VET BEHIND THE EARS "Name?" "Er...Terry. What's yours then my dear?" "No, I meant the dog." "Morris". "Breed?" "Poodle." "Pardon?" "Bull terrier." "Sex?" "Just a cup of tea, thanks". You knew I was going to say that, didn't you? So did the concrete-faced receptionist at the vet's, but where you sort of half-smiled at my boyish banter, she glared at me as though I was tramp-phlegm. Miserable cow she was, and when Morris is your prospective client a miserable cow is something you just cannot be. Above and beyond any old qualifications in animal mechanics, taking on my dog in any sort of professional capacity demands an industrial strength sense of humour. I'm hard enough to deal with in matters of Morris, Herself is damn near impossible, but truly, the git-hound himself is worth at least a TV series or two. In fact, 'Morris-Level Stress Management' should be the final module in every vet's training, with counseling available to the traumatised. We had a very posh vet once. I knew he was posh because his car park was always stuffed with Range Rovers that actually had mud on them. He was the first vet ever to cut Morris's toenails and before he did so, he asked if I minded him putting a muzzle on Morris, "because, well, um, you know Mr. Doe, these dogs are so...well...robust, aren't they?" I told him I'd yet to find it necessary to strap Morris's head inside a leather cage and that I'd rather hold his head in a firm but caring grip, but if he really felt so intimidated by Morris then I'd permit a brief muzzling. The posh vet got decidedly snotty at this point and reached into his muzzle locker for the correct bit of dog bondage. It was while the second securing strap was being cinched tight that Morris awoke from his normal operating mode of dream-state and threw back his head to dislodge the muzzle. The muzzle stayed more or less put, but the posh vet's glasses didn't, and neither did his bottom lip, which split like a freshly trodden slug under the impact of Morris's upwardly mobile skull. "Good job you put that muzzle on him really. You could've got hurt, you could've". I said, as the posh vet's lip achieved the size of an airbed - and cleverly added at least another £30 to the fee for my cheek. That being his first toenail-clip, Morris didn't behave too badly, in fact he didn't even howl, but boy did I do some fine howling when I got the bill. As I said, we had a very posh vet once. Our present model is fairly new - fairly new to life itself actually, because he only looks about twelve and Herself even questions the fact that he's a real vet. He must be a vet, though, because he gave me a lift home from the pub a while back and I noticed that his clothes are even less fashionable than mine and his car smells of cat's widdle. We've not tested him properly because we're between crises right now, although with Morris fresh catastrophes are merely a matter of time. How will he respond, I wonder, to Morris's annual 'oh look everyone - I've rammed another grass seed up my foot', ritual and all of the melodrama that accompanies it. Oh yes, that sorts the vets from the boys, that does. When Morris absorbs his yearly grass seed the result is bloody scary, at least it is to those of us who haven't seen it all before. That's the test, see. How will Vettus Neuvaux react when Morris The Total Poof hobbles into his surgery with a paw the size, shape and colour of a sun-ripened mango, and starts queening around like a pantomime dame before the vet so much as pokes him up the bum with a moistened thermometer? Don't think I'm being un-sympathetic to Morris here, please. This is the dog that draped himself across a fan heater and fried his arse without even waking up. Had Herself's bloodhound hooter not detected the stench of Morris's broiling bum, he'd have slept on until chargrilled at least. So I know he puts it on more than a bit when the grass seed performance comes along. Next time it happens, I'll watch the boy-vet's eyes for signs of trepidation as he weighs up the prospect of a pain-maddened Morris destroying the surgery and its occupants like some canine version of the Incredible Hulk. When the vet extracts that viscous little burrowing seed from the inflamed paw and Morris pretends to faint, will he reach for the resuscitation gear, or will he suss Morris's little game and revive him instantly by putting a chocolate biscuit under his nose, like the old vet used to do? We'll see when his time comes. One thing's for certain, at least. This latest vet may be young, shiny and new, but he's got a great sense of humour. I met him in the pub again the other night and seeing Morris crashed out and snoring from both ends beneath my stool, he said, "It's a good job all dogs aren't as well behaved as yours, Terry, or I wouldn't have any work to do!" I left him with his naiveté intact, for now. He'll learn soon enough, poor sod.