Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas Cheer.

I'm hoping it is going to arrive soon.

To my dismay none of our clients were put off by the snow, depositing their various pets at the surgery door for routine operations and worse still, dental work. 

As usual we have been supplied with a never ending stream of shortbread and chocolates to numb the pain.

I am on call the eve of my birthday and am praying no-one expects me to brave the non gritted UK roads and ice in the early hours of the start of my 34th year.

Sparing a thought for the vet on call on Christmas day and the poor nurses who will be working the Christmas shifts, spending it on the surgery premises rather than at home with their families.  Let's hope there aren't too many Christmas pudding/chocolate intoxicated pets.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Chat up lines.

Wellington New Zealand, Jan 2007.

He(puffing his chest out): 'I'm the most important person in my town.'

Me (surprised): 'Really? Are you the Mayor?'

He (proudly): 'No I'm the vet!'

Me: 'Wow, that's such a great job!'  

He: 'Yeah, it lands me a lot of respect.'

Me : 'I bet it does, I am very impressed.'

He: 'So what do you do?'

Me (matter of fact): 'I'm a vet too.'

He: Silence.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


I spend almost thirty minutes on the phone advising Miss Small about Molly her cat at midnight and another 30 minutes at 2 am. 

After we admit Molly the next day for investigations Miss Small calls four times during the day to check on Molly's progress.

The next day she calls to see if it is OK for Molly to go outside again.

The day after that she calls to see when Molly needs to come and see me again and whether I think it is her fault that Molly got sick because she let her outside in the cold.

She loves Molly and she is very grateful for all my endeavors.

'Surely I can't be the only person like this?' She asks 'Please tell me you have come across someone even more neurotic about their pets than I am?' She pleads.

'Yes.' I reply. ' That would be me.'

Friday, 4 December 2009

Last Date.

After filling my date in on the mad menagerie that my Mother keeps, including the seven sex rampant tortoises, a cat and a fox at the bottom of the garden which she feeds every day, my date says:

'My mum used to put chilli powder in the garden to keep the cats out.'

Mean bitch.

Turns out it runs in the family.

He attempts to order very little food (in case I should make him pay) and as we split the bill (and then the tip) I decide I cant go out with the tight-arse spawn of a chilli sprinkling witch ever again.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The hardest Good bye.

'Be professional, be professional, be professional.' I say to myself as I drive through the rain to my destination.

It is time to say good bye to Josh.  He has been unwell for some weeks.

But this is no ordinary euthanasia because Josh belongs to a colleague and a friend.

He doesn't get out of his basket when I arrive and blood trickles from his nose, he wags his tail and I look into his big brown eyes, he is still a big handsome labrador but his body is tired.

I imagine how my colleague will feel tomorrow when she gets up and his basket is empty.  How hard it will be to come home for lunch to an empty house, his toy box undisturbed. He is the third member of their family and a huge part of their life.  She is a proud, strong woman who I have rarely seen upset and it breaks my heart to see her so vulnerable, the tears role silently down her cheeks as she strokes his head. 

I give the injection as we feed him his favourite treats, eventually he stops eating and his head slumps. 

'Thank you.' She says softly. 'That was really nice.' 

Being a vet involves the euthanasia of patients to alleviate suffering on an almost daily basis and for the most part I remain professional yet compassionate.  In circumstances such as these where I understand something of the bond between patient and owner it is impossible to remain so.

Euthanasia of a pet is not an easy decision for an owner to make, my mother had several sleepless nights before taking her own cat to the local vets.  The guilt and anxiety an owner can feel is not to be underestimated.

But it is also important to realise that however calm we may appear, the pressure we feel as vets to make this final act go as smoothly as possible is often immense.  At times it is impossible not to be moved to tears and it never gets any easier, however long you have been qualified. Afterall, we are only human.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Odd one out.

EVERYONE is pregnant, newly married or engaged, apart from me.

Or so I thought- until I saw this in one of the nurses cars:

It made me feel so much better to find someone even more bitter than I am!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Counting the days....

I am starting to get really excited about my big trip, the last time I was really close to an elephant I was four years old:

Everyone at work is so miserable at present.  I have come to the conclusion it is not just work, it is the time of year and we have all got 'Sads'.

I am so lucky to have something to look forward to. The spare room is brimming over with 'crocodile dundee' style hats and safari gear, I have been vaccinated for EVERYTHING- I nearly fainted last time.

I've been given a 'field manual'. I have to make myself familiar with species like 'Hipo' and 'Leopard'- how wonderfully simple and undemanding!

After a year of toil, sweat and tears it's going to be a walk in the park and I just can't wait!

Monday, 2 November 2009

'He's done something....'

Three words you don't want to hear coming from a six foot tall man, of rugby build, in his mid thirties, carrying a cat basket at arms length into your consulting room.  

Followed by the words ' the basket.'

Then the noise of human retching and the feeble phrase 'I think I'm going to be sick.'

Sadly for Mr Tomlinson I was not sympathetic to his nausea, although I will admit the smell of his cats excrement was pretty dreadful.

'I'll get some gloves and a nurse.' I told him whilst ignoring his persistent retching.

'For God sake pull yourself together man!' Was what I wanted to say. For some reason I could not be sympathetic to him, afterall I was the one who would be scraping the shit out of the basket and cleaning the cat, not him.

I opened the door to the waiting room and yelled for the nurse 'Lisa! Lisa! Please could you come and help, Mr Tomlinson is about to vomit and I need someone to help hold his cat!' I made sure all the other clients could hear.

'Have you got children?' I asked him.

'Yes.' He said 'A son.'

'If you don't mind me asking, how the hell did you cope with his nappies?' I continued.

'I was ok.' He paused. 'Until he went onto solids.'

His poor wife.......

Friday, 30 October 2009


Someone phoned up today to make an appointment for their 'Bitch on fries'.

Yep, it took us a while too.....

Sunday, 25 October 2009

The first cut is the deepest.

I don't think we ever forget our very first pet. 

This is me with Otto.

He was there before I was born.

I was vaguely aware during my earlier years that he fell somewhere between my baby brother and the goldfish in the pecking order of things.

He ate from the same silver dish for seventeen years, mostly cat food in a blue tin from Sainsbury's. He used to sit in the middle of the go cart ramp when we wanted to use it. One day he ate Fishy. When he disappeared for three days I cried every day. I still remember the day he came home vividly, Dad bursting excitedly into the living room holding him under his arm. 

When we moved home my parents transported him in a porcelain waste paper bin that smelt of cigarette stubs. When we moved again Dad thought that at thirteen 'the shock would kill him'. The next day he dragged a squirrel through the cat flap.

He weaved his way into the fabric of our life with a soft gentle charm.  

