Thursday, April 29, 2010

"If you decide to become a veterinary surgeon you will never grow rich but you will have a life of endless interest and variety." -James Herriot

Before I knew it I was quickly following frantic women through a labyrinth of tunnels. They were leading me to their horse which was down, or at least that was the explanation on the phone when they called in the emergency. As I came out into the circular opening of the cave-like dwelling, there lay the horse. It was in a horrible state and had dug itself into a rut thrashing while laying down. I wondered how long the horse had been there.

The two women were a mother and her grown daughter. I could feel the tension between them when I arrived. They did not give me much of an explanation about their horse. They just told me to follow them because we had to walk to get to the horse, and there I left my vet truck.

I examined the horse and it seemed to have a severe colic (twisted gut). Even if I thought there was something we could do to save the animal, I don't know how we would have moved it. The mother then proceeded to tell her daughter that she knew she should have done something about this sooner and she doesn't know what she is doing. I tried to interrupt and explain to the women that the horse did not have much longer to live and it would be the best choice to put it out of it's misery. The mother continued yelling profanities and screamed at her daughter. The daughter did not hold back and let her mom have it just the same. Confused, I turned to go to my truck to get the medical supplies I needed.

To my surprise, I did not know how to get back to my truck! Not wanting to get in the middle of the two women, I hurriedly starting zigzagging my way through the labyrinth hoping I would pop out at the correct entrance. Finally, I found my way out, got my medical supplies and weaved my way back. I returned to find the daughter, who was in her late 60's, cradling the horse's head and had her legs wrapped around the horse in an attempt to keep the horse still. She was dripping water from a bottle into its mouth. I tried explaining what I had to do and that I needed access to the horses vein, which she was lying on. The daughter asked if there was anything that could be done, "maybe if she could just have some more water?"  I explained the quality of life of the horse was very poor and became increasingly worried about the woman injuring herself by latching on to the horse.

Finally, I was able to get access to the vein and I started injecting the euthanasia solution. I suddenly became aware of what seemed to be a sort of chant going on. The mother was dancing around the horse and chanting what seemed to be some sort of spiritual tune. The horse was finally at peace so I decided it best for me to leave. I informed them on how to properly dispose of the animal and got out of there as fast as I could!

I am constantly amazed at the level of attachment humans have with horses. This story shows that being a farm vet you have to deal with just as many human personalities as animal personalities. This is one I will never forget! The quote used as the title of this story sums it up quite nicely.


  1. Ah, so very true. I think students think they go to vet school just to work with animals. They fail to realize you have to work with people too! That's the hard part!!

  2. Yes, it is! People are even more unpredictable than animals! There are definitely "people skill" needed to practice the profession.

  3. That whole post was totally baffling! Seriously, i know people are bonkers, but really, i can't believe you had to deal with all that!