Tales of a Veterinary Spouse, #10: What the Cat (and Dogs) Dragged In.

“The trouble with a kitten is that it eventually becomes a cat.”–Ogden Nash

Pet doors are a wonderful thing.  They allow your pets the joy of repeatedly going in and out without having to constantly bug you to accommodate them.

Pet doors are an awful thing.  They allow all manner of unwanted vermin to come in (mostly) and out along with your pets.  Or in many cases, to be dragged in by your pets.  Here are some examples.

Awful thing example #1: While you expect cats and dogs to freely use the pet door, you don’t really think a pet chicken would use the pet door.   Think again.  We had one that did, and it not only came in the house quite unexpectedly, but it joined Cheryl in the shower.  That’s a horror story even Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t have imagined.  Eat your heart out, Norman Bates.

Awful thing example #2: While our cats have frequently brought dead mice or chipmunks into the house and disemboweled them in the dining room (ick!), that is not the worst of it.  They bring live ones in and let them go.  The most notable example?  We had a living room full of guests for a tea for a local political candidate.  Just as the proceedings were about to begin, our cat, Velcro, dropped a live mouse by the side of a rather full couch.  The critter ran across the feet of about three people and hid under the coffee table as everyone scattered.  Cheryl caught it as the cat looked on with amusement.  The dogs were worthless.

Awful thing example #3:  While we are on the subject of the cat sitting back and watching in amusement as we and the dogs chased a live rodent, I present you with the case of the chipmunk in the laundry room.  Did you ever watch one of those Donald Duck cartoons where he tries to catch Chip and Dale?  Where he winds up destroying his house, his R.V., his camp site, or whatever?  It felt like we were in a Donald Duck cartoon.  The chipmunk was behind the washing machine.  The dogs went nuts;  but the chip was gone by the time we pulled the washing machine out from the wall.  By then, the chip was behind a pile of laundry.  Then it was in the pile of laundry.  Then it was behind the drier. Then it was under the washing machine.  The dogs were always one hiding place behind it.  Cheryl finally caught the thing–I swear she must have been a cat in a previous lifetime.   And our laundry room?  It looked like Donald Duck’s living room after a few minutes of chasing Chip and Dale.

Awful thing example #4:  This one takes the cake.  Cheryl and I were sitting in our home office late one evening, clicking away at our computers.  Why, it was the very room I am sitting in as I write this tale.   I glanced in back of me.  Our three dogs were all lying there contented to be in the same room with us.  And sitting right in the middle of them was what I, for a split second, took to be a rather large stuffed animal doggy toy.  For a split second.  But it wasn’t a toy. Good grief, it was a live possum, apparently playing possum!  We have no idea how it could have gotten in there without the dogs going nuts.  We can only guess that the one dog large enough to drag it in, must have done so.  Cheryl picked it up by the tail, dropped it outside the front door, and it sprung to life and dashed off.

Which finally brings us to Awful thing example #5: There is a rodent in this office, right now, as I write this post.  I saw it dash off the top of my desk and hide behind the file cabinet just as I walked in.  The fleeting glance I got of it was too brief to tell if it was a mouse or a chipmunk. But it has eluded me.  Don’t worry though, Cheryl will be home from the clinic with the dogs (they go to work with her every day.)  The dogs will, of course be useless, and the cat will sit back and watch in amusement as  Cheryl, as always, catches the thing.

Oh, and this one didn’t happen to us,  but Awful thing example#6, below, illustrates the further dangers of pet doors in the wild.  Stay safe, my friends.


Be sure to check out my new (second) blog, Seeking Delphi.




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.


Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #7: Stories from Vet School (first installment)

“I wanted to be a veterinarian until I saw a video of a vet performing surgery on a dog.  Then I wanted to be a pianist.”–Amy Lee

dvmWhen Cheryl went to veterinary school back in the late 1970’s, it was three times harder to get into veterinary school than it was to get into Medical school.  She often jokingly referred to Yale Medical School as her second choice if she did not get into Vet School.  She thought that getting accepted into veterinary school was just about the hardest thing she ever did in her life.

Then she had to get through it.  It turns out that was far tougher on her, at least emotionally, then getting in ever was.  But have no fear, it certainly had its light moments–some of which we laughed at then, others which we can laugh at now.  In the latter category was something they told her in the very first week of school.

“DVM stands for Doctor Vithout Money.”  She was told.