When he died we knew we had not only lost a pet but an irreplaceable part of our little family unit. A little piece of our history.  

As in the photo, he may always have been on the periphery but he was never out of the picture.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

A worse profession.

My mother and I are hooked on the current series of 'Masterchef the professionals.'

Last night during the show she sent me this text : 'I think masterchef is a worse job than a vet.'

My reply: 'Yes, but at least if you find a brown stain on your uniform you know there is a fair chance it's only going to be gravy.'

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Zoonotic disease.

A zoonosis is a disease you can catch from your pet.

As vets we are naturally at risk from these. Today I took a trip to the chemist to obtain some treatment for the red patch of skin on my chest which I suspect to be ringworm.

There were four or five other people at the counter of various ages all waiting for flu and cold remedies... and then there was little old blotchy me.

'I'd like some Canesten cream.' I asked the matronly looking chemist in a low voice.

'Have you got Thrush?' She asked loudly.

Everyone tried very hard not to look at me because the English find nothing more embarrassing than a problem 'down below'.

'No I've got ringworm.' I said rather pointedly through gritted teeth.

'Oh you've got worms!' She said nodding her head rather excited as if she finally understood.

Now they were all looking at me rather disgusted.

'I do not have worms, I have a fungal infection which I caught from a patient!' I ranted across the counter.

With that everyone simultaneously took two steps back...including the chemist.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


I've got news folks, the dog world is in the grip of a 1980's perm style revival.

There's a new hybrid in town, the Dog 'o' doodle/poodle crosses:

They come in all shapes and sizes:

The Labradoodle:

The Cockapoo.....ahhhhh

The Basetoodle (although I do wonder whether this was an accidental mating and if so whether a chair was also involved)

It would appear that the trend is not just hitting the canine world....Sarah Jessica Parker has been spotted sporting a similar 'do' in the new 'Sex in the City' movie.

See if you can spot the Jackadoodle below...I'll give you a clue, she's the cute one.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


My colleague has a unique description for clients who pick and choose from the tests and treatments you have recommended for their pets.  She calls them 'smorgasboard clients.'

For example you say 'Felix needs to have a blood test, X-rays, drip, ultrasound and antibiotics.'

And they say after twenty minutes of deliberation and time wasting 'I don't think we will have the blood test or X-rays but we will have the ultrasound and drip.'

It's not because they can't afford it, it's because they think they know better than you and somehow they think you are trying to con them into tests they don't need.

Heres what happens in every scenario.

Two days later Felix isn't better.

Four days later they let you run the complete work up you wanted to do on day one.

Monday, 5 October 2009


Recently I've been thinking about fledgling vets.  You'll probably have been qualified around three months now.

When I think back to some of the useless exam questions I had during my finals like:

'What is the ideal colour of an egg yolk?'

'Describe the surgical treatment for chylothorax?' 

and 'How would you design housing for 100 farrowing sows?'

None of which have proved any use in the real world, I realise now that I was totally unprepared for life in practice.  It would have been far more useful for example to have been asked the following:

'There is a sixty five kilo Rottweiler growling outside your consulting room door, the owner wishes you to examine it's ears. You have the following at your disposal, a fifty kilo seventeen year old trainee nurse, a dog catcher and some ketamine. Describe how you would use these to complete the task safely.'


'Jeffery, the ten year old domestic short hair has been anorexic for 2 weeks and he is jaundiced. The owner has twenty pounds in her purse and doesn't get her benefits until next week. List the charity organisations that you might be able to contact for extra funds and how you feel the owners financial situation might alter the prognosis?'

Or even:

'You have been up all night performing your first caesarian and have had no sleep, describe the methods by which you will keep yourself awake during the next twelve hour shift?'

Sometimes I wonder whether it should be the examiners at vet schools and not just the students who should be doing a bit of 'seeing practice' during their holidays....

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


After having a peak at John the poultry enthusiasts wonderful blog I feel a little guilty about my ignorance on this subject matter.

You see there is nothing that evokes more passion than the word 'chicken' on a vet's waiting list... unless it is the word 'chick'.

As the unsuspecting poultry rearer takes their seat in the waiting room, behind the scenes there will be a hysterical scramble to avoid this patient at all costs in the hope that your colleague will see them instead. An unnecessary trip to the toilet, laboratory or a phone call. Draw the short straw there will be a panic about the whereabouts of the BVA poultry poster.

The BVA poultry poster contains a list of symptoms and their treatment. For example 'Green diarrhoea = Tylan for five days'. It is in short a life saver for both ignorant vet and chicken.

If you have brought a chicken to the vets and your vet excuses themselves from the room halfway through the consult I can absolutely guarantee that they have gone to consult the BVA poultry poster.

It's not that we don't like chickens, I personally think they are great and one day I'd like to have a few. 

I just don't know anything about them.

But there is one thing I do know and that's how to stitch one back together.  I am after all familiar with the anatomy of a sunday roast -it's just hard not to get hungry....

Monday, 28 September 2009

Close Observation

I decided to keep Amber the insect sting victim in for observation.

Being five weeks old and a German Shepherd this proved to be a stressful and therefore incredibly noisy experience with much screaming.

We came to a compromise.

I surfed the internet while she slept soundly on my lap.

Who would have thought such a small puppy could fart so much?

This was very close observation indeed.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009


It was on the fifth visit that I started to suspect that Mr Russell might have a crush on me.

'Good weekend?' He asked with a bit too much nonchalance.

I had my finger up his dogs arse so the weekend was very far from my mind.

'Didn't he come in three days ago?' I started to wonder 'Didn't I tell him I wouldn't need to check his dog for a further week?'

The penny dropped.

Sadly for his dog this particular crush was at a heavy cost.  A rectal examination every 3-4 days.

I looked up from the dogs anus and started to wonder whether I could fancy Mr Russell.

Sadly, the answer was probably not.

However having taken advice from my Mother on this matter I will google his home address tomorrow.

After-all it's all about 'location, location, location' and beggars can't be choosers.

Just call me 'shallow'- vet.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Negative Prognostic Indicators

Are indicators that alter prognosis for the worse.

For example these might include a lack of deep pain sensation in a dog that is unable to walk or spread of a cancer to the lungs or liver.

But what about the ones they don't teach you at vet school?

I'm talking about 'owner related' negative prognostic indicators, these include:

1) 'He's been sick for four weeks now and we are going on holiday tomorrow morning.'

2) The notes say that the animal is twelve, the owner knows the animal is twelve but what they actually tell you is 'He's very old now, he's seventeen.' 
Over the years I have discovered that the risk of euthanasia is directly proportional to the number of spurious years added by the owner.

3) Any mention of the words 'urine', 'faeces' and 'carpet' in the same sentence = bad news for the pet.

4) 'He doesn't get on with our new puppy.'

