D. E. Larsen, DVM
This was one of extra busy days in the middle of July. The appointment book was full. Most of the problems were flea problems. I always became weary of discussing the flea life cycle with folks. We were trying to put out the fire that should have been controlled last winter.
I noticed Ed sitting out in the reception area. He had a small dog on his lap. I knew Ed from my days bowling for the Elks Club team in the Thursday night men’s league. Ed was older, probably in his 70s, balding, and he wore thick glasses. He was short and stocky and somewhat rounded by the years.
“What’s up with Ed,” I asked Sandy as she was passing on a run?
“He has a flea problem with his dog, but no appointment,” Sandy said. “I told him we would try to work him in, but we were booked solid today.”
I stepped back into the exam room and started my rehearsed spiel on flea control. Flea control was difficult to impossible if folks had not been working at it all year round. When the heat of July and August hit, the fleas hatch from everywhere. They just about eat the poor dogs and cats alive.
“This is a typical case of flea allergy dermatitis,” I started. “The hair loss and the skin lesions are back here by the tail. It doesn’t take much looking to see the fleas scatter.”
I spread the hair on the dog’s back, and fleas ran in all directions. I turned her over and showed a dozen fleas on his belly.
“The flea collar doesn’t do a lot of good at this point,” I said. “His little cloud of protection is a few feet behind him as he runs around the house.”
“There are no fleas in my house, Doctor,” Mrs. Jones said flatly.
“This time of the year, fleas are everywhere. Getting them under control is difficult. It requires flea bombs in the house and flea dips on the dog. And then, the process needs to be repeated every week for several treatments. Sometimes we need to use a yard spray also.”
“I don’t have fleas in my house,” Mrs. Jones repeated. “We had to sit out in your reception area for almost 15 minutes today. That must be where all these fleas came from.”
“I can give you some medication that will help the skin, but without flea control, Chloe is going to have a bare tailhead until winter. If you would like, I can give you a referral to a veterinary dermatologist in Newberg.”
At about this time, I hear a big commotion in the reception area. I excuse myself for a moment. I get a brief respite from Mrs. Jones.
Ed is up on his feet and arguing with Sandy and Ruth.
I step out to the reception room. Ed is red-faced and clutching his little dog tight enough that his eyes are bulging a little.
“Doc, damn it, I have been sitting out here for 15 minutes, and this lady comes in, and they take her back before me. It is my turn.”
“Ed, Sandy told you we would try to work you in. We have a solid book of appointments this afternoon. That lady had an appointment. My policy is to see appointments on time if possible.”
“Damn it, Doc, I am telling you, it ain’t fair,” Ed said.
Now I was a little upset. I took a step toward Ed and pointed to the door.
“Ed, the door is right there, don’t let it hit you in the ass as you leave,” I said. “The next clinic is about 19 miles down the road.”
“No, I don’t need to do that,” Ed said, holding his hands out in defense of my approach. “I just wanted to make sure I was not being slighted by the girls. I will wait for my turn.”
Ed returned to his seat, and I returned to Mrs. Jones, probably not in the mood to discuss where Chloe’s fleas came from. I am sure everyone in the clinic had heard the altercation.
“I don’t need a referral,” Mrs. Jones said. “You can fix me up with what I need and see how it works.”
That was a lot easier than I expected, and it allowed us enough time to get Ed into an exam room.
When I finally got to Ed, we were both apologetic. We treated his little dog with fleas, along with most of the other dogs that day.
Several months later, Ed and his wife were in the clinic at a much quieter time. I had ample time for some casual conversation.
“Are you still bowling, Doc,” Ed asked?
“No, I have an old football injury to my left knee and figured I better give it up,” I said.
“I had to give it up, too,” Ed said. “My vision got so bad that I couldn’t see the pins at the end of the alley.”
“That would make it pretty difficult,” I said.
“Yes, and I don’t drive,” his wife said. “So when he is driving now, we drive the old pickup with bench seats. I sit really close to him, sort of like when we were teenagers, and I tell him what is coming down the road.”
“That sounds a little dangerous,” I said. “You guys maybe should get some help before you are in a wreck.”
“It works okay right now, Doc,” Ed said. “Our son is getting his job changed around, and he is going to move his family in with us pretty soon. Things will be better then, and I won’t be driving so much.”
“Okay, that sounds better, but you need to be careful out on that road.”
Photo by Carlos Esteves on Unsplash