After thirteen years we were sad to lose our Dr. Clark to the allure of love in the Buckeye State. She gave notice on January 8th, at which time her departure date was to-be-determined. By the time snow receded to green grass, we had only received applications from three fine new graduates… and an airplane mechanic from Kansas City. (Whom I offered to fly in for an interview stipulating that he bring five pounds of Arthur Bryant’s ribs.)
I was starting to fidget like a congressman in a confessional.
The morning of Wednesday April 18th, I was absently flipping through offers from Orbitz, Ticketmaster, and The Barrymore Theater, when my index finger paused a centimeter above the delete key.
As an affirmation of faith and proof that things can be both good and true, came an email:
Hello, my name is Beth Wilder. I am a 2010 graduate of the University of Wisconsin Veterinary School. I have special interests and extensive experience in soft tissue surgery, dentistry, pain management, and client communication.
We interviewed her at eight the next morning, and made an offer over lunch. A month into her tenure, I would add another asset to her skillset: she is a really good B.S.er.
Exhibit A: Ingrid and Dave adopted Colby as a geriatric. In the years they’ve had him, he’s progressed through the laundry list of obligatory ailments that will befall an eighty pound “Bully Dog.” His back legs continue to atrophy, in the face of non-steroidal inflammatory drugs, glucosamine, turmeric, fish oil, and a mile stroll down Stoney Brook Rd. He struggles with smooth floors, and developed urinary incontinence a year ago. That, we can medicate. Last Friday at 2:00PM the notation read, “Colby Nelson, dropping stool throughout the house, one-week duration.” That, not so much.
Sheila fed Colby three pounds of freeze-dried goodness as I collected the history. I wrung my brow, parked my pen, knelt to pet his bowling-ball noggin, and commenced my physical exam. His conscious proprioception was better than I expected. I found no abdominal masses on palpation or pelvic exam. The Nelsons have been clients since they were in high school, there was no need for the Arlin Rodgers swab and scope ruse.
“Dave, give me a minute, I’m gonna go make sure there’s nothing new for treating fecal incontinence.”
I dispatched Sheila to ask Dr. Wilder, who was extracting molars from Molly Detman in surgery.
The 2018 version of looking it up or calling someone on the phone is the Veterinary Information Network, a massive database that is staffed by board certified specialists. All of whom have more initials after their name than I have in my name, teach at universities, and moonlight on VIN for beer money.
Dave was texting Ingrid when I returned with a scratch pad and drug doses for dexamethasone and loperamide. The disclaimer sounded like the latest E.D. drug commercial on Fox morning news.
“Well, Dave, here’s what I found. The side-effects are increased water consumption, appetite, and mental agitation. Patients on these drugs should not be allowed to operate heavy equipment and should refrain from consuming alcohol. Response to treatment will vary.”
I stepped into the pharmacy, wrestling the squeaky pocket door shut behind me. About that time, Sheila returned from surgery. She wore a smirk in her smile and a question on her brow, “Beth asked if we had tickled his penis.”
Being the old-guy on staff, I’m anxious to learn. She went on, “If his rectum winks while you massage his business, the defect is not lower motor neuron in origin.”
I’m also obligated to not act surprised when I’m hearing something for the first time in twenty-six years.
Anatomically and intuitively, it made sense. Several thoughts flashed...
-Sheila has artificial knees, so we have to budget her time on the floor. How do I get her to orchestrate this diagnostic?
-Exactly where, how, and for how long does one massage this old dog before we call the test positive or negative?
-If you’ve spent any time watching, rectums have a tendency to spasm, especially when the front end sees a cabinet door open and a technician reach for a thermometer, and tells the back end a violation is imminent.
-Is a wink as good as a pucker?
-Thank God the client is Dave.
-Thank God the patient is Colby.
More than anything I wondered, “Is this woman yankin’ my chain?”
More small favors. As Sheila entered prescriptions Dave was still buried in his I-phone. Colby was positioned under the table with his tail erect. I could execute Dr. Wilder’s penile-rectal-axis neuro exam in stealth mode.
The outcome of the test was more academic. It did not actually affect treatment, so we ordered drugs, advised they keep Colby on flooring that’s easy to clean, and promised to call the minute the delivery truck pulled into the parking lot.
I went back to VIN. Not a word. I clinched my jaw and broadened my search to Google, fully expecting that searching “tickling penis and winking rectum” could land me on some porn site that would infect our system with a fatal virus.
Still not willing to expose my ignorance or that I’d been potentially been duped, I consulted the authorities by way of group text.
Dr. Gregg’s response would not amuse the editorial staff at The Daily Union, but he’d never heard of such a thing.
Dr. Ruth Clark felt, “I think this is more of a beer discussion.”
The closest I came was my classmate Dr. Rand Gustafson, “Yeah, Willie, I got one neuron firing that remembers something to that effect.” (Recall the central tenets of B.S., “One is more likely to B.S. when asked an opinion on something they have no knowledge of.”)
I walked back to surgery still not willing to own ignorance or gullibility. With my best poker face, I asked Dr. Wilder the particulars of this highly-sophisticated diagnostic with the intention of searching for a response in her face. I looked to the corner of her mouth for a twitch, and her temple for a crease, both of which were hidden behind a surgery mask and safety goggles.
Colby will have been on meds for three days when we make the callback on Monday. We’re hoping for improvement.
Meanwhile, I have no clue whether I fell asleep in a lecture, missed a Journal article, or have been B.S.ed by a 30-something veterinarian who looks like the high school cheerleader at the top of the pyramid.
(Dr. Wilder and Mrs. Biscuits - neither is confirming, nor denying, this story.)