5) 'My husband thinks this treatment is getting too expensive.'

Followed by:

6) 'It's my husband or the dog.'

Sometimes the owner just has that look in their eye that suggests this is going to be the last trip their pet makes to the vets. 

'It's not the money.'  They insist. 'I just don't want him to suffer.'

Do they think I was born yesterday?

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


About ten years ago when I was fresh out of vet school I would see an obese pet and tell the owner to feed it 25 % less and that would be the end of it.  A year later it would be 25 % heavier and I would scratch my head.

Now I am older and wiser.

I ask them 'Exactly what do you feed your pet?'

'Three sachets of cat food a day.' They say.

'Mine get one.' I tell them curtly.

Then.... and this is the important bit. I wait.

I wait about a minute in silence.  Slowly the flood gates open.

'....and some biscuits.' They start slowly.

Working up to ' the prawns count?'

and '...a tescos value rich tea biscuit before bedtime'

...'a pigs ear in the afternoon.'

Followed by what I call the deal breakers, including (amongst my favourites.)

....'brown bread.' To a cat (as recommended by a local vet - thankfully now retired)

and my favourite 'Flumps....for his pills.'

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Anger management.

When you are running at full pelt, animals coming out of your ears and no time to sit down, drink a glass of water or have a wee it is easy to take your frustrations out on those nearest to hand i.e. the support staff.

Yep, those long suffering receptionists and nurses are bound to get an ear full when they least deserve it.

In an effort to modify my behaviour I have started with my mobile phone.

Instead of 'Work' flashing up when they call me out of hours it now says 'Be Nice to the nurse'.

So far it's actually working and about time too because there is only one thing worse than a stressed vet and that's a stressed vet that everybody hates.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Road kill.

After reading a post by Fi including this wonderful clip from the mitchell and webb show I was reminded of my time in mixed practice.

It's true vets really will eat anything.

One of the equine vets used to regularly pick up dead deer from the road, the student was horrified when he brought it back to the practice and proceeded to carve it up rather than cremate it.

Even now I am always slightly suspicious of the large polystyrene troughs of meat the farm vet has delivered to the vets office.....

Thursday, 27 August 2009


Dad has been struggling to understand what my certificate actually means, here is the email I sent him earlier in the week to clarify things:

Dear Dad,

Just to clarify for you the certificate I passed is a further qualification in small animal medicine. 

The subject includes cardiorespiratory medicine (coughing cats and dogs), gastroenterology (vomiting dogs/cats), hepatology (jaundiced cats and dogs), endocrinology ( thirsty cats and dogs),  neurology ( wobbly cats and dogs), oncology (lumpy cats and dogs), immunology (dogs and cats that need a lot of steroids), urogenital medicine (cats and dogs that piss a lot on the carpet), infectious diseases (sneezing cats and dogs that come off the continent with more than a suntan), emergency medicine ( dogs and cats that are in the main completely screwed), pharmacology (dogs on a lot of drugs because there is no diagnosis) and a small amount of opthalmology (blind cats and dogs) and dermatology (crusty cats and dogs).

So I am now more qualified to treat vomiting, crusty, thirsty, wobbly, sneezing cats and dogs that may or may not be completely screwed!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Going against the grain.

When I was seventeen years old I achieved a B grade in my mock A-level Chemistry exam and my science teachers told my parents that I was not a 'natural scientist'.  

The implication being that I was obviously meddling with a subject I should never have attempted.  I was in fact far better at languages and english but you could not achieve entrance to vet school with these and so I studied physics, chemistry and a favourite of mine, biology.

What my chemistry teachers neglected to recognise was my sheer determination to become a vet.  A calling that had started at the age of five and that I could not ignore.  More importantly, they failed to understand that science is not an elitist subject and is certainly not beyond the realms of an un-natural scientist like myself. 

I did of course achieve the grades I needed AAB - not bad for an un-natural scientist and actually better than some of the kids they considered to be natural scientists.

There was a small moment recently during my vivas for my small animal medicine certificate exams when I felt like I was going against the grain yet again and that I didn't deserve to achieve my goal.

When I got my results and saw that I had achieved 70 % of the marks I decided that would be the very last time that I would ever feel like I was not good enough.

At the end of the day when an owner is worried about their pet they don't want to see someone who will give them facts without an ounce of empathy, they want to see someone who cares deeply about what happens to their pet.  They really couldn't give a damn about the science behind it all.

So I say to all you kids out there who are also 'un-natural' scientists, to those who are having to do a degree prior to vet school or have narrowly failed to reach the required A-level results, you simply must find a way in because the profession would be all the poorer without 'un-natural scientists' like you and I.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Where next?

I have been considering which direction to go in next.  

Should I continue my studies and apply for a residency in a University that only sees referrals and try to become a specialist or should I continue to be a 'normal' vet?

I guess the answer came to me about 10 days ago.

Around about the time I was dangling from a branch overhanging the river that runs next to the practice.  The water was well passed the top of my wellies and heading up to my thighs. My nice new smart trousers were soaked and so was my underwear.

I was by this point laughing so hard I kept sliding down the muddy riverbank and could not extricate myself from the rapids.

Meanwhile the semiferal cat I had been heroically trying to grab from the branch, having escaped it's basket in the car park, was long gone.

Could I really give moments like this up?

Not in a million years!

I guess I'll just sit back, relax for a while and just see where the river takes me......

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

LittleVet in the 'Big City'

After I had circled Westminster Abbey for the second time searching for the examination hall I started to feel that maybe I wasn't cut out for the 'big smoke'.  

The hotel was nice but I was the only 'non tourist' 'non business' person at breakfast which was run by the hotel staff like a military drill.

The exam hall was an evangelical church and I prayed for the first time in my life.

There were 56 of us in all.  The men arrived with suitcases full of books, the women sat deep breathing in the moments before we entered the exam room. 

Now I am exhausted, on call immediately on my return and for the entire weekend, I have never been so tired in my entire life, a mix of physical exhaustion through lack of sleep and mental exhaustion from two weeks of hard revision.  Finding it hard to muster the strength to pick up a book and start revision for the vivas which are notoriously hard to pass first time.

I hear one of the examiners is single, tomorrow I'm getting my highlights done and buying a new dress..............

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


My colleague excitedly recounted how she had to see a dog that had a possible 'GSW' at the weekend.  I have to admit I hadn't a clue what she meant.

For those of us non-americans a GSW is a 'Gunshot wound'.

Note the word 'possible' GSW.  

In my book you've either been shot or you haven't.  

This very agressive guard dog had been injured during a robbery but NOT shot.

How very english.

How very boring.

....still better for the dog.  

Not great for the staff who had to put up with a barage of 'ER' style commands in a poor american accent from my colleague all weekend...she never quite recovered from the disappointment.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

What do I know now?

