Snake Shots, Missing Puppies, Raccoon Noses, And A Career As A Veternarian

During the thirty years in which I practiced veterinary medicine-first in High Falls and then in Stone Ridge-thousands of office calls and surgeries occurred, the details of which have left my memory. There are however a few that, because of their unusual nature, will forever linger in my mind. Take for instance, the time a distraught pet owner entered my office carrying a five-foot long snake which he lovingly placed on my examining table. The creature appeared to be suffering from some sort of respiratory infection. The owner told me that none of the vets in the area would treat his beloved pet. He tearfully begged me to do something. As I gazed at the wheezing serpent I could understand their reluctance. Back when we attended veterinary college, we were taught to doctor farm animals and household pets. On the other hand, I could understand the love and concern the owner felt for his pet. And so I reach for a vial of long-acting antibiotics and asked him to point to the spot where the injection should be given. Several weeks later a grateful owner called to tell me his pet had made a successful recovery.

And there was the time I had done a Caesarean section on a friend’s dog. Soon after they all returned home, my friend called to tell me that nearly all the pups had disappeared. Although I had never hear of a case of cannibalism under these circumstances, I drove to her home as quickly as possible. I found the mother dog lying on an old quilt, looking rather puzzled. It seemed her pups had not vanished because she possessed a depraved appetite but rather due to her bedding. Small bumps squirmed about between rows of stitching on the quilt and the poor mother hadn’t the slightest idea as to how to retrieve her trapped pups. I remedied the situation by performing a second Caesarean section–this time on the quilt.

A woman brought in two cats and asked that I spay one and euthanize the other. Since both cats appeared in excellent health and euthanasia was something I would only perform on extremely ill or injured animals, I asked her the reason. Her response was, “Because she keeps having kittens twice a year and she is twenty-four years old.”

Twenty-four is an age far beyond that recommended for spaying and yet I did not see how I could do what the woman was asking. I suggested that I be allowed to spay the old cat, and if it didn’t work out, that is if she died, she would be considered euthanized. The old cat made it and, according to the owner, lived on for two more years.

When local middle school students were exploring possible career choices, it was my custom to allow a teacher to escort a group of students interested in veterinary medicine to my office where they could observe me working and ask questions. On this particular day I was about to spay a dog and so the students and teacher gathered about my operating table.

Suddenly a member of the group sank to the floor in a dead faint. Luckily, I had not made the initial incision so my assistant and I were able to drag the unfortunate soul over to a bench and awaken her. What a lucky thing her career choice had been teaching.

Perhaps the most unlikely case I encountered was brought to me by a teenager who had been hiking on a near-by mountain. He had come across a baby raccoon with a nose full of porcupine quills. The raccoon was evidently abandoned by its mother. I managed to extract all the quills from the poor little creature’s nose and give him an antibiotic shot. The teenager then returned the raccoon to the spot where he had found him. There is no way of knowing, of course, but I like to think that now that his mother was no longer in danger of damaging herself on his quills, she returned to care for him.