My first year out of veterinary school I went to work in a small animal veterinary clinic in Gresham, Oregon. I had spent all but the first 5 years of my life living in Oklahoma. When I graduated from veterinary school, I decided that I wanted this new phase of my life to be completely new; new job and new location. There was a whole country out there and I wanted to experience more of it than just Oklahoma. Don't get me wrong, I loved growing up in Oklahoma and I will be an Oklahoma State University Cowboy for life; but it was time for something new. I decided that I wanted to go someplace where there were mountains, trees, and lots of green. So, I applied for jobs in Washington and Oregon and ended up at a practice in Gresham.
One day, I had a mother and her three small children bring in their 6-month old German Shepherd puppy for me to examine. I could tell that all four of them were very concerned by the anxious looks on their faces. The puppy was sitting on the exam table looking happy and full of energy. I asked the mother, "What's going on with your pup?"
"He has a tumor on his face. It has doubled in size in the last two days. Is he going to die?" she replied looking like she was about to burst into tears.
I glanced at the children and two of them were crying. I said, "Well, let's just take a look and see what's going on." I was thinking, What kind of tumor could a 6-month old puppy have?
"The tumor is right there on his cheek. Right above his lip," the mother said.
I looked at the puppy's face and saw an engorged female dog tick attached to the puppies face. I almost burst out laughing. I thought, Okay, now what do I say, so she won't feel like an idiot for scaring her children to death?
"Well, the good news is; it isn't a tumor," I said.
"It isn't?" responded the mom in relief. "Then, what is it?" she asked.
"It's a tick," I answered.
"How do you know?" she asked in complete seriousness.
Now, I really almost lost it. How did she not know? I wanted to ask. But instead, I pulled the tick off the puppy and said, "Well, see those things wiggling? Those are its legs." I was concentrating so hard on not cracking up, that my face was starting to hurt.
"Oh, she said. Now I feel stupid, but at least he is going to be okay," she said giving her puppy a hug.
The kids all gathered around wanting to get a look at this strange creature that I had pulled off their puppy. Remember, I grew up in Oklahoma; land of the ticks. I was completely amazed that they had never seen one before. I found out later, that ticks were very uncommon in that part of Oregon. However, for some reason they were more prominent that summer. I actually had several "tumor" patients that summer. Not very professional of me, but I got a chuckle out of every one of them!