Monday, October 15, 2007


Oh, there are good times. Working with animals is a truly humbling experience, they always keep you on your toes and they'll teach you lessons that you thought you knew. You can meet some animals that will make you laugh, and some that will make you cry.

I remember Milo. Milo was a ginger tomcat that was at the clinic for something. It was when I'd first started on work experience, and I don't remember what it was exactly. I think it was kidney problems. Anyway, he wasn't eating or drinking while he was there. At the end of the day I was exhausted. One of the vet nurses suggested I take Milo into the consult room and give him a change to walk around.

Of course, when we got in there, the cat ignored me. I sat on the floor and petted him. He tolerated it, but didn't seek it when I stopped. I tried to entice him to eat, but he wouldn't. I talked to him the entire time. He wandered to a far corner of the room.

I called him. And he looked at me. I called him again. I could pretty much see him thinking, 'She knows me. I don't remember her, but I must know her.' He came back to me and sought a pat. Then he wandered off to his food bowl and began to eat. Unfortunately this was about 5 minutes before the consult room needed to be vacated.

Milo taught me the value of calling animals (and people) by name. Learning that lesson early on has made my career so much easier. No matter what you're doing, if you refer to an uncooperative patient by name, it does calm them, and it also gives you credibility in their eyes.

And yes, after that Milo did eat while he was hospitalised with us, and he continued to improve.

Dog was an entire male German Shepherd. He was a stray who had been hit by a car and bought in by the council. He hadn't been cared for. He had flea allergy so badly that he'd lost about 60-70% of his coat, and what remained was very sparse. He was in desperate need of a bath and a good feed. Though he was huge.

We could only keep Dog for a week before euthanasia. We put him on anti inflammatories and pain killers. Luckily he hadn't sustained any major injuries. Right from the beginning he was gorgeous. He was injured, uncomfortable, scared and in a place that he didn't know and that smelt of chemicals and fear. And he handled beautifully. I had no fear giving him his medication. You could open his mouth and play with his teeth, or take his temperature, pull his ears (within reason), and your biggest danger would be getting licked too much. Or farted on.

We put him outside in the courtyard, and he'd sit there all day. We went out there to hang washing, and he'd be all excited. We'd give him pats and if we sat on the ground, he'd sit on you, yet he never jumped. We'd walk other dogs out there and he'd just look at them calmly. We took another male dog out there to wash, and he sat there the entire time and watched us. He would howl if he got lonely, but he'd shut up when told to. I wanted to take him home.

His seven days passed. And on D-day we all stood around and shuffled our feet every time he was mentioned. We didn't want to do it. We'd all gotten attached to him. Fortunately the vets got called out to a horse emergency about half an hour before we closed. So he was left. The next day I got a call from a friend of the woman who originally hit him. She was interested in taking him. I did the leg work. I got all the drugs ready and labelled for him. She had to pay for them, but we gave them to her at cost price.

She arrived on a rainy Friday afternoon, at about 3pm. Which was our busiest time. Fortunately we had an extra nurse on at the time. I handed Dog over to her and grinned as she walked out. A few minutes later I wandered out the back to clean up, and through the courtyard fence I noticed they were still out there. I walked out to see if she needed a hand. She tried to put him the cab of her ute, but all he wanted to do was sit on her lap!

We ended up putting him in the back. It took us a while, and by the time we got him secured, I was soaked. The legs of my jeans were waterlogged about a foot high. But it was worth it. As cheesy as it sounds, I didn't notice how wet and cold I was, for the warm glow inside.

Then there was Henry. Henry was a wild crow that we used to feed. Now he was a character and a half. He found us when he was very young. He used to eat out of our hands and sit quite comfortably next to us. But he was young and naive, and we suspect he tried that with someone else, to near disastrous ends.

He hadn't been around for a few days, maybe a week or two. We weren't really worried. He was a young, wild crow. He could have been moved on by a more senior bird, or just gone off on his own accord. One day he came to us one day, and he was injured*. He wasn't able to stand on his right foot and was malnourished. He would not tolerate us to approach him for examination. We continued to feed him, and hoped for the best.

Over time he healed, and he did trust us again. But only in work uniform. He realised that we were safe for him. He grew up and found a mate. He'd bring her around for dinner, but she never trusted us like he did. He also had a few batches of chicks that would visit us for food, but like his mate, they never trusted us.

