Back in my younger days, I was employed at a veterinary clinic which kept long hours. We were open from 7 am until 10 pm. I was the night shift veterinarian and this night owl loved working those hours.
We had a young male technician working at night. This kid had a great sense of humor and was always playing practical jokes on people. There was the time he actually hid in the freezer where we kept the deceased animals. He jumped out just as I walked into the dark garage and nearly scared me half to death. Did I mention I was about eight months pregnant? It’s a wonder I didn’t go into labor.
And then there was the time he called me on the intercom and asked me to come downstairs to look at this “really large hairball” that one of the boarder cats had thrown up. I assured him I didn’t need to see it, and then instructed him to give the cat a dose of hairball medicine that we kept in the drawer downstairs in the treatment area. He told me he thought I really needed to come look at it. I was busy with a lot to do, but okay, I would come look at the hairball. I went downstairs and walked into the cat ward, peering into all the cat cages. To my amazement, there was this massive hairball, sitting next to a very calm and nonchalant cat. The hairball was larger than the cat and about the size of a basketball. My mouth flew open in amazement. It was authentic looking. What I didn’t know was that the technician had taken the hair from a dog who had been shaved that day and painstakingly matted it together with water and mineral oil to make it look like an actual regurgitated hairball. He placed it in the cage, called me on the intercom, and then hid in the adjacent X-ray room in the dark so he could see my reaction. He gave himself away because he fell over laughing when he saw my mouth gaping open and the stuporous look on my face as my brain tried to process what I was seeing.
At this veterinary clinic, the pipes down in the basement often shook and vibrated several times daily. I never really knew what caused them to do that. The noise could be heard upstairs in the waiting room when it happened. It was one of those sounds that we all got so used to, that we didn’t even hear it anymore, but clients did.
One night while standing at the reception desk with the technician, waiting for a client to be checked in, the pipes shook with their characteristic raucous. The floor vibrated. The client sort of jumped and said, “What in the world was that noise?!” The comedic technician, without missing a beat, said, “Oh, that’s just the gorilla in the basement shaking the bars of his cage. He gets restless at night and does that sometimes.” The client fell for it hook, line, and sinker. “So you REALLY have a gorilla down there?” “Oh yes, we do,” the technician said.
And so that’s how it came to be known that we had a noisy gorilla in the basement of the veterinary clinic. I was truly amazed at how many people believed that story. I can only recall one client who actually asked if he could go down and see the gorilla. But of course we couldn’t allow that. We couldn’t risk further stressing the gorilla like that.