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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

The Great Pumpkin of 2012

While summer is my most favorite season, Halloween is my favorite holiday. With one night devoted entirely to cramming as much candy in your gob as possible, I can’t see how it’s not everyone’s favorite holiday. And while I’m not big on decorating for every occasion (or really decorating in general), the autumn season finds my house crammed with pumpkin-stenciled coffee mugs, large black cat statues, and of course the standard pumpkin on the porch for carving.

This year we grew a pumpkin of our own in our wee little backyard garden, which I’m very proud of. The cute little thing is probably only eight pounds (I’m comparing it to the weight of a newborn lamb for reference), and quite oblong in shape, but it’s homegrown, which gives it greater value to me than the market weight in cents per pound.

However, we are always on the lookout for the Great Pumpkin.

A few years ago, it was the day before Halloween and I was in a despondent mood; we still did not have a pumpkin. Of course, waiting till the last minute, the pickings were slim and I was very close to just buying a measly three-pounder at the grocery store, all lumpy and beaten up and sad-looking.

It was a standard slow late autumn day at work, and after two textbook castrations (a miniature horse and miniature donkey), I had some time (and some testicles) on my hands. Cruising around in my vet truck at lunch, I passed a local orchard advertising their pumpkin crop. I decided to stop, doubting my ability to find The Great Pumpkin, but willing to give it one last search.

I rummaged through the bins of pumpkins in my coveralls with my black muck boots still on and covered in mud. Most were too small, some too lop-sided, and others too light colored, or had broken stems or large gashes where they had been dropped or attacked by other pumpkins.

Approaching the last bin, I grew dejected, half-heartedly preparing to pick out the least ugly of the ugly pumpkins as a booby prize. Then suddenly, as I peered into the very last bin of pumpkins, there at the bottom was the most perfect, most round, most orange, most beautiful pumpkin I had ever seen.

Barely able to pull it out of the bin, I carted it proudly to the register where I learned it weighed 47 pounds. Twenty-one dollars later, I was heaving the gourd into my vet truck, wedging it between the edge of the passenger seat and the glove box. For the rest of the day it rolled around on the floor of the passenger side where it had shifted during the downhill drive away from the orchard, thudding against the door. I showed it to every single one of my clients I visited for the remainder of the day. I also sent a picture of it to my boss. And my husband. And my mom.

It was The Great Pumpkin of 2009 and I had saved Halloween.

Fast-forwarding to every Halloween since then, we’ve had one runner-up to The Great Pumpkin. Last autumn, on the way home from an event on the eastern shore of Maryland, we passed a roadside stand that displayed an enormous flatbed trailer filled with giant pumpkins. Incredulous at the sight, we did a U-turn and pulled in, only to behold a tantalizing collection of enormous pumpkins. There was no scale at this place, so we could only guess at the weights, but given the fact that the pumpkin could not fit in the trunk of our Toyota Corolla and took up half the entire back seat, leaving me and my dog Shadow squeezed together on the back passenger side hoping the car didn’t make a sudden left turn and leave us crushed to death underneath a giant pumpkin, we estimated it at over fifty pounds (comparing it to an average sized feed bag, naturally).

I, however, am a bit of a purist. If it didn’t come home in my vet truck, well, I’m not sure if it counts.

This year, our little pumpkin pales in size comparison, but I think it has heart. And I think our little patch has potential. Maybe next year, we’ll grow a sixty-pounder. I’ve got plenty of sources for fresh fertilizer, after all.

Dr. Anna O’Brien

Image: A pumpkin with heart, by Dr. O’Brien

Comments  10

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  • Evidence
    10/12/2012 11:19am

    We have a picture of pre-carving, but we also need photographic evidence post-carving. Do you have an edge because you have surgical instruments?

    What a great, light-hearted story to start the day!

