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A Vet’s Wife’s Diary–Riding Shotgun

After being married to a veterinarian for over fifty years, I naturally have loads of memories, pictures in my mind, like the following. My veterinarian is a much better storyteller than I am, but I love to write his stories down, even if only in my diary. Here are three from the year 1992.

August 3, 1992

One of our fairly new clients had a sickly pig recently which, the farmer said, should be culled, but whom, his wife said, must be cared for. (Shades of Charlotte’s Web!) One Saturday, a day off for Charles, we were deep into painting our kitchen when this lady appeared at our back door wanting Charles to tell her what to do for the little critter. They went out to his truck where he gave the little pig several shots, cautioning her not to be too optimistic. “But,” he said, “amazing things can happen.”

She wanted to pay him. He insisted not. Coming back in to take up his brush he told me, “She couldn’t afford to pay, the pig is not worth the cost, and if I can’t do some things just because they need doing, I’m not worth my pay the rest of the time.”

A few weeks later that lady called and asked if we liked fish. She gave us a mess of fresh water bass fillets explaining she wanted to do something nice for Dr. Graham’s treating her pig. I cautiously asked how the pig was. She became very enthusiastic. “Well, you know he’s deaf, but he’s been eating and growing since Dr. Graham treated him. Like Dr. Graham told me to, I’ve been spoon feeding him, and now he’s trained just like a baby. He’s really a character!”

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A typical scene, a healthy hog, not the little sickly pig!

November 4, 1992

Charles is blessed with such a huge amount of cheerfulness that in the worst circumstances there’s usually some of it left in his well. He’s sort of like an airfilled balloon in a tub of water. There’s just no way you can keep him down. But the other night I found him morose and very subdued. He’d lost a patient, he told me. It was a cow on whom he’d done a caesarian. The operation was successful, though the calf had been dead for hours. He was almost through closing the wound when the cow suddenly drew a big shuddering breath and died. Years ago this would have been so common he would have been sad, but not surprised. But now procedures and supplies are so vastly improved, he expects to win more of these battles. This one really got him down. For one thing, he was physically exhausted which, of course, affects one’s mental attitude. Being disappointed as well, he was not interested in much conversation the whole evening and announced he was going to bed around 9:30.  But the next morning he was whistling again.

November 9, 1992

I never grow tired of hearing Charles explain firmly and kindly the intricacies, causes, effects, possibilities of injuries, diseases and conditions. For instance, yesterday (Sunday afternoon) a young woman named Rebecca brought in her 11 year-old poodle who’d had two seizures in quick succession. Rebecca was swollen-eyed and still crying, blurting out, “I don’t want her to be in pain. I’ll do what I have to do.” She implied she was afraid she should euthanize her dog.

Charles took the dog’s temperature. Normal. He questioned her about other seizures. Very few. He asked her about the circumstances surrounding these recent ones. There was company at her house, otherwise all was as usual. How severe were the seizures. Very bad. The dog virtually lost all consciousness, eyes glazed over.

Finally, as he rubbed the little dog’s back and looked her again in the eyes which now were wide open and eager, Charles said, “Just because she’s had a few seizures is no reason to put her down. You may have to do that one day if you think it’s best for her, but I can’t recommend it now. She’s not in a lot of pain, just bewilderment at times. When she has a seizure, leave her in safe surroundings and ignore her. Let her be quiet awhile. I don’t even recommend medication unless seizures are pretty frequent and regular. Medication partially sedates one most of the time. I’ll give her a tranquilizing shot now just to calm her and then I recommend you just watch her. You know, we can’t guarantee how any of us will die and whether we may be frightened and alone sometime. But let’s live fully while we can.”

Rebecca smiled through her tears as she hugged her “baby.” “Thanks, Doc, thanks so much!”

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