Yesterday someone posted a lovely comment that started me thinking about why I became a vet.

I wanted to help animals.

I still do.

But what else have a learned?

Training to be a vet is easy.  The best five years of my life were spent at vet school.  

But to be a vet you need stamina and courage.  Sometimes performing procedures you have only read about in books, often when you are more exhausted than you could possibly imagine.

That being a vet is about looking after people, pets come second.

There will be days when you have euthanased five animals in a row but it is the sixth that makes you cry and you realise that you will never be numb to other peoples emotions.

Sometimes you will cry with laughter because people do and say the funniest things when they are emotionally disarmed with concern for their pet.

You will be respected by your neighbours and friends, they will marvel and remark that you have the most wonderful job.

You will smile and nod but underneath it all you will be thinking 'If only you knew.'

Once in a while a patient will get better when you least expected and you will rejoice in knowing that you made a difference, because above all you will learn that the bond between patient and owner can never be underestimated.

Sunday, 14 June 2009


I'm so tired my facial muscles ache. Yesterday I worked for 16 hours. It was a saturday.

The operations board read:

Pyometra (hysterectomy) on a bitch
Stitch up large wound on a cat.
Examine throat of large labrador with stick injury under anaesthesia.
Blood test, drip and ultrasound vomiting dog.
Examine pharynx of retching cat under anaesthetic.
Blood test drip and ultrasound vomiting puppy.
Check inpatients.

The time was 5pm. There were two of us and we hadn't even started.

By the time I had seen several more clients and completed a home visit to euthanase a dog it was midnight.  

The biggest trial of all, the three very difficult clients who made unreasonable complaints or demands. These people were just not nice and I was killing myself for these ungrateful bastards. For the first time in ten years I actually wondered why I was doing this job.  Had I had another complaint I feel sure I would have walked out.

Today lovely Mrs Brown was visiting her cat Suki who I have been treating for diabetic ketoacidosis.  Suki is the sickest cat that I have ever brought back from the brink.

As Mrs Brown left the surgery I overheard her talking to another client. 
'They've done a marvellous job on my Suki, I really thought I was going to lose her.' She said.

I'm grateful for people like Mrs Brown, without them I probably wouldn't be writing this blog.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Cut short..

...I was about to write you a blog,

but I've just this minute been called into work at 9.30 pm at night to see a 'bloated guinea pig' that's been sick for three days.

What a ridiculous way to earn a living!

Saturday, 30 May 2009


No it's not America's top model.

It's the narrow corridor behind the consulting rooms which I ask owners to trot their lame dogs up and down.

Recently, I've realised that diagnosing lameness this way is just pants.

Most of the dogs try and dive off into another consulting room, or worse still the cattery.

Meanwhile nurses lay helpful obstacles like clinical waste bags in their path, which always deserve a good sniff.

Owners have NO control, teachers who complain about kids in schools today will empathise with this.  Walking in a straight line is an impossible task.

Sadly, some owners of lame dogs are overweight.  Therefore their pets are  overweight too and will suffer with joint disease.

I watched one such owner this week, his girth so great that I couldn't actually see the dog and decided I'm giving up on runways.  

Bring on the X-rays.

Monday, 25 May 2009


My vet friend told me this one.  It's true.

Question : What does a male guinea pig do on the ride home in the car when his deceased mate 
(who didn't do so well during the trip to the vets) is placed in the box next to him.  A mate who bullied and chastised him and never showed him any ounce of affection her whole life.

.....yep, you've guessed it!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Water, water everywhere.

It's 11 pm and I've just returned home.  

If I were a normal thirty something I would smell of beer and cigarettes and possibly curry after a healthy night out, but no not me, because I SMELL OF PISS !

Since 8pm tonight I've unblocked two cat urethras in a row and then examined a Husky with a man-made hole in it's manhood......

No disrespect to male genitalia but...


...well, not tonight anyway....

Monday, 18 May 2009

I am frightened..

...of the work experience.

I don't like turning my back on him.  He's not right.

I'm nice to him because I am scared of him in a 'might turn up to work with a shotgun' kind of way.

I'm not going to eat cookies if he brings them on Friday.

I'm going on a diet for the next four days so no-one suspects....

Friday, 15 May 2009


Maggie the Jack Russell Terrier is having a bit of a hard time.

She has three week old puppies.  Her whole body is shaking and tremoring continuously.

I stumble upon the unhappy scene in the prep room.  A nurse has been left in attendance of both gibbering dog and a now gibbering owner, who is extremely worried.  Meanwhile a blood sample is currently being run in the lab by the colleague who admitted the dog.  He wants to see whether low calcium levels could be the cause of her tetany.  This would be the most likely cause in a lactating bitch.

It takes fifteen minutes to run the sample.  My colleague shows no sign of returning to check on his patient for the duration of the test. 

I have to interfere because the nurse tells me that Molly's temperature has gone up two degrees in the last few minutes and is now dangerously high.

I place an IV catheter and administer intravenous diazepam followed by intravenous calcium.

Slowly Maggie's symptoms subside.

By the time my colleague returns with the result the dog is much better.  The result confirms that her calcium was low.

I doubt James Herriot would have had a fancy lab machine and there are probably many practices today in a similar position who would have done exactly the same thing.

My conclusion at the end of James Herriot vs LittleVet week:

Today our clients may be more demanding and our standard of care may have increased but veterinary surgeons still have to rely on a degree of instinct and experience to make the right call in situations like this one. 

However advanced veterinary medicine may become the age old problem of treating a patient that cannot speak or describe symptoms will always make thorough history taking and clinical examination the most important part of a veterinary surgeons repertoire.  In this respect I make the argument that whilst the modern veterinary surgeon may have more toys to play with the basic principles of veterinary medicine have not changed much at all.

In other words there's a James Herriot inside each and every one of us.

Thursday, 14 May 2009


Tom, a thirteen year old cat was presented with blindness and a 'bloody eye'.

Tom's retinas have been blasted off their hinges by high blood pressure and this has caused the bleeding.

Two days later he has gained a reasonable amount of vision as a result of prompt diagnosis and treatment with blood pressure reducing medication.

I'm pretty certain that In James Herriot's day Tom's blood pressure would not have been measured and Tom would be spending the rest of his days bumping into walls and trying not to get run over (though it's likely traffic was a good deal quieter in those days)

Running score: 

LittleVet: Two

James Herriot: Two

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Jigsaw puzzles.

I'm not sure James could have solved this one without a fancy ASIF kit (meccano set for vets).  

I have to admit we did crap ourselves when this showed up on the orthopaedic vets week off.  But the boss proved he's 'still got it'.  

Surely a four legged dog is better than one with three?