  • 10/15/2012 11:41pm

    Sadly, I don't think I have any edge whatsoever in my pumpkin carving skills due to my surgical finesse. This particular pumpkin (the one in the picture) had a rind about three inches thick in some places - we had to get the butcher knife out for it... and I can't believe no one lost a finger through the entire ordeal!

  • my last pumpkin
    10/12/2012 04:05pm

    Three years ago I bought a nice 30 lb pumpkin and some pumpkin carving tools and my local shoprite. It was the perfect pumpkin, an orange circle with the thick green stem, dead center top with a curve to the left.

    I spent five hours creating the outline of a haunted house, trees, a yowling cat, a crescent moon and even a witch on a broom. I marveled at myself for being such a master artist. Surely the whole neighborhood would be delighted at my mastery and skill in carving pumpkins.

    That night I put the pumpkin out front with a candle and the light of the candle flickered through the silhouette's I had carved.

    The next morning I took my dog for a walk. He was a very big bullmastiff. My head could fit in his mouth and not sideways either, but straight up oblong style. He took one look at my pumpkin opened his cavernous mouth and in one bite took out half the pumpkin. All my work gone, all the compliments and glory I was sure to get, gone.

    Looking back remembering the day Rock ate my pumpkin is a better memory than any imagined compliment I would have gotten for the pumpkin. Rock is gone now and I don't think I will ever have a pumpkin memory better then that day. I miss you buddy!

  • 10/12/2012 10:03pm

    I was wondering how you are doing, rockjdog. What a great story and happy memory. (I'll bet Rock was pretty proud of himself, too!)

  • 10/15/2012 08:44pm

    Thanks Old Broad, he loved pumpkin and just about everything else too.

  • 10/15/2012 11:43pm

    Aw, that's quite a story! I'm impressed at both your pumpkin carving skills and Rock's appetite (and jaw size) :) Thanks for sharing!

  • 10/16/2012 02:09pm

    well I was kind of trying to be funny about the pumpkin carving. It is true I did work a long time on it. ( takes forever to carve those thin lines for silhouettes)It is true I was happy with it but in the end it was like the millions of carved pumpkins you see in windows and yards all across America. I was not really thinking that people would flock to give me complements. That part I embellished. Rock passed away in July so this is a memory on that Halloween back in 2009. I was not too happy that Rock destroyed my work at the time. My wife thought it was hysterical though.

    Think of it this way. You buy this incredible present for a child at Christmas. You anticipate that the kid will go crazy when he sees your wonderful gift. He opens the present on Christmas morn. Throws the toy to the side and only wants to play with the box. Not too funny at the time but later it is most likely the one Christmas you will remember for many holidays to come.Thats kind of what my pumpkin story was about. I cant tell you what the kids wore last year or much about all the Halloweens of the past but I will always remember Rock chomping on that pumpkin, his jowls heavy with slobber and pumpkin parts, his eyes squinted into slits as he enjoyed it.

    10/12/2012 05:32pm

    Rockjdog so Happy to see your Back!!! Hope All is OK!!! Mike Mason

  • 10/15/2012 08:42pm

    Thank you Snowdogs ( Mike). How are you holding up? I know in december it will be a year since Keva passed. Any plans? My thoughts and prayers and wishes are with you. I would love to hear a funny story about Keva sometime, when you are up to it. I am not sure if I am back yet, still anger and sadness. I dont think I am ready to let go and join the crowd again. I just remebered when Rock ate half that pumpkin in one bite. I wish I could have more days like that with him. Anyways...Happy Halloween to the past days and future days.

  • To Rockjdog
    10/27/2012 05:11am

    I Love To Hear More Abour Your FurBaby Rock If You Can.. I Know how Hard It Can Be:-( My Keva You Know I Still Cry,, My FACE BOOK IS ( MIKE MASON )Love Will Never Forget..And There Is The One That^^^ Will Never Leave Us...you have my face book,,, my EMail ( campinmike AT aol DOT com ) hope we can help togeter...mike

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