Henry would sit at the back door and call at us when he wanted to be fed. When he was feeding chicks he would take a load of food away for his family. One time I was feeding him dog kibble, because they're more balanced than the mince we normally gave them. When I stopped feeding him, I shoo'd him away. He flew off to a small puddle and dropped all the pellets I'd given him in there to soften them! Cheeky bugger. From then on, whenever I gave him kibble, I'd moisten it first.

Once I was out checking sheep, and in their water trough, I found a bread roll. A soggy, hardly recognisable bread roll. I guess it was a bit hard, and he'd dropped it in there to soften it. I scooped it out and cleaned the trough as best I could. A little later I was out in another part of the paddock when Henry dropped by for a chat. Well, he wanted to see if I had any food, but I didn't so I talked to him instead. All of a sudden he flew off. He'd spied one of the sheep having a drink from the trough where he'd left his roll. He landed in front of the sheep and it took a step back and looked at him. 14" tall Henry waddled forwards a bit, and the 90kg sheep took another step back. Then Henry flew up, and kind of fluttered in the sheep's face. Well, that was it. The sheep retreated smartly. Then he looked over at me as if to say 'What the hell was that about?'. Henry went back to inspect the roll, but found it on the ground and had a quick nibble on it. It was one of the funniest things I've seen.

*To this day, he still has feathers sticking out on his right side, from under his wing.

Once I had a mouse with a new litter. She had one dead one in the lot, so I pulled it out of her nest and left it in the bottom of the cage while I went to get something to put it in. When I came back seconds later, she was over near it. I watched her gently pick up her dead baby, carry it back to the nest, and carefully put it in. Then she sat on top of them all and looked at me.

Pip was my own pet. She now lives with my mother and is morbidly obese. She is a Jack Russell Terrier cross. A very excitable small dog. She taught me so much about how to handle animals. We got her when I was in my final years of high school. Prior to that, our pets never had obedience training. I knew at that stage what I wanted to do for a living, so I used to train Pip.

I didn't use food. I used her favourite stuffed toy to teach sit, stay and fetch. She taught me that you can use any reward to train an animal. She was a bugger for 'come' though. In the house or the back yard, she wouldn't respond. We lived on a busy road at the time with trucks constantly going by, and she got out the front. I bolted out and prepared for a merry chase. The previous dog would come back when she was ready, and from her back yard performances, I thought she'd be the same. But no, I called once and she ran happily over to me. I picked her up and made a big fuss over her. She never did come when called in the house or yard, but outside she had 100% immediate return.

She also taught that me that there are times to be excited and out of control, and times to be calm and quiet. No matter how excited she got, in you rubbed her ears between your fingers, or stroked between her eyes, she'd just stop dead. She taught me that there are ways to calm animals, that are very much the same as calming people.


Steph said...

Phish, that was a great post. I'm not an animal lover by any stretch, but I come from a family of animal loving nutjobs and i do see how much they bring to peoples lives.

I remember the last litter my mums dog had, there were two dead in that lot but she would not let anyone near them and kept them underneath her as well.
It was so amazing to see this rough as guts cattle dog being all motherly.

oestrebunny said...

Great post!
My dad has a crow like that, he just calls him Crow though. But Crow eats all the dog biscuit too and dips it in the water to soften it up. It's funny to watch crows, they're so intelligent and you would never realise just how much.

~Miss Smack said...

I agree with Steph.Great post, in fact, I think it might just be one of my favourites from you. Really made me smile and I read the entire post aloud to my girl who went 'awwwwwwwwwww' all the way through it.

She wants to be a vet you know!


Cazzie!!! said...

Great stories, I love it. Having grown up in the country and having a whole menagerie of animals I so agree with everything you say. Was a hard thing to choose between becoming a vet nurse and a human nurse, but, as you say, treatment is very very similar and calming of people and pets similar too, it is the way you approach them that is the key :)

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Delightful stores—wonderful animals. Thank you, Phish!

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

I didn't know you worked with animals! That's really where my heart is...working with animals. I KNOW I'd be much happier making if that's what I was doing today (as opposed to what I'm doing now).

I've raised orphan squirrels, doves and mocking birds...I LOVE it.

I loved your stories...especially the one about Dog!!! :)

Memphis Steve said...

"Once I was out checking sheep"

I've done a lot of things in my life, but this is one statement I can't honestly make.

I don't know why, of all the things you said, this was the one thing I felt the need to comment on. It just struck me. It was like "this one time, at band camp", except it was sheep. OK, so it cracked me up. Don't ask.

Memphis Steve said...

