Have you ever wondered what life as a working vet is really like? As you read further along with me, you might come to understand the weird and wonderful world of being a vet a little better!
I thought I would be working with animals when I left Vet school… It was a bit of a shock coming to grips with the reality! Being a vet is a People business first, Pets second. (I’m sorry to say that they taught me very little about the people side of things at vet school- though at least the people don’t bite or kick!)
You might have wondered why I no longer do large animal work.
When I first worked in England, I worked in mixed practice for a few months. One day I was called out to attend to a weaner cow. I got lost two or three times on the way (pretty good, considering how hard it was to understand the farmer’s accent when I rang up for directions), and was nearly put into a hedge once or twice by suicidal lorry drivers.
The roads over there are very, very narrow! And the drivers are just plain nuts…
I finally turned up, and drove into the farm. There was a shed (it looked like it had been there since world war two, and might have been pretty heavily damaged at the time). I (foolishly) thought that the crush, and yards and so on for handling the cattle, must be out the back somewhere. But no. This decrepit tumble was the stock handling facility!
AI waited and waited, wandering around. Eventually the house door opened – a very old, very small man shuffled out – he was as skinny as a rake, bent over, and layered in old worn clothes. He struggled with his boots, stopped to gasp and hack for a moment – but finally got them on. He walked past, and mumbled something at me (which for the life of me, I couldn’t understand) I knew that this was a callout ofr a calf with an abcsess, so I gathered a scalpel, local anaesthetic, a few other essentials, popped them in a bucket and followed him into the dank stench of the shed.
A large, half grown cow was in a corner, and there was a post in the middle. I thought we would take the cow to a suitable place to work on it; a crush pewrhaps. Some sort of device to reatrain said hulking, hairy wide eyed and snorting beast. But no… That was it! The old geezer had a bit of rope, with a loop in it – he started wheezing and gasping around the shed, trying to throw his rope onto this very lively beast.
Well – I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry… the weaner galloped around and around, spraying slobber, and getting crankier by the minute. Every now and then the old duffer collapsed against the post to recover; (I thought it a good chance he might expire right in front of me), while I did my best not to get steamrolled by the cow.
Eventually he actually caught this cow, which proceeded to drag him around and around the shed through the deep dung encrusted straw, swinging on the end of his rope, eyes popping out, legs paddling like mad, gasping for breath – until by some crazy chance, he flew past nearby the post, and I managed to grab the rope and secure it.
Then all I had to do was to get local anaesthetic into the huge bulging abscess under its jaw, and lance it with a razor sharp scalpel – while the caow struugled and kicked and thrashed all over the place… How I did this without losing a finger or two, I’ll never know – the god of veterinarians must have been looking down upon me.
That was the day I vowed to become a small animal vet, and I have been pretty much ever since.