Running score:

LittleVet: One

James Herriot: Two

Monday, 11 May 2009


Mr A has bought a puppy from Mr B which turns out to have condition X.

Mr A wants his money back.

Now myself and the vet who has treated Mr B's bitch have to write a report for the judge.

It's taken me an hour and I just know that it's been a complete waste of time.

Then Mrs D who's cat was killed by Mr E's dog yesterday wants me to phone Mr E to tell him it must wear a muzzle.......

Thankfully we have a practice manager who kindly informed Mrs D that although I was very sorry for her loss I could not get involved.

 James would never have had a practice manager but would he have had to deal with this sort of crap?

Running score:

James Herriot: Two

LittleVet: Zero

Sunday, 10 May 2009

James Herriot versus LittleVet

James Herriot is probably one of the biggest reasons why I became a vet.  

Recently I've been wondering whether veterinary medicine has changed much since his time.

This week each day, I will be blogging about an interesting/challenging case I have seen and I will put myself in Alf White's shoes to see whether being a modern vet would have been made any difference to case management.

Lets start with Barney the cocker spaniel I saw at 8pm last night.

Reason for presentation: Swallowed a fish hook complete with line and bait. No sign of either on examination.

Case management: GA remove hook from back of tongue using small pair of artery forceps.

Time taken to complete procedure: Five minutes.

Time taken to tidy away equipment that was made ready but deemed unnecessary (including video-endoscope, bronchoscope, large pair of grasping forceps, several tubes to remove foreign body from oesophagus and switch off digital X-ray system): Fifteen minutes.

Score so far:

LittleVet: Zero

James Herriot: One. Hook line and sinker.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Serious Error.

I would like to apologise to my readers (all 21 of you) for a serious error that was made on yesterdays blog as pointed out anonymously (see yesterdays comments).

I would like to point out that swine flu is in fact H1N1 and H5N1 is in fact bird flu.

This demonstrates that you shouldn't believe everything written in a blog especially when a  small animal vet attempts to quote on a large animal matter off the top of her dizzy blonde head.

...but you can still eat the f*cking pork anyway.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Diagnosis Nailed

Some time ago Albert the duck was off colour so my colleague decided to take an X-ray:

We'll never know why or how Albert managed to eat the nails. 

The owner declined surgery and three years later Albert is absolutely fine.  

Albert's owner has a metal detector which he passes over him from time to time as a result we know one of the nails is still present (the other worked it's way out under his left wing last week).

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Last request

The list read:

'Please remove the following:
Hair from the back of the left front-leg where the coat changes from brown to white.
Hair from the left stomach where it is slightly fluffy.
Hair from behind the right ear.
Hair from the right back leg where there is a small ginger bit.'

Sometimes in order to cope with the death of a pet people develop certain rituals.  In this case Mrs Brown had requested various parts of Phoebe the cat's coat be trimmed off so she could keep it in a picture frame.  

Phoebe was currently residing at the bottom of the freezer awaiting cremation.

Thankfully the practice hoover had not been emptied that morning.

Friday, 1 May 2009


I love birthdays because there will be cake.

This morning when I heard the 'Happy Birthday' chorus coming from kennels I leapt up and endeavoured to track down the source of the singing.

Imagine by disappointment when at the end of the trail stood not a big fat chocolate birthday cake but Seamus, a big fat shaggy Labrador.

'Where's the cake?' I asked the nurses.

'There's no cake. The owner told us we had to sing 'Happy Birthday' to Seamus in order to make him follow us into the kennels.' The nurse shrugged. 'Bizarrely, it actually works.'

Judging by the size of Seamus, I wasn't the only one with a liking for birthday cake.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009


I feel sorry for dogs because chocolate is poisonous to them.  

Imagine how smug Bentley, the family cocker spaniel was feeling when he managed to get at the fruits of the children's easter egg hunt only to find himself rushed down to the vets.

Soda crystal ingestion didn't work so he had some rather nasty 'apomorphine' which induces vomiting.  Whilst Bentley was bringing up chocolate milk shake all over the consulting room floor the five children waited anxiously outside. It was pretty clear he must have eaten all five eggs complete with wrappers.

Then he was offered some charcoal to help bind up any remaining poison, which unsurprisingly he refused to eat.

He looked thoroughly miserable by the time he had been decontaminated.

On the bright side consulting room three smelt a really nice chocolaty smell  for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Incompatible vet

Toby the Pekinese is growling at me.

'There, there.' His owner comforts him as she lifts him up onto the table.'I know it's not Simon.' She apologises to Toby as she glares at me.

Mmm..... It's going to be hard to give this one 100% when everyone in the room is against me.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Salon Supreme

Baldrick the cat is being dropped off for his 'dematt and groom'.

He is a longhaired Ginger cat who looks like he has been pulled through a hedge backwards.

He has to be sedated so we can clip all his knots out.

'Can you trim a bit less off this time.' The owner asks as he hands him to the nurse. 'Last time he came back looking like he'd been under a lawn mower.' 

'We'll do our best but there are so many knots we will probably need to cut them off with the clippers, perhaps if you groomed him more often it would not be so bad.'  The nurse replied curtly.

'Yes, well I'm quite sure a man must have done it last time. He looked terrible. I'd quite like a woman to do it this time.'

Ah yes, because female vets are so much more qualified at cutting hair.  Perhaps it should be on the syllabus at vetschool?

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Double Murder

I committed my first last week.

Being called upon to dispatch/euthanase two animals in one visit is rather unusual.

The first animal is usually the very sick one, the much loved pet, the family favourite.

The second animal is quite often not sick but approaching old age, the least favourite or in other words an 'innocent bystander'.

This is the one I struggled with.

Despite being told by the owner that the second pet would surely not survive after the death of the first pet I knew deep down that the second pet would do quite nicely thank you very much and would most likely thrive after being promoted to the 'favourite pet' position.

While the owner was mourning the loss of the favourite pet, I was lamenting the loss of the better life the less favoured one might have had......

Friday, 17 April 2009


'How are things with you?' My friend asks on the phone.

'Fine.' I say.

But things are not fine.

According to the BVA website I am supposed to share my problem with friends and family.
But how can I tell her that I have been crying all afternoon.  That I feel sad, lonely, childless, husbandless, boyfriendless and have absolutely no 'work/life balance'.  

When there is nothing in the fridge after a long day I cry because there is no-one to look after me but me and right now I'm doing a pretty shit job.  

Depression is a dirty word and nobody talks about it, yet it is apparently very prevalent in the profession and according to the website I am four times more likely to top myself than a doctor or a dentist (and they are pretty high on the suicide list already).

The website says that there are many reasons that vets feel depressed, long hours, emotional stress due to the nature of the job, lack of recognition for hard work, social isolation.  

