I knew the owners and their dog, and was fully aware of the extra time that the consultation might take, mainly because of the chatting rather than the treatment of my patient. But the day was looking busy, so I decided to put it back to a single slot so we could fit in another appointment.
“Oh, hello, Julian,” exclaimed Mrs Taylor, as she reached out for the customary hug (“I always like to give my vet a hug,” she had said, the first time we met. I must have looked a bit surprised).
“It’s lovely to see you again!”
“How’s Elsie getting on today?” I asked, “Is it the usual?”
“Oh yes,” reported Mrs Taylor, “she’s doing fine. Ears all good and her eyes are back to normal too, thank you.”
Digressing slightly, from the clinical matter of Elsie, Mrs Taylor’s husband, Derek, asked me a question: “That young man Ross, your cameraman. He must be a good golfer, is he? I’ve just met him in the waiting room. We’ve arranged to go for a round next week. He tried to have a bet with me, about who would win, so I think he must be good. He’s Scottish too, so I bet he is. I’ll let you know the result next week.”
I had to admit that, though I had got to know cameraman Ross very well over the last six months, I’d never heard him talk about playing golf. I was not quite so sure he was as good as Derek suspected.
After a bit more discussion, we moved on to Elsie. She was a typical bulldog, just like the one in the insurance company advert. I’d come to know her well – she came in for a check-up every month and Elsie and her owners had struck a chord with me. Her nails grew in strange directions and needed clipping frequently, so it was often a quick and easy job.
Once the simple veterinary tasks had been completed, we had plenty of time (even within the constraints of a ten-minute consultation), to discuss all manner of other issues – both canine, veterinary and otherwise. This month’s topic of conversation, apart from the forthcoming golf event, was more unusual than most.
“A very funny thing happened to Elsie last week,” began Mrs Taylor.
“You will laugh, because we did. It was so funny. It was Derek’s birthday and our friend, the lady who cleans for us, made him a cake. It was a lovely cake – it tasted lovely, didn’t it Derek – and it was in the shape of a hedgehog! This took us by surprise, because Derek isn’t so young and we thought cakes in the shape of animals were mainly aimed at children, but anyway that was what she made.”
I nodded, slightly surprised by the idea of a wild animal-shaped cake for a man, surely in his sixties.
“But the funny thing was,” continued Mrs Taylor, “Elsie started growling and making such a fuss. She thought it was a real hedgehog and tried to attack it! We couldn’t believe our eyes. The poor dog was very traumatised and quite upset. I had to lift the cake on to the side and cover it up with a cloth. Derek had to take Elsie for a walk to calm her down.”
I looked down at stocky, if not to say rotund Elsie, standing by the door of the consulting room waiting to go home. It was hard to imagine that anything, let alone a cake in the shape of a hedgehog, would cause her any alarm at all.
Julian Norton’s new book, The Diary of a Yorkshire Vet, is available via www. ypbookoffer.co.uk or call 01274 735056. £11.99 each.