You know, I always loved animals. I remember when I was growing up how cruel and cold my mother was to every pet we had. I didn't understand the significance of this at the time, but I do now. People who are cruel to animals are cruel to people, as well. You can often see what's in a person's heart by how they treat animals.

itelli said...

Wow! I really enjoyed that!

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

That was actually a very thoughtful post.
That really got me thinking.

I love dogs myself, as you know.

Crashdummie said...

this was a great homage to all the animal lovers.

Anonymous said...

that dead mouse baby story was sad. It shows you that they still need to grieve for their babies and can do perfectly fine without our human intervention and 'knowing best'

Either that or she wanted to eat it later for lunch, hehe. sorry phish, I was just thinking outloud.

Beautiful post girl.

phishez_rule said...

Steph - hey, those rough as guts cattle dogs are definitely the kind we don't want to see. They bite.

Ostre - they're quite beautiful birds. Very intelligent but a bit dopey.

Smack - tell her thats a great aspiration. And you don't have to be the smartest to get there. Its more about hard work, really hard work, dedication and perseverance.

Cazzie - I thought about you as I wrote these two posts, because I knew you'd get these, even if you don't work with animals. I knew you loved animals, but I didn't know you were going to work with them.

Nick - you're more than welcome.

Stacy - You know you can be a foster carer for a wildlife organisation. Or its never to late to change your career path if thats what you really want.

Steve - Very true. And you can often see the real side to a person by your pets reaction. Especially dogs. I had a dog, and she was lovely, but if she didn't like you, I didn't like you either.

Itelli - it was good to write. After yesterdays post I needed something to make me feel good again.

Ingsoc - It was more designed to make you feel, than think.

Crashie - thanks.

Betty - she was a real cutie. But when I took the pup away she didn't seem to notice. She had quite a few babies.

Helen said...

Aaah Phish, I am such an animal lover, too. Have you ever read The Compassion of Animals by Kristin Von Kreisler? It is a great read, but read it with a box of tissue.

I'm still not over one of the deaths on our farm, even though we raise chickens for meat and eggs, there was one little hen that I just fell in love with. (Am petting my big shepherd right now)

Spiky Zora Jones said...

Phish...I'm from the farm and cats we had for controlling the mouse population.

The mouse story brings out the sorrow I feel for the mouse mother. How very sad...It made my eyes water and tears flowed quietly down my face. I didn't want to not today.

poody said...

I think you can learn a lot from animals too! In fact, I much prefer their company to most people!

Lad Litter said...

Two great posts, Phish! What do you think of the pit-bull proliferation?

The T-Dude said...

I also grew up around animals. And frankly, they are more honest and often times more interesting than most people.

And they never ask to borrow money.

itisthelittlethings said...

Aw geez, you've given me the cry I needed today. I'm so happy to read DOG found a home.
Bless you for your work. I'm in awe.

Anonymous said...

I would love love love to work with animals. Allergies suck. They do bring such wonderful things you would never expect into your life though. great post.

jali said...

That was so beautiful. The story about the mouse was heartbreaking.

Lord Chimmy said...

My parent's beagle is named Pip.

Anyway, you're right about animals...they do seek the same comforts as people. I've never met any animal that didn't like a good head rub.

Lord Chimmy said...

Wait! That sounded totally dirty and I didn't mean it that way! Really...

Keshi said...

Girl this was one of the BEST posts I've ever read! its so unique and heart-warming.

I had many pets and yes I learnt alot from em too. Its amazing wut they can teach us!


Professor said...

I'm not really an animal person but I liked these stories of kindness to animals and about kind animals. I'm glad there are people like you.

phishez_rule said...

Helen - there's always one you'll fall in love with.

SZJ - I'm sorry. How bout you go check out the pics of my boobs to cheer you up

Poody - me too. They're more honest and reliable.

Lad Litter - Pit Bulls are a restricted breed in Aus. And for good reason. Properly managed they are gorgeous pets, though I personally wouldn't have them unsupervised near pets and would have to make sure their envornment was escape proof. But if they aren't managed properly they can be incredibly dangerous, as can any other breed.

T - no, they just requite lots of it to keep them happy.

LT - *blush* thanks.

Kelly - I have allergies to rats, and mild ones to cats. Though you just deal with it.

Jali - I think I cried a bit when I saw her.

Chimmey - I've never met a guy who didn't like a good head run either.

KEshi - They teach us to love. And thats very important.

Prof - *blush*