After I read this I feel much, much better because I was beginning to think I was the only nutcase out there and it's a relief to know that there are many hidden others like me.  It's also reassuring to know that a lot of the flare factors are beyond my control and not actually my fault.  I've been revising for exams and as a result I haven't been able to exercise or socialise, I've lost my stress outlet and I am sure this and the culmination of a hard week at work with little appreciation from management has tipped me over the edge.

Apparently my depression is mild and as long as it doesn't go on beyond two weeks I don't need to see my GP...I think two days is probably pretty safe!

I would recommend joining the BVA to any young vets out there, I didn't need to use the helpline BUT at least I know it's there.

And you know what I actually feel pretty cured now....oh lord perhaps that makes me 'Bipolar'.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Team work

Sometimes things can go from bad to worse very quickly.

At 1.40 pm today there was a tricky fracture repair on the operating table, a Greyhound having 50 % of the skin on it's hind limb returned to it's original position, a bulldog being prepared for surgery for a twisted stomach (GDV) and only twenty minutes to go before a fully booked consulting session, including a Daschund in a similar fix to the Bulldog due in at 1.50pm.

None of this was going to be completed in the next ten minutes.

At times like this team work is essential and I am very lucky to work with people who are willing to sacrifice their time off so that the rest of us are not left in a sea of dying bodies.

Somehow we made it through the day with the additional pyometra.....

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Bunny Banter

Students believe everything you say, sometimes quite literally.  It's wonderful.

Today a large Giant rabbit is brought in for vaccination.

'Cool, it's an Oswald!' I coo in delight.

The owner and I then exchange Giant Rabbit banter for ten minutes.

'So that's an 'Oswald'.  I've never seen one before.'  The student comments after they leave.

Some students are so cute I just want to eat them....

Monday, 13 April 2009


Last night I had supper with my friend and her parents, they have subbed her the flight over from Ireland because her boss cut her pay.

Her mobile phone goes at 10 pm.  It's the hospital.  They can't find a piece of equipment.

It's pretty obvious that behind the scenes she's the one that runs the show and they are lost without her. 

Her father laughs.  'Happens all the time.' He says, but he's not happy,

Sometimes being a vet just isn't fair and there will be times when only the ones very close to you will understand and share your load.  For those of us who are women this is especially true.

When I graduated the female graduates (even those at the top of the class) were the last to be offered jobs. We had to wait for every male in our year to obtain work before we even stood a chance at interview.

Discrepancies of pay and remote partnership prospects followed soon after.

Worse than this however is the undercurrent of psychological bullying from a few of our male counterparts.  The mild and subtle suggestion that we are just ever so slightly neurotic and on the edge of a meltdown.  Over use of the words 'calm down' and 'don't stress' or 'I'm surprised you coped with that situation, very unusual for you I would have thought you'd be climbing the walls.' 

The purpose of all this is to have us doubting our capabilities, particularly if they cannot compete with our clinical skills. Offering themselves as a calmer, more in control alternative to the slightly 'hormonally driven' woman and therefore an ideal candidate for management in comparison.

The frustration and anger I feel as a result of this subtle bullying must be kept hidden because it will only strengthen the case against the 'neurotic female'.  The only people I can turn to are my parents.

I'd be lost without them.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Tooth Fairy.

"She spat this out half an hour ago.' Mr Hastings hands me a folded piece of kitchen role.

In my experience it's best to get owners to unwrap parcels such as these because you never really know what might lurk inside.

I nod at him to proceed, under the kitchen role is a  plastic bag and under the bag is a tightly wrapped piece of foil.  

Inside lies not a Russian doll but a small tooth, split cleanly into two pieces.  There's something not quite right about this tooth but I can't quite put my finger on it.

I begin my search of Meg the Jack Russel terrier's mouth.  I start gently but before too long I am forced to embark on a Steve Irwin style wrestling campaign in order to visualise every last tooth.

'All present and correct.'  I tell Mr Hastings as a wipe the saliva from my hands.

'I can't imagine where it has come from.' He frowns.

Meanwhile his nine year old daughter offers me a wide toothless grin.

'I think I can.'  I reply.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Sixty and retired.

I knew Mr Edwards was sixty and retired because I phoned him at home at 3pm and he answered after just two rings.  

Any younger and he'd be at work, any older and we'd be talking at least seven rings, or worse, one of those moments where you are halfway through the answer machine message and you suddenly hear an elderly voice yelling 'Hello! hello! God damn I don't know how to switch the thing off!'

Two rings is someone who is definitely waiting for the phone to ring.  This is a major event in their day.

'Sophie's urine is dilute and her kidney parameters are up, I suspect she has mild kidney failure.' I tell him. 'I will get my colleague who examined Sophie today to phone you on Monday and discuss any dietary measures we should take.'

My colleague is on a half day and the old duffer wants the results for his Labrador's blood test today because when you are sixty 'patience is no longer a virtue'.

'So she's got kidney failure?' He repeats thus demonstrating to me that he still the ability to retain information.

'Mild, kidney failure.' I comment. 'Perhaps we can help with a special form of kidney diet.' I tell him.

'What makes you say mild?' He is testing me and letting me know the cogs are still whirring, Alzheimer's is still a long way off.

'Because the changes are mild.' I repeat pretty non-plused. 'So if you are interested in the diet phone my colleague on Monday.'

'Forgive me if I'm wrong, but didn't you just say that she would phone me.'  He's so sharp he ain't gonna be answering the door to any bogus prank callers, not for a long time....

'Fine I'll get her to call you.'  I sigh because this is not the main event of my day and I still have seven more calls to make.  

I leave a message for my colleague. 'Please can you phone Mr Edwards about Sophie, he's a bit high maintenance and slightly annoying.'  

Then I think better of it and delete the last little bit, after-all it's not his fault he's sixty and retired.  I replace it with:

'Please can you phone Mr Edwards, slightly annoying, retired and a bit like my/your Dad but fairly harmless.'

Thursday, 9 April 2009


In theory health and safety dictates that refreshments are supposed to be kept well away from clinical area.

Since we don't have hospital status we don't commit to these kind of rules and cups litter the workstations...everywhere.

Yesterday I learnt a very valuable lesson.

Cups of cold tea and canaries just don't mix......

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

There she blows....

'I don't want Emily in theatre, she is going to faint.' I tell the senior nurse.

Emily the fifteen year old work experience is tall, thin and of pale complexion.  She has been in the building for five minutes and has never seen an operation before, it's her first day.

'Well she's going to have to go in sooner or later.' The nurse tells me with a look on her face that says she clearly thinks I'm being mean. 

'I'm removing a spleen, I've been on call all weekend and I do not need to be distracted by a tumbling teenager, Emily needs to be broken in gently with an alternative task that is slightly less gory.'

