Saturday, May 11, 2013

Home Made Baby Food

Mandy makes baby food for our use in VBB hospital. She buys the cheap turkeys just before Thanksgiving, putting a couple in the freezer when they are on sale. One client brings in a turkey every year just for this purpose, because his puppy began eating as it finally recovered from parvo, and what it ate was Mandy’s homemade turkey baby food. He’s been doing this for years.

We have a stove in the break room, and Mandy boils a whole turkey on that stove, all day, day after day, until it is mostly mush. The entire hospital smells of turkey when this happens. Like Thanksgiving Day at Mom’s. Then into the blender goes the remnants, and from there into ice cube trays, and then the freezer. Ice cube trays provide individual servings of Mandy’s homemade baby food, which thaw quickly in the microwave, or with hot water. We call this food magic, because puppies and kittens, old lady cats and ninety pound pitbulls will eat this before they will eat anything else in the world, and sometimes this saves their lives.

Ya see, thirty-five years ago, Mandy had a baby. The baby came a bit early, and it weighed all of 4.5 pounds, and he took a little work to get him started. Eventually he got to where he’d eat baby food, and since money was just a mite tight back then, Mandy made her own. This set a precedent.

Mandy will tell you that the homemade turkey baby food is magic, but she won’t tell you the entire truth. Sure, the baby food smells great, and it tastes great, and it slides down easy when eating is too much work, but what Mandy won’t tell you is that there is more than mushed turkey and water in those ice cube trays. Nope. That’s not all that goes into that baby food.

What Mandy won’t tell you is that she also infuses a generous serving of love into that food. And the other thing that Mandy won’t tell you is that there isn’t enough room in that baby food for all the love she has to give, so she serves up some more love on the side, every time she feeds her baby food to puppies or kittens or old lady cats, or ninety pound pitbulls. And thus we have magic.

Mandy works for me and thus I’m always giving her things to do around here. Most times she does them. But every once in a while I’ll go looking for Mandy onna counta something not getting done right away, and I’ll find her in the back, sitting next to an open kennel door. The kennel floor will be covered with one of those warm, colorful, padded kennel floor covers that Mandy sews. The water dish will be clean and full. The cat box, if needed, is clean and over there. And the puppy or kitten or old lady cat is curled up in the bed that Mandy makes for them.

Mandy talks quietly with these patients of ours, so she disturbs no one. She’ll generally have a little plastic bowl of warm homemade turkey baby food with her, maybe a spoon or small syringe, or maybe just that second finger on her right hand that delivers fingertips of baby food gently to the nose of a puppy or kitten who just might lick it off, and thus jump start a recovery.

Mandy will have already been sitting there for two hours, talking with her patient, petting or combing or cleaning softly, fussing with and touching and passing on the love she serves up with the magic of her baby food. Mandy learned that you can pass love through your fingers and your voice, and your fussing…pass it on to a tiny premature baby, or a puppy or kitten or old lady cat, or ninety pound pitbull….and that is what she does. That, and the homemade baby food.

I have tests and drugs and a scalpel, and I do what I can. Mandy follows with the homemade turkey baby food and her love, and she brings the miracles I don’t have in my box.

This morning we arrived at the hospital early. We wanted to see how Icarus was doing. This cat had come into our hospital yesterday, and he looked like shit. Sorry. He did. Mostly, he looked like flea dirt, which is flea shit, and he felt like a handful of sand when you picked him up. He had so much flea dirt all over him that the wet parts had turned red.

Icarus lay there on my exam table, limp. His right eye bulged nearly out of its socket. According to the owner, “He ain’t eatin’, and he don’t move much.” That much I had figured before Mrs. Einstein opened her mouth.

Of course she didn’t have any money. Heck, she still owed me a hundred bucks from February. Couldn’t come up with a hundred bucks in three months, although it looked as if her tattoo artist got paid. So no tests or anything useful this day. I got permission to drain the abscess, correct some of the dehydration, start the antibiotics. We’d have to hope for a miracle to do the rest.

So I turned Icarus over to Mandy. She fussed over him for three hours. When she was done, he was clean, about a hundred fleas lay dead on the battlefield, he’d been talked to, petted, touched, fussed over. His drugs were in him, his fluids delivered, and now his bed was warm. And a finger with a bit of homemade turkey baby food was touching ever so gently on his nose. He licked it off. And he rolled over to have his belly rubbed.

When we left for home Icarus could stand, and he had eaten some considerable amount of baby food, and even a bit of canned cat food. And he purred. Maybe, just maybe….

Icarus was dead in his bed this morning. He looked better dead than when he arrived, for he was clean and he died in a relaxed position. But yeah, he didn’t make it. That crying and cursing? Well, that’s what Mandy does sometimes. Especially when she is standing over one of the dead ones who shouldn’t be that way.

She hasn’t done this work as long as I have, and while I walk away muttering something about god damn f****ing stupid ass people, Mandy still screams and cries. And then later she said to me.

“You’re right, you know. You can’t love them more than their own people. You can’t or this will kill you.”

“Yeah, and good luck with that.“

She’ll be there for the next one. You watch.


  1. Beautiful story

  2. Mandy is awesome. I pray for vet techs like her every time I have to find a new vet.

  3. One Sunday, our cat got really sick; wouldn't stand, eat or drink. Since we don't have an emergency vet, we weren't sure she would make it to morning. I wrapped her in towels warmed in the dryer, forced tiny bits of boiled chicken in her mouth, and used an eyedropper to get water into her. When I laid her in her bed that night, I expected to find her gone. imagine my astonishment to see she was her old self! I don't know if it was the chicken or my love, but she pulled through.

  4. You can't love them more than their own people do. The fact that I figured that out far, far, too late is a major reason I am no longer in clinical practice and will probably never be able to return. If Mandy were my employee, I'd send her to CE about Compassion Fatigue - gently - because she needs support in learning how to balance her caring nature with emotional health.

  5. Awesome post - Mandy is a special person.

  6. The world needs more Mandys.

  7. Thank you for sharing this blog on veterinarians. It is so important that you find a vet that you can trust with your pets. Do you know of any good Ottawa veterinarians? Let me know! Thanks!

  8. Mandy, it's because of people like you that I still want to come to work each day. Thank you for sharing your magic baby food and love. And don't forget to take good care of yourself!

  9. This blog is hilarious. Thanks for putting the effort into it! I was reading this at work and I was laughing out loud- great work!

    David | Veterinarian Ottawa

  10. bless you mandy. the joy outweighs the heartbreak. thats why we all got into this business.

  11. Giant sized props and love to Mandy, you are a total star. I know there are many like you working both in veterinary surgeries and out of them, all over the world. We need more Mandys and we need more who recognise their worth.