Doctor Doggy

Clifton Bassett is not your usual family doctor. Christian Pyle paid him a visit him at his Cambridgeshire surgery.

Dr Clifton Bassett is, by most people's standards, not your usual family doctor. His surgery, serving a small town and a handful of outlying villages in Cambridgeshire, is pretty ordinary. His patients, too, present the usual mix of colds, arthritis, back injuries and sprains. In fact, the only thing that sets Dr Bassett apart from most other GPs is the fact that he is a dog.

"I suppose it is unusual, yes," Dr Bassett woofs when we ask him about his choice of career. "As far as I know, I am the only canine doctor currently working within the National Health Service, although I believe there is a cat employed as an anaesthetist at Guy's Hospital and several mice in the radiology department at Nottingham Royal Infirmary."

Dr Bassett's surgery covers a largely rural area

Dr Bassett first had an inkling that he was bound for the medical profession when he was just a pup. "Oh yes, I was forever running around, pestering my brothers and sisters to let me take their temperature and put splints on their tails. I come from quite a big litter and there was always one us getting into some kind of scrape, so there were always plenty of opportunities to practise my bandaging technique."

Nevertheless, the decision to study human medicine was quite a big step for a young dog, especially when more conventional canine career paths beckoned, such as a guard dog, sniffer dog or marine biologist dog. But Bassett studied hard and gained some practical experience of human anatomy by repeatedly attacking the postman. Eventually he was accepted into medical school and graduated several years later with a first class degree and his own stethoscope.

"I enjoyed medical school a great deal," Dr Bassett yapps. "It was my first time away from home. I had my own kennel, all the rubber bones I could need and the other students were always keen to take me walkies. But although I learned everything I could about medicine, it couldn't prepare me for some of the difficulties I've faced out in the real world."

Dr Bassett is keen to stress that the majority of his patients have accepted him without any issues at all, but occasionally he will come across people who are less open-minded. "I can see that it can be difficult," he growls. "If you're discussing some embarrassing medical problem with someone who keeps licking their genitals and dragging their bottom across the carpet, then things are bound to be a little awkward. Thankfully, I've managed to persuade most of my patients to stop doing that now."

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