Friday, June 28, 2013

Fuji's Problem

A ringing phone in a veterinary hospital opens up all manner of possibilities. You never know what you are going to get. And even when the caller tells you exactly what has happened with a pet so you might know what to expect when they arrive, it pays to see things for yourself. Because sometimes client perception, or client deception, differs from reality.

My receptionist leaned into my office.

“Bin Tappingakeg is on the phone. Says his dog is in the ditch next to the road and it’s being attacked by vultures.”


“Bring it in?”

“Seems reasonable.”

Turns out ole Friskee had been out in that ditch for a few days, just laying there under the hot sun, next to the road, and each day the vultures were coming closer. Bin must have figured those big birds were the culprits onnacounta how often vultures attack sixty pound dogs???

The fractured rear leg was the first thing to catch my eye when Bin carried Friskee in, what with the way it swung to and fro as if not properly attached. Bin “seen that”, but figured the vultures “dun it to his dog”. The immediate proximity of the highway was my first thought, but of course, I was wrong too.

My x-ray of the leg revealed the true nature of the injury. Ole Friskee actually had bone cancer, which had weakened the thigh bone to the point where it fractured under his own weight. And he’d recuperated in that ditch for days, unable to move while Bin contemplated what to do about them vultures. Friskee wasn’t in the best of shape by then, and after a heated discussion, Bin finally accepted my version of reality.

Traveling back in time to the mid-seventies, and yes…we did have telephones back then, but they were fixed to the wall, I recall the phone ringing one morning. Seems a client had dropped his toolbox on the puppy’s tail, and he couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. Well, come on down!!

That seemed a bit weird to me, but I had not yet seen everything, so I waited to see this. Sure enough, the tail had been cut clean off on this four month old puppy, and no…it wouldn’t stop bleeding. Imagine the force involved if a tool box would cut off the tail, clean as a whistle, and right exactly where you’d dock the tail of a Doberman pup if you set out to do just that. Hmmmm…

Ya see, Dobermans were quite popular back then, and one of the things we did in those days was to surgically dock the tails on the two to four day old pups. We didn’t worry then that it wasn’t politically correct. The folks who’ve assigned themselves to improve our behaviors hadn’t yet even invented those words. The pups got over it quickly, and at that tender age they didn’t bleed much.

When you cut off the tail on a four month old puppy however, it bleeds considerably. I figured this guy had used a hatchet, or perhaps an ax. I must have complimented him for sharpening it well, but otherwise it was a poor choice, a choice to which he was initially disinclined to admit. He did eventually realize that the turnip truck I’d fallen off had left some time earlier, and just maybe I’d figured out what he did wrong here.

We first heard about Fuji when the phone rang on Tuesday morning. The lady said that the pup had a “belly button hernia” and it had just “popped” and her guts were hanging outside. Interesting. Let’s have a look.

I’ve seen plenty of umbilical hernias, mine included, and had yet to see one “pop”, but I’m open to new experiences. Fuji stood on my exam table, all five and a half pounds of four month old puppy, with another half a pound of fleas, trying to wag her tail and lick me all while some of her stuff hung down from that hole in her belly.

The lady said her young son had been playing with the puppy the night before, and everything was fine…and then that morning she’d seen this. I took a quick peek and got the sense that something rather sharp had cut the pup’s skin. Otherwise this made no sense, for hernias don’t simply pop open.

The owner of course, asked if we took payments. Her family wouldn’t loan her the money needed to pay for the surgery to repair this oops. Neither would her friends. I figured they knew her better than I did. So nope, I wouldn’t loan her money either.

Meanwhile, we’d had the pup for an hour. She was loaded up with pain meds and the stuff we give them to ease the induction of and recovery from anesthesia. We were ready to do the surgery. And the ladies had been babying her, for that is what they do best.

The owner threatened to take the pup home, and I suggested that the animal control people would be waiting for her when she got there, for I couldn’t let her take home a puppy with her stuff hanging out like that.

Now, nobody likes the corner into which we were backing. Puppy suffering, no one with the wherewithal to help, and our first obligation is the relief of suffering. And we, none of us in this building, were not interested in putting yet another darling puppy to sleep for “humane reasons”. The owner seemed very reluctant to get the animal control people involved. They are a police agency, after all. Somebody needed to bite the bullet, again.

We fixed the injury, which was in fact a stab wound, from a knife, box cutter or something similar. There had been no hernia. Despite the owner’s inventive story, somebody in that fine family had stabbed this puppy. This no doubt factored into the owner’s willingness to sign the puppy over to us rather than have to deal with a police agency. The pup has a new home already, with a wonderful kind family, where the old dog just loves it and the woman hugs it and talks baby to her, and the man sits quietly lest he disturb the sleeping puppy on his lap. They sent us photos that first night.

And the smiles around this place are back, for a while, because by hook or crook we got to do what we are supposed to do in this place. We cannot do this sort of thing every day, or even very often, but sometimes we simply have to. And that’s just way more fun than some of that other.


  1. Who in the HELL would hurt a puppy?


    Glad there was a happy ending.

  2. I guess she thought "She has a popped hernia" sounded better than "my son is a budding psychopath."

  3. I used to think I wasn't cut out for vet med because suffering of the vulnerable, animal variety is too much for my weak constitution....

    Now I realize that it may well be the terrific horror of deliberate human cruelty that I can't stomach.

    Seriously, dood. People are fucking disgusting monsters.

    Nonetheless, grats on "winning" one.

  4. I worked with The Public in various positions before going to vet school. I worked with several vets BEFORE going to vet school. I certainly knew what I was getting into... but once I was truly on the other side of that table, as the doctor... I started battling a deep depression that developed from the realization that some people really are fucking disgusting monsters who should be taken out back and relieved of their misery. Now, 10 years later, there is an acceptance of this and a standard set in my mind that is so low, regarding my own species, that nothing shocks me so much any more. Well, not counting the sadness that comes with accepting that so many in the human race are monsters. Ugh. I'm glad you helped that puppy, and I'd like to say those scum felt bad about it, but they didn't... they'll just do something to the next puppy they get. We all know this to be true.

  5. I was wondering, how can you tell when you need to take a pet in? and how hard is animal surgery on a puppy? I just want to make sure he is alright.

  6. The puppy is healing just fine and living with a wonderful family. The surgery was not difficult, and no complications have surfaced, so she should live a normal life. The decision to coerce the owner into giving up the pup was also simple on the surface. I was not going to let that family hurt the pup again. I didn't care to turn the pup over to animal control in the hope that they would repair the injury and then adopt out the pup. Likely in this economy, the pup would have disappeared. So I overstepped my bounds to do what felt like the right thing. So far, it's working out.