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10 - Friday, September 9, 2011 Fishing for supper can turn into a multi-day process



DAY ONE. Three cats greet me at the door, knives and forks at the ready. I am their visiting sitter for the next 10 days,while their family holidays. (Since I long ago forfeited a life that allows me to jaunt about on trips — unless tax deductible and subsidized by book sales-

— I’m a handy friend to have.) The cats, ranging in age from overgrown kitten to senior citizen, have mixed feelings about my ingress, but when I pet who wants petting, respect the personal space of one who prefers an apron of dignity, and pop the lid off a tin can of “Chefs’ Dinner,” everyone’s happy. I steal the vanilla bean ice cream I find in the

freezer and go home to bake a berry cobbler. DAY TWO. The click I felt in my lower back when I didn’t lift with-my-legs a box of Saskatoon berries buried in the bottom of my freezer, has become problematic. This morning I couldn’t lean far enough over the sink to spit out my toothpaste, but after visiting the nice pharmacist down the road, I’m able, if barely, to drive myself to the cats’ house,where I must now, for the sake of reach, feed them on the kitchen counter. Before leaving, I pinch two cans of tuna from the pantry, text Chefhusband to pick up ingredients for a noodle casserole, and go home to curl up with an ice pack. DAY FIVE. I hobble in toting a reusable grocery bag, as making a second stop at the supermarket on the way home remains out of the question. Rice. Check. Creamed corn. Check.

Honey dijon with last year’s date on the bottom.

Check. Hamburger Helper and Kraft Dinner. They remain

where I find them. What Chefhusband will do with any of the food items I’m pinching is a mystery, but the only other thing I can find to steal is a frozen halibut. It’s in the bottom of an antique chest freezer, beyond my impaired reach. The cats give their compliments to today’s selection

of Turkey ‘n’ Giblits, and wander off to find separate sunbeams. DAY EIGHT. I still can’t reach the halibut. The freezer’s lid is too heavy and I must stop endangering my recovery by lifting it to see if I’ve


For the tomato confit: 9 oz heirloom cherry tomatoes 1 medium-large shallot, peeled and sliced 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced extra-virgin olive oil

missed anything good. I haven’t. Today’s take is a bouquet of Mr. Freezes. Soda pop

flavours. They melt in the car on the way home. The cats yodel at the back door to be let out, but

physiotherapy awaits. Besides, I’m an indoor cat person. Asking me to let your cats out is a bit like me asking an atheist to take my kids to church. If I had children. DAY TEN. After performing my last day’s duties towards my

three charges, I lift the lid on the freezer one last time, breathe a prayer for a few more inches of grace, and finally put my sticky fingers on the fish. Tonight, as I pay for my overreach by being confined to a prison of cushions, Chefhusband prepares the halibut. The cats,when I left them, seemed glad to see me


kosher salt/fresh ground pepper 2 tsp capers 2 anchovy fillets

Add tomatoes, shallot and garlic into a small cast iron pan. Season lightly. Add olive oil until tomatoes are half covered. Place in a 325F oven for 40 minutes to cook slowly. Remove from oven. Add capers and anchovies. Set aside.

For the halibut:

4 skinless halibut fillets, 5-6oz each kosher salt/fresh ground pepper canola oil

Add 1/4-inch oil to a medium skillet, heat over high. Pat dry and season both sides of fish. Add to oil, reduce heat to medium, cook until bottom side is golden and fish is cooked 3/4 of the way up. Remove fillets to a plate, upside-down. They will “carry-over cook” the rest of the way. Serve with tomatoes and a little of the olive oil. Use or save remaining oil as a bread dip or drizzle. (Serves 4)

