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.



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!


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.


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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