Julian Norton: Fond memories as Yorkshire vet reunites with old customer

I had an important job to do after afternoon surgery on Friday. It was a visit, but not a visit to see a poorly animal. I had received a message from a friend who worked in a care home.

They had a new resident, an old acquaintance of mine, whose dogs and guinea pigs I had looked after some years ago. Since then she had left her little bungalow; I had moved to a new practice and we had lost touch.

Julian Norton writes for The Yorkshire Post every weekend. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Julian Norton writes for The Yorkshire Post every weekend. Picture by Gary Longbottom.

Betty had, unknowingly, become famous on the internet because of her appearance in an early episode of The Yorkshire Vet, with her little dog, Billy.

Billy, a laconic shih tzu, was a regular visitor to the surgery as a consequence of his tendency to eat the meals-on-wheels, which arrived at Betty’s house every day.

Tasty as these prepared meals were, they did not suit the little dog’s bowels so well. The result was intermittent diarrhoea, which would often get stuck to Billy’s fur, necessitating cleaning and clipping by me.

It was a messy job, but one which I didn’t mind, because it would give instant relief to Billy. Betty was always pleased with the problem solved. She was an amusing lady and was always glad of some human conversation, rather than the usual company of her dogs.

Billy, a laconic shih tzu, one of Julian Norton's previous patients.

Billy, a laconic shih tzu, one of Julian Norton's previous patients.

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On that famous day, I’d seen Betty’s name and Billy’s name on the appointment list, followed by the words ‘growth on chest’. I knew she would be worried.

When I lifted Billy onto the table, the lump was easy to find. It was quite big – an inch or so long and maybe half an inch across.

“So, this lump Betty. How long do you think it’s been here?” I asked.

“I’ve only just noticed it,” she replied. This was concerning. For a lump of this size only to have been detected recently, it must have grown very quickly.

Slow growing masses are usually identified at a much smaller stage. The lump was also very attached to the skin and was covered in matted hair, suggesting it was discharging and therefore ulcerated or cystic. The matted hair made it very hard to inspect in detail so I started cautiously trimming hair away from the structure, to allow a more detailed examination.

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As I snipped away, it started to dawn on me that this might not be a cancerous growth at all. Suddenly, a minty smell started to emanate from the mass and my fingers became sticky. The mass on Billy’s chest was actually a boiled sweet! It had glued itself to his fur and, presumably, the more he tried to lick it off, the stickier it became. I related the good news to Betty. “It’s a sweet, Mrs Taylor. It’s just a sweet. I’d have felt a complete idiot if I’d anaesthetised little Billy, only to surgically remove a sweet!”

The relief was tangible on Betty’s face. “It’s a sweetie! Poor Billy! How did that get there I wonder? And I thought it would need an operation! It’s just a sweetie, stuck under his tummy!” We both fell around laughing, in relief and amusement!

The outcome was fortunate for everyone concerned, especially camera operator, Laura, who had been filming the whole, hilarious incident. The editors and post production team would be just as delighted with the outcome. Not only did we enjoy the moment, but so did over three million others!

Needless to say, Betty was surprised to see me when I arrived late this Friday afternoon at the old people’s home where she now lived. I was glad to see her, too. We chatted, reminiscing over her little dogs and especially Billy and the sweetie.

The new series of The Yorkshire Vet continues on Tuesday at 8pm on Channel 5.