Spinning Tales

Wagging My Tales began simply enough.

Dr. Doug Carlson (’71) began writing down stories from his childhood of growing up in rural Iowa. He wanted his grandchildren to know what it was like living on a pig farm.

After his daughter bought Carlson’s Illinois veterinary practice from him, she asked for some other stories from his veterinarian days to put on the clinic’s website.

“She wanted some interesting stories about some of my unusual patients over the past 42 years,” said Carlson, who now lives in Spring, Texas. “I have always enjoyed telling stories but since I have had Parkinson’s for 18 years, my voice has become weak.

“Writing stories makes up for that problem.”

The result is Wagging My Tales, a series of short stories from Carlson’s childhood and veterinary career. The book is available on Amazon and other on-line outlets.

Most of the book looks at some of the more unusual patients Carlson encountered at the Village Animal Clinic in Carol Stream Illinois. He started the clinic in 1979 after working at a nearby clinic in Wheaton with Dr. Russ Chapin (’61).

“Dr. Chapin was a great mentor and gave me a lot of skills and confidence to be a quality veterinarian,” Carlson said.

One thing Chapin may not have fully prepared Carlson for was the unusual patients that he writes about in Wagging My Tales. The “tales” include:

  • The show went on after Carlson operated on a pet rat, who still made it on time when the curtain rose on a high school production “Jane” the rat was in.
  • He was surprised when he was prepared to do a spay on Penny the cat. Turns out Carlson had to perform a neuter on the cat instead.
  • Butkus, a “typical junkyard dog,” who’s “job” was to protect his owner’s car repair shop after hours. Over the years Carlson saw Butkus for a number of ailments but never once did this junkyard dog bite his veterinarian friend.

Butkus may not have bitten Carlson or any of his staff. The same can’t be said about the author’s favorite story in Wagging My Tales about a dwarf hamster with a broken leg. “Midgie was perhaps the smallest patient that was presented to me,” Carlson said. “One night the nine-year-old girl who owned her woke up at 3 in the morning and noticed her hamster’s leg was caught in the cage bars.”

After an emergency veterinarian recommended amputation, the girl tearfully requested that Midgie be taken to Carlson the next morning. Despite Carlson’s diagnosis that the leg couldn’t be saved, the little girl cried and cried.

“Finally, I saw the desperate look in her mother’s eyes,” Carlson said. “I knew the nerves to the leg were severed and as the hamster wasn’t in any pain, I suggested we tape the leg and recheck Midgie in a week.”

Carlson and his technician carefully worked on Midgie, who was constantly trying to bite the pair. It was with a sigh of relief that the leg was finally taped and they could take the hamster back to the owners.

“We brought the hamster into the exam room where the family was anxiously waiting for their precious pet,” Carlson recalled. “As we walked into the room, the hamster finally managed to bite the tech. She reacted by flinging her arms up in the air and the hamster flew across the room.”

The stress of the situation finally overflowed in Carlson. He started laughing and immediately apologized. He needed not to have bothered.

“Oh, that hamster bites us all time,” the family told Carlson.

A week later Midgie returned to Carlson, who upon further examination still had to amputate the leg. Midgie did well on three legs afterwards, but continued to bite his owner whenever he could.

“I never did develop a great love for treating hamsters,” Carlson writes.

May 2022