Friday, July 13, 2012

Pulled Pork, With a Side of Braised Tongue

Once upon a time, a (young-ish) girl decided to be a veterinarian.  She thought that she would rather play outside all day than actually make what she was worth, so she decided that she would be a large animal veterinarian.  (Hey, I never said she was a smart girl).  She worked very hard (sometimes) and learned what she needed to know (mostly) to go out into the world and save the animals from themselves (and their owners). 

Not too long after she was set free in the world to do her job, in the depths of winter (and realizing playing outside was not all fun and games) she received (another) late night (alright, middle of the night) call about a pig in labor who needed help delivering her piglets.  Now this was no ordinary pig... she was a champion show pig (i.e: should never, ever, ever, ever, ever have been bred.)  She was long (but not so lean) and by the looks of her belly, plum full of piglets.  The problem with this brand new mama pig was, as I've mentioned before, was built for show (read: walking, oinking meat display), not for mothering.  For as wide as her bum was, (like a proverbial brick house) the pelvis inside was not even wide enough to let the young vet's hand through easily, much less let (big) little piggies out.

The vet lubed and wiggled, sweated and cursed (mostly under her breath, for there were impressionable children there) and managed to get a snare around the stuck little piggy (while it chewed the bejesus out of her fingers).  With the snare in place, she pulled and pulled, with all her might (seems a little big bad wolfish now), but the piglet wouldn't budge.  Never before had a stuck piglet not been able to removed from its mother in this method, so she decided to pull, One. More. Time.  And lo!  Something was giving: the piglet was on its way out into the world! 

All of a sudden, there was a swift release of pressure, and a bang!  The vet felt the air rush from her chest and there were shooting stars all around.  An exclamation from the farmer brought her back to her senses.  She was 4 feet behind where she last remembered being, and their was a goose egg forming on the back of her head. A little girl was staring at her in awe.  In her hands, the snare.  Tangled in in the snare, the head of a piglet. 

Through the haze of a (probably mild) concussion, the vet started to piece things together.  The bang was her head against the cement wall of the farrowing barn, which understandably knocked the wind out of her and caused (temporary) visual impairment.  The farmer's cry was disbelief (and probably a little bit telling his kids not to look.) Above all, one thing stood out... she had literally pulled the head off a living creature with her own brute (stop laughing) strength. 

I wish I could say the story had a happy ending, but facts are facts, and the fact was that a headless pig was totally stuck in the birth canal and nothing else was coming out that hole. A sacrifice C-section resulted in 7 surviving piglets that only actually survived for 2 days (not the her fault.)  But now, when the vet finds herself in a sticky situation (like shoulder deep in a uterus that is full of rotten calf soup while the cow squirts all over her), she reminds herself that if she's strong enough to pull the head off a live piglet, she is strong enough to do anything.  Which sometime means accidentally (really, it was an accident) pulling the tongue out of a dead calf (look, the top of a pluck!) and throwing it at the feet of a shell-shocked intern. 

The direction of the toss was totally just for funsies.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth Thoughts

First things first.  A big thank you to the men and women of the armed forces who are doing what most people (including me) are unwilling to do. Also many thanks to their families to who give just as much as those in uniform.

Now, I have a few thoughts about the horrible storm that went through West Virginia last week and resulted in a state of emergency.  I'm incredibly thankful that I am not having to go through this and I'm truly sympathetic to those of you who are.  But, as bad as it is, I know West Virginia is one of the places that can handle it, for no other reason that it's still a place where people take care of each other. I'm sure the rest of the affected states will eventually figure things out as well.

On to the logistics.  Many of the structures that were destroyed are in difficult to get to areas and there are not "extras" just lying around to be put up in their places.  These crews are working 16 hour shifts, in 90+ degree temperatures, in direct sunlight... and a whole lot of them have been brought in from multiple states away.  They are away from their families, living in group housing, and you all have to admit that in these kind of conditions, no matter how much they are being paid, it's not enough. So that crew... that guy hanging off the electric pole a couple streets up from you?  The one that you posted a nasty message about because they left after finishing that street?  Shame on you.  He's probably not a local, and going to West Virginia to work over a holiday was probably not on his bucket list.  He's going where his bosses send him and fixing things (correctly) as quickly as he can.  And he would probably appreciate a glass of sweet tea.  So can the negative talk about the electric companies and how their workers are handling things.  Be grateful that more lives were not lost and that aid has been available for those who need it.  Oh, and when you're posting all your thanks to god for restoring your power, maybe send a shout out to the power crews too.

On a lighter note, I was very excited to have a holiday off.  Usually holidays land on my on-call days, so even though I don't have scheduled appointments, I do have to handle all the emergencies (and usually I'm covering for at least 1 other vet/practice as well).  To celebrate I decided to go out and check out some retail sales; you know, support the economy.   A dozen or so stores (and dressing rooms) later, I had purchased exactly nothing I was feeling pretty bad about myself because that's what stores do to girls who aren't 6 feet tall and weigh more than 100 pounds.  I really don't have time or energy to exercise more right now, so I came up with an alternative solution.  I got myself a low-fat frozen yogurt and went to Walmart.

Wrong? Probably.  Effective?  Absolutely!

Monday, July 2, 2012


Tears are a part of the job.  Some owners will cry at the drop of a hat, even on happy occasions, but usually it's a sad situations when the tears come out.  Euthanasia is part of the job but sometimes I think that veterinarians are very unprepared to deal with the owners when that time comes in an animal's life.  For me, it usually comes down to preparing them for what is going to happen to the best of my ability and then hoping I've read them correctly when it comes to offering support after the fact.

There are several types of tears, when it comes to an owner saying goodbye to a pet.  There are the quiet, dignified tears that trail down the cheeks and are gracefully wiped away.  The snuffling/snotting tears that make it difficult to understand what they are trying tell me . Hiccup tears aren't super common, but they happen.  Wavering-voice tears can be primary, or a secondary effect of quiet/dignified tears and usually mean that the person is struggling to hold it together, but is determined to at any cost.  Probably the most dramatic tears are the throwing themselves on the ground and/or body and screaming, "WHY??????????????" tears.  And no, I'm not joking about that last one.  I've had to deal with that three times - once in the middle of a muddy field in the pouring-down rain.  They don't teach that anywhere in the vet school curriculum. 

The last type of tears, is the one that is the hardest to deal with.  I'm still not sure what to do with the man-tears.  When my female clients cry, I feel that they appreciate me acknowledging their pain and talking with them for a bit after the fact.  Men are different - and I've determined that they are three rules of man-tears.  First, they absolutely do not want to cry.  Second, they really do not want to cry in front of a girl. Third, when they do cry (and they will), in front of a girl, they don't want it acknowledged.  That third component is what makes me feel weird because I'm never sure how to...exit the scene.

Today I made another man cry when I euthanized his first horse, and he held true to all three rules of man-tears.  I hated that I had to make him cry, but for personal (selfish) reasons along with the usual ones.  My client was single, around 30 years old, about 6 feet tall, dark blond hair, green eyes, a nice summer tan, and horseman muscles.  You know, Julie-kryptonite.  To seal the deal, he had a very light German accent.  That's right, not just hot - European hot.  But there is no coming back from the fact that I made him cry.  It is something that can't be overcome.  I saw him cry and he'll never get over that.