Now I know what you are thinking.  Wow, you couldn’t tell that from my vet bills.  But do the math.  Starting vet salaries in the early 80’s were only about $18-22K.  Today, they run around $60K, but young vets come out with school loan debt load comparable to mortgage payments.  I guess we can laugh about it now, younger vets though, not so much.

Here’s one that was hysterically funny then…maybe even more so than now.  But it’s a story that almost never grows old.  It is a supposedly true tale that was told by a guest lecturer during Cheryl’s first semester at Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine in the fall of 1977.

It was late 1960’s and the large ungulate population at the Bronx Zoo was becoming highly inbred;  some new blood was needed.  The only really good source available was the native habitat in Africa.  Now, these are really large animals.  Bringing Mohammad to the mountain was just not possible so the reverse approach was necessary.  One of the zoo veterinarians would have to go to Kenya to collect some semen for use in artificial insemination.   This was really nothing new, however; it was nothing that had not been done before.  One of the vets who had made this trip on many occasions was assigned the task.  He dutifully packed his bags and headed to New York’s JFK International airport for the trans-Atlantic flight. 

Yes,   it had all been done before–there was only one tiny little new glitch.   Airport security.  You see, unlike the dog story in Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #6, this was not going to be a hand job.  A special piece of expensive equipment was needed to complete this job, and that piece of equipment was carried on by our unsuspecting hero in a very heavy, thick steel case.   Confronted with the airport security scanner for carry on luggage for the first time, he thought nothing of it, and put the case on the conveyer belt to go through.  BIG MISTAKE.  The steel case proved impenetrable to the X-rays.  And he was asked to open the case, which he obediently did, revealing something that looked like this:

Something out of Spy vs. Spy?

Something out of Spy vs. Spy?

“Sir, what exactly is that?” Inquired the pre-TSA security agent.

“Why, it’s an electroejaculator for a rhinoceros, of course!”

Momentary silence.


The poor guy was pushed spread eagle against the wall,  frisked and detained until somebody from the Bronx Zoo could be contacted to verify his identity and mission.  Obviously, he missed his plane and some lucky rhino in Kenya got a one day reprieve.

The moral of this story?   Be sure to pack your electroejaculator in checked luggage.   Unless, of course, your rhino opts for a hand job.


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.


Signature    On twitter @MarkSackler


Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #5: Count the Cats!

“Dogs are my favorite people.”–Richard Dean Anderson

9c) Mark Anderson

(c) Mark Anderson

Bethany, CT is just a typical, quiet New England exurban town.  Now.  But some thirty years ago, when Cheryl started working there, it was still imbued with a certain quirky character hailing from its agrarian Yankee roots.  The vet she worked for was a lanky, laconic and formal kind of guy who actually wore a tie to work, even on the road for large animal barn calls.  If Dickens were alive in the 1980’s and living in New England,  he would have found all the persona inspiration he could ever need right there in Bethany.   This story hails from that era.

The client, Cathy X, was a groom at a local stable.  She was short, chubby, slovenly and smelled like her work.  It seems her dog, a massive Russian Wolfhound, was in distress, and she let Cheryl know about it the instant she walked in the clinic door.

Borzoi, or Russian Wolfhound

Borzoi, or Russian Wolfhound

“He’s got a twisted gut, I just know it.”

“What’s going on, Cathy?” My wife was a bit skeptical up front.

“Well…um…,” the exasperated woman could hardly get her words out, ” he’s  lethargic, not eating,  and his stomach is distended.”

Cheryl felt around and disagreed, it just didn’t feel like a torsion.  She thought it was just an upset stomach.  But the client persisted.

“Ok, Cathy, I’ll try a stomach tube and see what that yields.”

The idea here was simple, if the gut was twisted, the stomach tube would not pass.  In went the tube–all the way in.   Seek and ye shall find.   VARRROOOOM.   Almost immediately there arose a torrent of projectile vomiting.   But it was not just gunk.  It was black and white fur, followed by a completely intact trachea and set of lungs!


Momentary silence (while everyone in the office painfully held back laughter).

“Um, maybe not,” my wife protested, “these organs are way too big to be a cat.  And the smell…ugh.”

I assume by now you have figured it out.  If not, let’s just say it was a mistake worthy of Pepe Le Pew.

You now have permission to hold your nose pending my next smelly post.

Signature    @MarkSackler


%d bloggers like this: