

Dr. Sackler:  “What’s happening.”

Panicked client: “My dog can’t get up.”

An effective restraint device?

An effective restraint device?

Dr. Sackler: “Well can you describe the situation?”

Panicked client: “I see my dog outside struggling to get up and he can’t get up.”

Dr. Sackler: “Well stay calm and go out there and take a closer look.”

The dog’s collar ID tag was caught in a slot between planks on the wood deck.

Phone conversation at 1 AM, Monday Morning

Ditzy client: “Dr. Sackler, I swallowed my dog’s heart worm pill, what should I do?”

Dr. Sackler: “Mrs. So-and-so, I can’t help you.  If your dog had swallowed your birth control pill, that I could help you with. But I can’t advise you on a human accidental dosing, you have to call your medical doctor.”

Ditzy client: “OH, It’s the middle of the night, I can’t bother my doctor!”

Dr. Sackler: “What am I, chopped liver?”  CLICK!!

The second story was so ridiculous, my daughter, who was in 9th grade at the time, wrote it up and submitted it to Readers Digest for their On The Job column.  They published it–sans the closing chopped liver line– and paid her $300.  Oh, and it also turned up a couple of years later on a page-a-day calendar created from that column.  Those were fifteen minutes of  fame my wife could have lived without.

That’s enough for now, but stay tuned.  These stories are just the tip of the iceberg–they get better.

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In Memoriam: Mary Ruth “U.V.” Ray

mary ruth rayMary Ruth Ray (Aka”U.V”; Aka “Vi”) died Tuesday, January 29 at age 56 after a three year battle with cancer.  She was a world class viola player,  a founding member of the Lydian String Quartet and an artist in residence at Brandeis University for more than 3 decades.  Others knew her better and longer than me,  but she was a friend and a follower of this blog.  I refer you to her biography page on the Brandeis University web site, and obituary in the Boston Globe.   The list of recordings and Grammy nominations is particularly impressive.  One blogger described her playing as demonstrative of quiet excellence; that describes her perfectly as a human being as well.

I am not one for eulogies and she did not want any.  I will close with an expression of deepest sympathy to her family, friends and professional colleagues, and a repeat of a past memorial post from last fall that was one her favorites from this blog.  I have lost too many friends and family this year,  and now another bright light has gone out.

In Memoriam: Life, Death and Leaves

  (originally posted Sept 29,, 2012)

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”–Albert Camus

It has been a difficult week as three people I know died.  They were an 82-year-old uncle whose death had been anticipated, a 59-year-old work colleague whose demise was an unexpected shock, and most tragically, the 29-year-old son of one of my poker buddies whose death from illness had been feared for some time.

Here is an elegy to these lost souls with the only piece of poetry I ever wrote which I would deem appropriate.  It’s well over 35-years old–the sort of thing one could only write in one’s youth.

The Leaves

Words ©1976, 2012  Mark Sackler

Sit and look at the leaves,

Amber arms descending from October’s trees.

Covering delicate grasses,

sweeping the highway,

bedding the rain,

images

Solemn songs to life departed,

Sit and look at the leaves.

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