The nurse defiantly hands Emily a gown and overboots and positions her in theatre dangerously close to my operating table.

Ten minutes later Emily is collapsing silently into the clinical waste bin, a small rustling sound is audible.  There are five other people in theatre, no-one notices but me and I'm the one removing a spleen.  

Emily is carried away as predicted, she's been in the building thirty minutes.

My God, I've been doing this job too damn long....

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Pregnancy.. the workplace.

What a minefield!

We have a foetus in our midst and what a calamity that has created.

There are yellow tape lines outside (the already lead lined) X-ray suite.

The foetus is kept at least 20 paces away from any anaesthetic, unless there is some good gossip to be had in which case 5 paces appears to be very acceptable.

No-one must upset the barer of the foetus.

I'm fairly sure that if I ever have a foetus on board it won't be getting such special treatment but now a precident has been set I'll be doing my best to make sure all is fair...

Despite the hysteria surrounding foetus protection protocol (that we have all been strictly adhering to), I was horrified to discover the mother of the foetus drawing up a syringe full of the most potent and dangerous hormone known to the human uterus (oxytocin) on a rather long needle to dispense to a farm client (a large cow size dose).

'Are you mad?!" I yelled at her.

She just shrugged and walked away.

Note to self, must remember rule number one next time: 'never upset the barer of the foetus.'

Saturday, 4 April 2009


Road traffic accident cats are nearly always young cats.

My theory is that if your cat makes it to the age of five, you are probably good for another ten years or so, in other words your cat is streetwise and a survivor by a process of natural selection.

Across the atlantic pet cats do not go outdoors, so whilst we in the UK are busy putting bones back together transatlantic vets are dispensing insulin and urinary tract advice to the owners of obese pets.  Am I right?

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Caged animal.

The banging noise was becoming gradually louder in reception.

Finally, the source was located to the ladies toilet.

An elderly lady had apparently locked herself in.

A senior partner with a screwdriver was called upon. Whilst he was unscrewing she was rattling the door uncontrollably.

'Please remain calm.' He instructed her.  The rattling continued.

Meanwhile a middle aged man carrying a whicker cat basket appeared.  The occupant an elderly thin hyperthyroid cat was busy scratching frantically to get out.

'Not again mother.' He rolled his eyes. 'This is the second time she's locked herself in this week.'

Finally, released 'mother' scuttled through the door.

Her son was handed a pot of pills.

'This should help control the hyper-active, confused and unpredictable behaviour.'

Lets just hope he gave them to the cat.... 

Monday, 30 March 2009


The exuberant Italian was back today with Mrs Fox a 92 year old client of mine who is a little hard of hearing and happens to live next door to him.

'I thought I'd come along to interpret as he doesn't speak good english.' She whispered in my ear before she took a seat in the corner of the room.

I delivered the news that the cat required 'ultrasound exam to check liver and spleen for bleeding.'  or in english a cancer hunt.

Mrs Fox remained quiet throughout.

'So that's ten to ten on Wednesday for the scan?' She asked finally at the end.

'No, ten to nine.' I replied.

'Oh, yes ten passed nine.' She smiled.

'No, I mean eight fifty.' I tried to clarify, speaking loudly as she leaned in closer.

'Right you are eight fifteen!'

'No! Iz eight fifty!' Bellowed the Italian.

Somehow I don't think he will be bringing his interpreter on Wednesday.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Veterinary Viagra.

It may surprise some of you to know that there is a veterinary use for this drug.

It is used for cardiovascular disease, mainly pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs).

Mrs Wilkes presented her prize cockerel to a colleague for 'lack of performance' this week.  A loud heart murmur was discovered and this was thought to be the likely cause of his lack of energy and failure to 'complete the job'.

Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking?

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Local Mafia.

'You treat cat Madam, and I bring wine, which colour you like?'  Says the exuberant Italian man, waring a suit and sunglasses.

'No, there really is no need.' I tell him rather embarrassed.

'When can I see the vet?' He asks.

'I am the vet.' I reply.

There then follows a ten minute conversation where I understand only the words 'cat', 'London', 'Business' and 'wine'.

Finally the big important, Italian businessman drives away in a small Fiat Punto.

Two hours later he returns with wine for vets, receptionists and nurses.

Tomorrow he is phoning me for his cats blood results....and they aren't good.

How am I going to tell him?

Maybe a glass of the wine will help me decide.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

TV vets.

I sat next to Britain's favourite TV vet a couple of weeks ago on a medicine CPD course.  

He's actually very normal and he looks just the same as he used to at college. I remember him terrifying me as a first year. He is still bigger than me and when I talk to him I spend the whole time looking up his nostrils which makes him somewhat less attractive than when he is on the flatscreen.

I tell him I am very jealous of his job and if he needs a sidekick to help with the Orangutans to get in touch.

He tells me the BBC is mid-recession and budgets are tight.

He's got to go back to being a normal vet.

Poor him....

Saturday, 21 March 2009


'I'm very sorry there is nothing I can do, surgery is no longer an option.'  I tell the nice, polite Polish client as I hand him back his rat who is attached to a rather large tumour.

'What to do next?' He asks me slowly.

'Well I think it would be kinder to put her to sleep.' I say gently.

'Can you do now?' He asks.

'Yes.' I reply solemnly.

'OK - and I pick up later, around 2pm?'  He asks brightly.

I look at my watch, it is 10 am, does he really think it will take me four hours to euthanase his rat?

Then the penny drops.

'Do you understand what I mean by 'put to sleep'?' I ask him.

'Yes, you do operation.' He replies.

'No.' I sigh.

If the British Small Animal Association considered publishing a polish phrase book for veterinary terms, perhaps a potential crisis such as this one might be more easily averted......

Thursday, 19 March 2009


'So you don't know what's causing the problem?' The client asks me.

It's very hard to explain the term 'idiopathic' in lay terms.  Sometimes 'shit happens' in medicine and no-one, not even the the experts/super scientists have a reason for it.  If  'shit happens' to a lot of animals in the same sort of way and we don't know why then we call the condition 'idiopathic'.

But my client just thinks I am stupid.

'Don't you think she should be having the drugs in a drip so they work better?'  Is the next question.

I know I have lost the game.  

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Lady bits.

'Lady bits', 'Man bits', 'Front bottom' and 'Down below'

The english are very inventive when it comes to using other words to describe genitalia.  
We are a nation of prudes.

So much so that one gentlemen felt the need to come in to explain his son's female dog's intimate problem prior to the appointment because he knew he would be too embarassed to say the 'v' word.

I take great pleasure in pretending I don't have a clue what they are talking about until they are forced to use the correct vocabulary, if they don't I exclaim very loudly: 

'Oh you mean his penis?!'

Cruel, I know.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


Sadly I am not an optimistic vet, I am a pessimist.