Various coincidences occur in the workplace One of the nicest things about my

profession is that no two days in the vet clinic are ever the same. New people, new cases, new animals, and unfamiliar problems keep turning up, as well as many of our favourite folks coming in with their four-legged buddies, or new family members of the furry persuasion. Keeping this in mind, some of the coincidences that occur are hard to explain. For example, we might find our

kennel room housing five black cats or Siamese or tortoiseshell awaiting spay and neuter surgeries, all the same day, instead of the variation in colouring that certainly seems more likely, and more normal. There’s no good explanation for that; I can’t imagine all the black cat owners plotting outside the front door before hand. Several dogs with different owners with porcupine quills in their snoots are easier to explain, because the poor porkies were coming out after a long winter of bad weather and short rations. They do like to scurry out for a bite if there’s a warm spell in January, to supplement their fat stores — not true hibernators like bears. I guess if a strange dog poked his nose at me in those circumstances I’d bristle too, but anyway the unfortunate pooches need attention to their painful faces, and hopefully will learn not to repeat their experience, some do but too many don’t. Some mornings the pets I see turn out to all be dogs, six or seven in a row. Or, on another day, perhaps it’ll be a similar number of cats on my exam table.We can possibly attribute this to an effort by the receptionists making appointments for that day, although it’s unlikely. Those busy people have many more important things to do than to try and assort things



into species groups for a specific vet on a given morning, and they’re pushed enough as it is without such a foolish sort of mission. Nevertheless, the day after a herd of dogs, there’ll be a cluster of felines the next morning for my attention. It keeps things interesting.

Less easy to explain is the coincidence

of more than one of a rare type of problem,whether it be in small animals or in cattle or horses. In the past month, I’ve had two cat patients with severe anal gland problems. The glands used so

effectively for defence by the skunk occur in all carnivores, cats as well as dogs, probably for the purpose of identification amongst the species members. This saves on fights that may damage the protagonists, thereby reducing the reproductive rate of that group. Cats almost never have a problem with their anal sacs, although many small dogs have an awful time with the area. One cat came in, with the owner announcing that the poor thing was sitting on his bottom, and spinning like a top. I squeezed gently the affected areas and relieved the problem. The second one, unfortunately, happened to a long-

haired feline, and wasn’t noticed until one gland ruptured after developing into a monstrous infected boil. A few poultices and some good antibiotics later, that poor patient is feeling like herself again. It would have been a painful session for awhile.Over the last 30 years, I’ve only seen a few of these; not more than five —although the dogs certainly can have a time with them — numbering in the hundreds. Recently, I had a ‘Cocker Spaniel Day’—there were

four appointments in a row, with dogs owned by different people who didn’t know one another. The dogs were different ages, and different colours, but the one thing they all had was marvelous

dispositions, happy to be with their owners, and tolerating my prods and pokes with no objection at all. Every one of them was mild, gentle, and perfectly mannered. Such pets are a joy to work with; I well remember the way Cockers behaved that were bred about the time I graduated. The new and most popular colour was ‘buff ’, and most of them would as soon bite a vet as look at you. I assume the breeders (at least of pet stock) were using a line of animals that happened to feature the desired coat, coupled with nasty dispositions. Now the gold colour is common, and the genetics with the ‘nasty’ attachment have probably worn their way through a couple of generations, being diluted by reasonable natures as they went. This unfortunate situation with appearance versus temperament tends to arise whenever there’s a big surge of popular interest in a particular breed of dog. After the Cockers, it was Doberman Pinchers,who are now pleasant and tractable in almost every case. Then the Dalmations were bred for bucks —a lot of them weren’t easy to work with or live with —very high energy critters. The Chihuahuas took a turn at being the ferocious

patients, but recently every little one I’ve seen at work has been a sweetie. This is far more important for the breed than the perfect conformation accompanied by ‘iffy’ dispositions, because sooner or later the ‘popular’ breed is in demand for household pets. No one needs a ‘Dogzilla’who’ll bite the kids, the neighbours, or the mail person. Trends are funny things. Who would ever guess that the breeds of pooches

would be affected that way? Checking with your vet about breed choice for a new puppy, for your own circumstances re family and lifestyle, makes good sense.We’re on the cutting edge — pun intended.

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