Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Geico Panther. IRL

A member vet of the ER used to do the local Zoo, and heavy exotics. Had a client in about an hour out of town with a dehydrated panther. I tried to get out of it, but no go. So in it came. All I had to do was place a catheter and run IV's overnight. I asked the RDVM how I'd know if it was improving. "Easy", he said. "When it wants to kill you." Fucking swell. The panther was calm when we placed the cath. I rigged the IV lines so they could be disconnected with just a tug. If the panther pulled them out, too bad. We put the panther back into it's own crate, since I didn't want to handle it any more than necessary.

Unfortunately that night we had also hospitalized a very young pup, first time away from mom. The pup was feeling better, and developed a bad case of the lonely's. And cried. and cried. And cried.

My tech, trying to convince the pup to sleep, turned out the lights in the ward. And the light switch was on the tech's side of the room, not the side of the Dr.'s room. And by now the panther was feeling better.

A brief time later I came out check on the patients. Now an irritated panther has a growl that will make your blood run backward and make you want to shit food you haven't even eaten yet. And it was growling. I had to cross a dark room with an agitated 90 lb. predator that had been in a flimsy airline crate. Was it still there?

I claim courage for very few incidents in my life. This is one of them. The walk across the room was one of the longest walks of my life.

Fortunately, all was well. But I never, ever wanted to do anything with a big cat again. And now you know why there's grey hair in my beard.


  1. Nothing like some acepromazine and turning off the lights for the overnight shift

  2. I say something similar when a school nurse asks about my kids.

    "You'll know they're feeling better because you'll want to kill them."

  3. Once upon a time in grad school, a buddy who worked at a large zoo gave me a behind-the-scenes tour. We were in the interior area of the "cat house", which was a series of very large, metal-bar cages with wide aisles in between. The aisles had yellow stripes along each side, which my buddy said not to cross so I didn't get to close to the cages. In one cage was a tigress and her cubs, huddled at the back of the cage. I literally do not remember the tigress covering the distance from the rear of the cage to the bars. The next thing I knew, the tigress was on up her hind legs with one enormous front paw reaching through the bars at me, mouth wide open and bellowing an ear-spitting roar. I damned near dropped a deuce on the spot. My buddy just laughed: "And you think she wouldn't eat your ass up?" Thank heavens for the yellow stripes.

  4. Wow. So you used to hang out at the cat house in grad school?

    1. Hey, that's how I got all those bites and scratches!

    2. If the worst disease you caught in a cat house was cat scratch fever, you are lucky. Actually, I take that back. The neuro presentation of cat scratch fever is pretty terrible.

  5. During my Junior year of college I worked at a zoo for the summer. It was awesome, but there were a few incidents that got my blood pressure up. One was when me and another keeper were feeding the Cheetahs. When we came to the male's enclosure, she tossed the rabbit over the top and to the back. We went in and started scooping poo. Weren't in there very long when she says "Go, now." I look over and the Cheetah was done eating, but had a twinkle in his eye that said "I'm still hungry." We got out of there fast. The other was the first time I went into the Lion enclosure. It was feeding time and he knew it. He charged the fence, roared (which in a small place if deafening), and pretty much made me question the integrity of the steel mesh between me and him.