We were living behind our veterinary hospital, under construction in Paradise Valley, outside Phoenix, in a house trailer. Our German shepherd, Mister, rose to his feet and took three steps to the door, the hair on his back bristling. Three sharp knocks announced a visitor. Rosalie, leaning back to balance the watermelon-size protrusion that was to be our firstborn, waddled forward. Mister positioned himself firmly between her and the door.
A hard-used woman dressed in dirty Levi cutoffs riding high on overly muscled thighs stood on the top of three wood steps to the door. She moved down two steps as Rosalie pushed the door open. The sweet/sour odor of unwashed armpits caused Rosalie to wrinkle her nose. The apparition’s face was leathery from too much sun, her hair a curly mop dyed jet black. She held her right hand behind her back.
“Yes, may I help you?” Rosalie inquired.
“The Vet here?”
“No, I’m sorry. He’s out on calls.”
“You recognize me?”
“No, I’m sorry.”
“Thought you might, my picture’s been in both the Republic and Gazette. I was just acquitted for the murder of my girlfriend.”
“Oh.” Rosalie took a step back, Mister pushed forward.
“I’m a professional wrestler, Killer Amy, maybe you’ve heard of me?”
“No, I’m sorry, I haven’t.”
She brought her hand from behind her back, holding a chunk of skin covered with thick gray hair. Mister rumbled. She ignored him.
“I need to have the Vet tell me if this is human or not. I found it on my property. I don’t need more trouble. Can I leave it with you?”
“My husband should be back in an hour or so.”
The woman took a step up and extended the scalp, it smelled like meat left on the counter overnight by mistake. Mister rumbled louder and leaned against Rosalie forcing her back a step.
“I think it would be much better if you kept it in your possession until he can look at it.”
“Well, if you say so. You think he’ll be back in an hour?” She stepped back down as Mister growled again. “That dog’s pretty protective ain’t he?”
I was back from my calls and eating lunch when she returned. I went outside to examine the scalp.
“Looks like jackrabbit, I doubt it’s human but I can’t say for sure. If I were you, I would take it to the police. They have labs that can identify human remains.”
I spotted her name in the newspaper, the sports page, two weeks later a story about her winning a wrestling match.
Dr. David Gross of Edmonds graduated from Colorado State University’s veterinary school in 1960 and was in private practice for 10 years. He retired in 2006 as Professor and Head of Veterinary Biosciences, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. This story is excerpted from his book, “Animals Don’t Blush,” which describes the unique patients and even more unique clients of a veterinary practice in Sidney, Montana in the early 1960s. Dr. Gross will be signing his most recent work, “Man Hunt,” and other books at The Corner Coffee Bar & Café this Saturday, Sept. 22 from 1-3 p.m. The coffee shop is located at the northwest corner of Olympic View Drive and 76th Avenue West in Edmonds.