I always prepare people for the worst.

If I don't then the worst happens.

Like the one time in 2003 when I told a client his puppy would NOT die from Parvo and it died that night.

I have steered well clear from optimism for six years, until last night.

'Don't worry, Tigger will be absolutely fine' I told a distressed Mrs Peacock. 'It's probably just a tummy upset.'

With that, Tigger the rather overweight domestic shorthair stood up, walked five paces, wailed twice, collapsed and died on the consulting room floor.

I'm giving up optimism. FOREVER.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Getting it right.

When the ashes for a much loved pet were returned to the surgery with the inscription:

"In loving memory of Shopin"

I new some serious amendment might be required.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

How do I examine my own cat?

Yes, my own cat is requiring veterinary attention.

In fact she has been requiring it for some time, but here's the very strange thing about it, when you spend all day diagnosing the sick you really can't bare to find anything wrong with one of your own.  Largely because you know a few too many things that it might turn out to be and some of those are bad, very bad.

So I would really rather not know.

Until now.  The vomiting is driving me insane.

She is bright and well, she hasn't lost weight, I know it is very likely that she has a mild inflammatory bowel disorder but I am terrified in case it might be cancer.

Today when I decided to examine her, she decided it was play time and sunk her teeth into my wrist several times.  On occasion I thought I felt a mass in her abdomen and was almost reduced to tears, shortly afterwards to realise it was in fact nothing but plain old benign pooh.

It's obvious that when it comes to one of my own pets I'm very much an 'owner' and not a 'vet', I'm just not cut out for this particular job....

...I'm taking her to one of my colleagues.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009


Mrs Wilkes is a poor person.

I know what poor people look like because I spent much of my young adult life infested with head lice as a result of my middle class socialist mother forcing me to play with the poor children at school.

Mrs Wilkes smells and she does not brush her hair.

I do everything in my power to keep Mrs Wilke's bill reduced, I credit returned drugs and I neglect to charge her the odd consultation....

.....until I see her leaving the practice in a large shiny brand new four by four.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Feline seance

The wailing is almost in-human, but then Mrs Lightly would know about that because she is a professional seance holder.

She sobs uncontrollably over Emily, her much loved deceased, elderly cat.

Finally she looks up with pleading eyes. 'How long?' She asks.

My colleague is somewhat perplexed.

'How long until I can speak to her on the other side?' 

Wednesday, 21 January 2009


I pick up the phone because there are not enough reception staff.

'I put it behind the pheasant food!' A lady is yelling down the phone, obviously this was not meant for me.

'Oh, I'm terribly sorry.' She apologises. 'I just wanted to let you know my gamekeeper is on his way with a dog with a wound under it's leg.'

'How did the dog sustain the wound?' I ask.

'No idea.' She says honestly.'Anyway, he'll be ten minutes and it's guts are hanging out.' She continues matter of fact.

'I'm sorry.' I say shocked.'Did you say it's guts were hanging out?'

'Only a little bit.' She says brightly.

Thankfully when the dog arrives and trots through the door I am relieved to see that it's intestines are not dragging along behind it and the wound is skin deep only.

The next day I am called back to the surgery to see a dog that has apparently been hit by a train.

Nothing prepares me for the dog's facial deformities and whilst I maintain my cool, as if it is perfectly normal to deal with this sort of injury every day the nurse cannot conceal her shock.

'Jesus Christ, what the hell happened here?' She asks the already shaken owner.

But I am pleased to say after the valiant efforts of my boss the dog's nose is now pointing forward again and all it's teeth are back in it's mouth.

Sunday, 18 January 2009


'What's the point?' Asks Annabel. She is tall, blonde, with good genes and a privileged background, she is destined for a career in equine medicine and she is currently in her fourth year at vet school. 'If the cat might only live a few months what is the point?' She presses me.

'The point is that the owner's love their pet and while she still has a good quality of life I will do my best to give them as much time as possible with her.' I reply. 'Ultimately it is my job to offer them all the options and their choice to make, if they had requested euthanasia I would have obliged but they elected to continue.'

Annabel does not understand the bond that develops between a small animal pet owner and their much loved pet and empathy is something that cannot be taught.

Saturday, 17 January 2009


Mrs Green is 93, her God-daughter always brings her for her appointment and she must be at least 65.

Mrs Green is starting to forget things but she always makes herself up and dresses with pride. She is a little hard of hearing but we always have a little joke.

She loves her Pug, Thomas he is her only companion.

I assure her that Thomas is fine and she is greatly relieved.

'He's so naughty you know.' She tells me. 'One day I was playing bridge with friends and he has an obsession with looking through people's handbags.' Her eyes are twinkling.

'Low and behold he pulled a packet of condoms out!' She giggles.

I'm not sure whether I am more shocked by the old lady's frank account or by the thought of some of her friends having sex.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Rare breed.

It has dawned on me that I might be the only vet from a state school system in the entire practice.

There are 24 vets in total.

If you play the numbers game then I should be in the majority.

Is this a failure of the vetschools to recruit students from state schools or is this a failure of the state school system to help us realise our dreams?

'Don't bother trying to get in.' My careers adviser told me when I was fifteen. 'You'll never get in.'

But I did bother.

Now I am starting to wonder whether the rise in tuition fees means the stable door is slowly closing behind me?

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Cold calling.

It is 5 am, very dark and it is also minus 5 outside. 

Mrs Marsh has requested a visit to put to sleep her cat, Thomas.

Although I am usually happy to oblige, Thomas sounds as if he is in some considerable distress and I know it will take around 45 minutes to an hour to reach him by the time I have halled my sleepy arse out of bed, de-iced the car, driven into work, picked up my 'death kit' including a nurse and found her house in the freezing fog.

I tell her it would be much better to bring her cat straight to the surgery where I can relieve the poor animals suffering in a more timely manner.

'Oh.' She says. 'I'm not sure I can.'

She pauses. 'The cat basket is at the bottom of the garden.'

Saturday, 10 January 2009


'I am afraid you will have to pay for Maisey's foot to be stitched up when you come to collect her.' I tell Mr Jackson.  He is a new client.

'How much will it be?' He asks as I mop Maisey's blood off the floor.

'Around £150.' I tell him, and that is pretty cheap.

'I don't have it.' He says.

I have been given instructions that we must get the money because he is a knew client who has walked in off the street.

I can't bear the though of Maisey walking around with a gashed foot.

'Could you pay £50?' I ask him.'Then we could sort out a payment plan.'

'I'll have to make some calls.' He says.

Before I can stop him he is out of my room with Maisey limping behind him, leaving a trail of bloody footprints.

He never comes back.

It seems silly to worry about the security of my job during the recession when the welfare of the animals under my care is perhaps a more pressing issue.