The blond girl with the cat was super excited. She was making the rounds of the place, peering in crates, cooing at various ailing pets, sharing horror stories with the rest of us.

“A degu?” she said, gaping into our tiny cage. “Is that like a chinchilla? Oh, look at her! She’s adorable! I want one!”

“Great,” mumbled the man she had come in with. “Now we’re going to end up with something called a degu.”

The man was holding a box of his own and that box contained a cat. A mischievous little guy, from the sounds of it. They had to bring him in more often than they’d like. The cat had a rubber band wrapped around one of its paws, the blond explained. It was on there so tight, it was starting to dig into the animal’s flesh.

“The doctor will take care of it,” the blonde said. “He always does.”

Now another woman was looking at my degu. She was older and also carrying a box containing a cat. A cat which had lost its appetite and was acting sick in other ways, as it turned out.


Yet another woman had come in with a cat but no box. She cradled the animal in her arms and sat patiently in a chair.

“What’s wrong with him?” the blonde asked.

“Don’t know. That’s what I need the doctor to find out.”

I went over to talk to the mumbling man. The three women — no, wait, there was a fourth now — flung animal emergency stories back and forth like they were playing verbal tennis.

” … was throwing up parts of a field mouse … “

” … must’ve gotten into the trash and ate something bad.”


” … that Baytril works wonders. Clears things right up.”

And then the doctor emerged from a back room, a tallish man with a friendly face.

“There he is!” the blond girl exclaimed, smiling as though she were seeing an old friend for the first time in years.

Everybody forgot about what they had been doing and began to vie for the doctor’s attention. Moments earlier, he had deftly trimmed about an inch from the degu’s front teeth. Now he was all cleaned up and waiting for the next patient. But first, he had to socialize a bit. The level of excitement in the room was such that it would have been no surprise to see someone ask for an autograph.

Dr. Stephen Kinney. Rock star.

There are people like that in every profession, you know. Plumbers, grave diggers, store clerks, schoolteachers, bicycle repairmen, furniture movers, computer salesmen. They are men and women whose skills are rivaled only by charisma, to the point at which perfectly ordinary people will suddenly act like groupies outside the band trailer.


There’s a supervisor at a local grocery store who’s like that. Stand in his line while buying your ice cream and frozen pizza, you’ll have to compete with others — some three registers away — who want to bend his ear. To say hello and get him to say hello back.

Magnetism. It’s particularly important in the field of medicine. The people who go to see Dr. Kinney typically are a mess of emotions because fluffy swallowed a battery again or Tweety has a strange rash on his beak. Under that kind of stress, a person doesn’t want to be confronted with a veterinarian short on compassion and personality.

Take me, for instance. I was there with a rodent whose teeth had grown so out of control, one of them was about to pierce its eye-socket. It would have been like death at the end of a sword, only from within and in super slow motion. The horror of it is almost too much to comprehend. And yet, there I was, hanging out in the lobby, socializing as though it were a cocktail party — a party with eye drops and flea powder instead of rum and Cokes, but a party nonetheless. It was a Saturday morning and, in retrospect, that visit to the vet’s office was the funnest thing I did all weekend.

The way I see it, if you’re Dr. Kinney, or that charming plumber or computer salesman, you probably don’t have to advertise much. People love you. They want to brag about the things you did.

“Dr. Kinney? Oh, he’s fantastic. I brought my iguana Louie there once. He was able to reattach the tongue.”

For instance.


So, two or three days after the degu was spared a slow and horrific death, I picked up the newspaper and saw Dr. Kinney on the front of it. He had saved a cat by amputating its leg and everyone was talking about it. Everyone had a feel-good Dr. Rock Star story to tell, even the people you wouldn’t expect to notice.

“Dr. Kinney?” Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout said when I mentioned the name. “Oh, yeah. Great guy. He always goes above and beyond. If there’s anything he can do to help an animal and make someone feel better, he’ll do it.”

So, you see? I’m not the only one with the man crush. It happens to the best of us.

The degu’s name is Goo, incidentally, and he thanks you for your support.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. If you think he deserves rock star status, write to

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