We were at a wedding a couple of weeks ago. A & E are a lovely couple and I wish them both the very best.
At the reception Andrew and I were seated with a number of other friends of the bride. Various geeks, techies, and other members of the literary nerd/gamer guild with whom I have hung for a number of years. And another woman, S, who was known to a number of the other people at the table, but whom I had never met before. We were seated next to each other and, as one does, over the course of the meal we started talking about what we do for a living.
A brief side note: If you’re ever talking with a veterinarian in anything more than an extremely casual dining experience, and especially if you don’t have a particularly strong stomach, I’d recommend you not say something like “So how do you like your job?” or “Wow, I bet that’s fun!”.
Because you tend to run across three different types of veterinarians. Those who are fresh in the field have all sorts of enthusiastic, but weird, things to say about their jobs. Those of us who have been in the profession for any length of time are cynical about humanity and have enough experience in the field to say all sorts of weird and hair raising things about our jobs. There’s a glitch in the social filter of those of us in the first two groups that keeps us from being able to easily identify situations in which some of our more interesting tales would be inappropriate. It’s just something about the nature of those of us that end up in the field.
Then there’s the third group. This group is those who have enough experience in the field to recognize a potential viper pit when they see it and have enough acting ability to be able to pull off “I’m a proctologist” or “I work for the IRS” on the fly. You’ll never know that the veterinarians in the third group are actually veterinarians, but you will be silently loathed if you happen to be a proctologist, a mortician, an IRS agent, or any of the other unappealing and potentially dull professionals that the good actors amongst us choose as their cover identities and choose to start talking about your job.
God help you if you have a sensitive stomach and you ever end up eating with a group of veterinarians.
Anyway, I was seated next to S, this essential stranger, at a rather formal wedding reception. I don’t have the moxie to be able to come up with a good cover identity and the rest of the table knew that I am a veterinarian anyway, so when she asked I told her what I did.
And I got the standard “Wow, that’s interesting/I bet that’s fun” sort of response.
Because my social filter is a tiny bit more evolved than some of my colleagues’ and I could recognize that a somewhat formal wedding reception in a hall filled with friends and family members was probably not the best place to get too weird, I prevaricated a little bit. But, as I mentioned above, I was seated at a table with a bunch of people who have known me for years and somehow the story of the woman with the gay cat came up. Which of course made S do a virtual spit take and ask “the woman with the GAY cat?!”
Neither the place nor the time was right to expand so I promised I’d expand here in hopes that she actually makes her way here to find the story.
So here goes.
Please note that when I told this to my mother she laughed so hard she had to sit down right where she was standing. You may want to take a seat.
It would have been the summer of 2001. My colleague L was a new graduate from the vet school at the University of Illinois and had done as I had — high school, undergrad, grad school. Got her degree just past her 22nd birthday then was thrown into the world of the general public which is a weird, WEIRD place to be at 22 if you haven’t done anything but go to school your whole life.
I was “in the back” that day. I had surgical procedures that had been done and then my responsibilities lay with the hospitalized patients. Which meant that I didn’t have to see appointments that day. I was sitting at the doctors’ desk in the treatment area with L when her technician, M, came back to tell her that there was a patient ready for her. The patient was a week old orphaned pit bull puppy that was coming in for a basic health check. M gave L the run down on the pup, the reason he was orphaned, how the owners had been caring for the pup, etc. When L asked what they’d been feeding the pup M told her “Her sister has a baby. She’s been breast feeding the puppy.”
When M told L that the sister’s owner had been breast feeding the puppy L, and there is no better way to put this, Lost. Her. Shit. (And L, if you’re reading this, there’s no use in denying it. I have a witness after all.)
Stamping up and down in the hallway, bright red, waving her arms and ranting about how gross that was and how did they EVER get such an idea and so on and so on and so on.
This was quite possibly one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life.
M and I had only just stopped laughing when L, finished with the appointment, came stamping back, gave M one of the stinkiest of stink eyes I’ve ever seen and said “You could have told me they were from KENTUCKY!” which set us both off again.
Another brief side note: The puppy’s owner had talked her sister into breast feeding the puppy because they knew that “you can’t feed puppies cow’s milk”. Which, of course, begs the question “and so you can feed them human milk because….?”. And no, the sister wasn’t pumping and bottle feeding the puppy, the puppy was latching on after the sister’s kid had finished eating.
Also, I’d like to add that it was actually a fairly decent solution to a fairly common problem. Most orphaned puppies are hypothermic, dehydrated, malnourished or some combination of all three. This was a turgid puppy. It was like a water weenie with legs. Fat, warm, pink, and very, VERY vocal.
Regardless L did send them home with some puppy milk replacer and a feeding bottle. I think we all lost track of that puppy after that.
Fast forward a week. L was in the surgery suite spaying a German Shepherd. Because of the dog’s size and shape this is a challenging procedure regardless of how much experience one has as a surgeon so in between my appointments I was sticking close and making sure that L was doing okay.
L was doing great. I was sitting at the desk writing charts when my technician, J, came to tell me about my next appointment.
J told me that the cat was here because he was having problems with his ears. She gave me the run down on how long, what the symptoms were etc. And then she said “And I think you ought to know, she says that the cat is gay.” (record scratch)
J went on to say that she had been getting ready to take the cat’s temperature when the woman said to her “He’s gay you know.” “Not gay as in cheerful, but” (she looked around the room and put her hands over the cat’s ears, hissing) “he’s of the gay persuasion“.
“Not with other cats. Oh no. He loves birds. LOVES them….. And he’s got a squirrel friend.”
At which point J, the duplicitous bitch, put the thermometer down and said “I’ll go get the doctor for you.”
I’d had a trying week already, although I can’t remember what sort of trying it had been. J told me this, doing an impression of the owner that should have won an Oscar, and I just sat there gobsmacked. I listened to the whole thing, then put my pen down, got up from the desk and said “Oh no. That’s it. End of the road this week, I’m out of here!”
And L, from the surgery suite, hollered “Oh no! NO, NO! If *I* had to deal with the woman breast feeding the puppy *YOU* have to deal with the woman with the gay cat!”
Which left M and J both laughing their asses off.
In the heat of the moment it didn’t occur to me to wonder, but over the years I’ve come up with questions about the gay cat to which I’m not sure I want the answers.
What, and I mean WHAT, was this completely indoor castrated male cat doing *in the house* that made the owner think that he was sexually aroused by birds and squirrels?
If we assume that the cat knew he was gay (I mean, he’d have to know he was gay or he wouldn’t be doing whatever it was that let the owner know that he was gay, right?) why did the owner feel it necessary to put her hands over the cat’s ears when she told J that the cat was gay? I mean, the cat knew he was gay, he was behaving in a gay fashion (or at least what the owner interpreted as a gay fashion) so he must have known that *she* knew he was gay. Who was she protecting by covering the cat’s ears when she told J that the cat was gay?
And finally, why is it that no one tells wannabe veterinarians that people are frickin’ insane and if you enter the profession you’ll be dedicating your career to dealing with the loonies a lot more often than their pets?!
The story makes me giggle even still. Maybe the next time I’ll tell you about the woman who wanted her bitch’s ears cropped so when the bitch had puppies they’d all come out with cropped ears.