Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Day I Met Dracula

I know you probably won't believe me, but vampires are real. I know this because I saw Dracula once.

It was more than thirty years ago, back when I was an assistant in high school. I saw him on a Saturday morning. In the interest of full disclosure, I had gone out with my friends the night before. I had gotten in at about 5 AM, grabbed an hour of sleep, and got ready for work. But I was much younger then.

I had gotten to work at 7 AM and started cleaning cages. Just a few minutes later the receptionist called for a pickup over the PA. I guess it was my turn, so I went up front.

There he was, in the flesh. He was tall, very pale, and very thin. The word "gaunt" fits him well. His eyes were slightly sunken. He was late 40's to 50's, well groomed hair greying at the edges. The man was impeccably dressed in black tie and tails. At 7 AM. He looked like Barnabus Collins from "Dark Shadows", but more dead and more distinguished.

As I came around the front desk, I looked past Dracula, out the front door into the growing daylight. Clearly horror movies had misled me about vampires and daylight.

I was rather nervous as I approached him, but I had a job to do. I grew more nervous as I noticed he had no dog. No cat.

I asked about his pet, and he handed me an elegant cut crystal pitcher. The lid and handle were pewter, exquisitely formed into gargoyles. I'm serious, gargoyles.

I'd gone past nervous to downright scared as he handed me the pitcher. I dared to look inside. There, flopping occasionally was a bat. Dracula just handed me his bat?

I didn't wait to hear why the bat was there, I just took the record and the bat, and fled to the treatment room.

As I caught my breath, the vet and I looked at the record. It turns out that Dracula had arrived home from some formal affair a couple of hours before, and found his cat playing with the bat. He wanted it checked for rabies.

Do you know how to euthanize a bat? I still don't after 20 years in practice. I don't want to know.

The vet didn't know either, so we had to wing it. Remember this was 30+ years ago. No internet. No iso. Only halothane, which didn't work well to mask down a patient.

What we did was to keep putting ether soaked cotton balls into the pitcher. Once the bat stopped moving, we waited another 5 minutes, and took Drac's bat out. 2cc of EU was given IB (intra bat).

After this, I started getting more sleep before going to work, and gave up on scary movies. I never saw Dracula again, and never want to. Once was enough.


  1. In college I worked at the county public health department (during my "do I still want to be a vet?" crisis). Any bats that came as rabies suspects went straight into the -80F freezer. Not really my preferred method of euthanasia, but it was certainly effective and nobody had to handle it.

  2. Do you have to euthanize a bat to test it for rabies? Or is that what was done back then?

  3. Time-Out, any mammal that needs rabies testing must be euthanised or dead, because the brain is sent to the state lab for testing.