[Disclaimer: Some names in this story have been changed to protect the innocent. Some details have been made up entirely for entertainment. That said, the ending is entirely true.]
The sound of her name as spoken by Pepe Le Pew or a high school French student would conjure up images of sipping tea, nibbling croissants and watching the sun rise over the River Seine in Paris.
The sound of her voice at 8:00AM conjures images of a family feud between Duck Dynasty and Swamp People, and requires Claire to bump her chest in order to keep the Kwik Trip ham-egg-cheese breakfast bagel on the South side of her esophagus.
Let the record show that the over-fed Boston Terriers of America have never known a better friend. The doctors and technicians at Lake Mills Veterinary Clinic have seldom been more entertained than when Dawn G’s Entourage rolls into town.
November through March in Wisconsin can take a toll on your soul. Spring is the rebirth that we all live for. For some, it is the organic smell of fresh-plowed ground or rounding the north end of Rock Lake to the motion of waves; the first day of ice-out. For doctors and staff at the Lake Mills Veterinary Clinic, spring is signaled by a fleet of Toyota pickup trucks labeled “Fontane Paving” with decals down the side and No’th Ca’olina license plates on the bumper.
Dawn and her husband Burt run a blacktop business. In winter they retreat to their native North Carolina. At the first sight of green grass in the Badger State they descend upon Wisconsin, spreading fliers and knocking on doors.
“Brachycephalic Breed Syndrome” is a group of conditions used to describe dogs with elongated soft palates, stenotic nares, everted laryngeal sacules and a poorly formed trachea. These are the dogs that look like their brakes failed at full speed en route to a brick wall. An eight-week-old, 5-pound Bulldog pup scrambling for treats on the exam room floor sounds like a pen of feeder pigs fighting over a bag of day old donuts. What they lack in longevity and athleticism, however, they compensate doubly in charm. Boxers, Boston Terriers and Pugs are universally engaging. With Dawn on the other end of the leash, they’re a comedy team on par with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Adjusted for demographics: more like Jeff Dunham and Walter.
We generally see the Boxers, Bella and Tyson, for vaccines and spring blood testing. Bones and Betsy, the Boston Terriers, require frequent pedicures, and a lot of smoke-breaks. Not for the dogs, of course; Dawn’s aversion to needles and discomfort on the part of her dogs is coincident and in direct proportion to her need for nicotine. Grab a swab or a syringe, and Dawn will put the back of her hand on her forehead and close her eyes. Before actually fainting, she’ll reach for her bedazzled I-phone, a pack of Marlboro’s and a flame-throwing Bic and make tracks for the porch.
Her 5-year-old Pugs, Buster and Lilly, are littermates. Buster was born with a condition called “dry eye”. We call it keratoconjunctivitis sicca. It sounds more medical, is nearly as fun to say as “phenylpropanolamine”, and totally befuddles spell-check.
Miss Lilly is as charming as her name but her ears are as narrow as her trachea.
Whether you are a veterinarian, auto technician or a plumber, if you’ve got a lick of integrity you look to assess, diagnose, and cure. See the problem, fix the problem. Miss Lilly’s ears simply defied our mantra.
In the process of learning how to most efficiently and least-invasively manage Lilly’s ears, we damn near killed Dawn.
We had treated Lilly 14 days prior. If the outcome is in doubt, or the condition chronic, the best medicine is to follow up with our patients. When a tough case is turning our way we’ve been known to hug, high-five or fist bump a client. If poorly, we gnash our teeth, stick a swab in something and retreat to the office to look up plan “B”.
As Miss Lilly approached, I observed without saying a word. (Mittsy and Megan have learned to compensate for Dr. Stork in thought.) She had no more head tilt and never stopped to shake her head. The smell of freshly-baked bread that signaled the yeast infection two weeks ago was absent. A cotton-tipped swab returned from the bottom of her vertical canal came back spotless, and on deep otoscopic exam there was not a lesion to be found.
When I looked to Dawn to report the good news I thought she would expire right on the floor.
“Thank Gawd, Dr. Stork, I ain't had a night’s sleep in two weeks,” she stammered.
In 23 years of practice, I’ve seen the depth of a person’s love for their animals demonstrated on a daily basis. Lilly’s ear infection was real, but at no time did we fear that she wouldn’t come through it alive.
I must have seemed a bit puzzled.
Dawn’s look was that of disgust. "Dr. Stork, your label clearly read: 'APPLY 6 DROPS TO EACH EAR, EVERY 12 HOURS, UNTIL OTHERWISE DIRECTED'".
Her initial appointment was at 3:15PM, when we had applied the first dose of medication for her.