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Posts Tagged ‘pets’

Screaming at a toddler not to touch something hot can be effective, sometimes, but not nearly as effective, long term, as allowing that curious mind to experience pain. The same is true of dogs, although they seem to have slightly more built-in survivorship skills than toddlers do, with one exception I can think of, dogs and porcupines. I cannot tell you how many times I have pulled porcupine quills from the muzzle, nose and face of the same dogs. They never seem to learn.

Maybe it’s the chase. Rabbits, squirrels, all those creatures that run and rarely get caught are a source of pleasure, dogs love the pleasure of the chase. Porcupines are disdainful. They scurry, but not quite fast enough to avoid the catch. Maybe they enjoy the reverse chase, knowing they will prevail.

Roger was a Boxer dog who never learned. The first time I saw him his head was as big as a soccer ball, filled with porcupine quills and swollen with inflammation. After anesthetizing the poor guy I spent almost two hours laboriously pulling quills, one at a time, out of him. I saw him at least three more time, maybe more, not nearly as loaded with quills, but obviously not hurt enough to learn, or maybe he had ADD. He was not the only dog I encountered with a similar problem when it came to porcupines.

The same phenomenon does not seem to exist when it comes to Cholla cactus, called the jumping cactus. During our recent travels, my dog Charlize knew to avoid getting close enough to that troublesome plant to experience it and I don’t recall treating the same dog more than once for a Cholla encounter. Charlize does love to chase small creatures. She has come amazingly close but has yet to capture one, but we haven’t run into a porcupine,…yet.

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Ike Williams and Jon Wilkins were partners, owners of Williams & Wilkins Blacksmiths and Mechanics. Their shop, large and dirty, stood in front of the small, immaculate, frame house they shared.

They both loved cats. I was never able to determine how many cats they cared for. There were shop cats, outside cats and house cats, all, seemingly, equally loved and cared for. From time to time, one or both of them would bring in one or several to be vaccinated or neutered.

This day they were both in the waiting room when I returned from farm calls.

They stood up as if joined at the hip Wilkins was holding a huge tabby in his arms. The cat was meowing, whimpering actually, obviously hurting.

“This is Wilma when we came in for lunch we found her, crying in pain. I think she’s paralyzed.”

As he talked tears welled up in Wilkins’ eyes, Ike put his arm over his partner’s shoulders.

“It will be OK Jon. Young Doc is good everyone says so. He’ll take care of Wilma for us, won’t you Doc?”

I held out my hands. “Here, let me take her. Let’s go into the exam room and see what we can figure out.”

I was unable to palpate a pulse in either femoral artery. “This is not good,” I told them. I’m pretty certain she has what we call a saddle thrombus. It’s a blood clot blocking the two main arteries to her legs. I’ve never seen a case before but I remember the description from vet school. There is no blood circulating to her hind legs.”

“Is there something you can do to fix her?” asked Ike.

“Well, theoretically I could try to operate and remove the clot. However, I’ve never done anything even remotely like that before, never opened an artery then tried to suture it closed afterwards. I don’t think we even have any suture material small enough to do that kind of thing. Also we have no idea what causes this and it could come right back. I’m sorry. I hate to say this but I think the best thing I can do to help Wilma is to put her out of her misery.”

They looked at each other each waiting for the other, torn by indecision. Neither was willing to accept the responsibility.

“Are you sure you don’t want to even try?” pleaded Jon. “Cost is not a problem you know. We’ll pay whatever it costs,” he looked to Ike for confirmation. Ike nodded in agreement.

“OK, I’m willing to try anything, but I have to tell you this could be an unmitigated disaster. I’ve never even seen anything like this done. First let me look to see if we have any suture material small enough to suture an artery closed.”

It went about as I anticipated. I got Wilma anesthetized, hooked up an intravenous drip, opened up her abdomen, packed off her abdominal organs and gained access to the distal aorta. When I tried to dissect around the vessel, I managed to break off some branches. The abdomen quickly filled with arterial blood and Wilma bled out in short order.

Jon cradled Wilma in his arms, rocking her gently.

“What do we owe you,” asked Ike?

“I don’t know how about twenty dollars to cover the cost of the anesthesia and other stuff I used, is that fair?”

Ike handed me a greasy ten and two crisp fives. He sniffed and turned to Jon.

“You want me to carry her or do you want to hold her.”

“I’ll hold her, you drive.”

Their pickup roared to life and the headlights came on. As the truck pulled onto the road I waved at them through the window.

This all took place in 1960 today a competent veterinary surgeon would consider this procedure routine.

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