About this time every year my goats face their existential question: is the grass greener on the other side of the fence? This year’s annual Goat Freedom Rally While Everyone Is at Work ended, as usual, with the animal control officer tucking them away and the conclusion that, yes, the grass is greener and the roses are tastier outside the fence.
Every time I get a phone call from animal control, it reminds me of the time my goats grabbed the officer’s notebook and it ended up shredded all over the yard. It wasn’t a great day for her, but the chickens were amused by the scene.
I’ve had a few of my own not-so-great days that were probably amusing for spectators. One of my favorite cocker spaniel patients was in for her annual visit. She was a very tolerant dog, so she was happily up on the exam table. We had finished the physical exam and were getting organized to collect blood for her lab work. For legal and safety reasons, we usually have a veterinary technician hold the pet while we do any procedure. In this case, the owners were petting their dog while the technician was holding her and I was getting my needle and tubes ready.
This is where it gets fuzzy. I remember moving my needle towards the targeted vein. At the same moment, I think, one of her owners decided to switch to the dog’s other side. I still don’t understand how I hit him with the needle, but that’s what happened.
It was a gentle poke, but those needles are sharp, designed to penetrate the skin quickly. The dog owner was, unfortunately, on blood thinners, so this was a needle poke that threatened to never stop bleeding. Luckily, the man was a lot like his dog: kind, forgiving, and able to see the humor in mistakes.
Then there was the time I was sprayed all over the neck and face by a cat in serious intestinal distress. I backed politely out of the exam room, trying to pretend everything was fine. I even tried to keep calmly discussing the cat’s problem. I will spare you the details, but it’s a story that still brings tears of laughter to everyone who was there.
My friend Lynel Tocci, a.k.a. the Jet Set Vet, practices veterinary medicine all over the world. She tells about the time a dog with a fishhook stuck in its mouth was brought to her office and managed to get the hook and his face stuck in its owner’s pants, right at the crotch. Removing the dog and hook required tearing a gaping hole in the pants, with Lynel desperately trying to avoid looking at it.
There are plenty of sad and frustrating moments in veterinary medicine. Being excited to go to work day after day means being able to laugh, even when the joke is on you.
Sadie Hutchings is a veterinarian who lives in Wellfleet.