Saturday, August 29, 2009

Veterinary Annecdotes 1

You might imagine that a life spent being involved with animals would result in situations worth mentioning. So many are in the corridors of my brain that it is only when listening to incidents mentioned by others that many come to mind but here are a few concerning birds. A handsome mallard drake was presented with an arrow that passed through the back of its neck with half protruding from each side. It was a blunt target arrow that prevented the bird's ability to fly. From the attitude of the father and son while talking about the tragedy I wondered if this boy had been the bow hunter. I gently drew the arrow back and out of the bird and stepped outside with the father and son and watched the bird wing it's way with no obvious difficulty off into freedom. I doubt that the archer has forgotten that experience. Another wild bird was presented after having flown into and through two panes of glass of a sun-room extension of a house where four children were playing on a bitter cold day. The man of the house had picked up the unconscious bird, placed it in a corrugated box and rushed to our establishment for perhaps an evaluation. Of course it was assumed that crashing through not one but two layers of glass should be a fatal experience. I opened the lid slightly to peek in and there was the eye of the partridge a few inches from mine. I suggested we step outside to open the box fully. I recall that bird winging its wan down the road leading to our clinic as any healthy normal bird would. Speaking of ducks I am reminded of an incident worth mentioning. I had cleared a mosquito swamp and had bull dossers dig out a third of an acre 12 foot deep pond. The mallard ducks enjoyed it and raised broods of young for several years. One year I watched the mallards build a nest and start laying eggs. There were 6 the last time I checked before finding an empty nest. Something had removed the eggs. I knew a skunk and raccoon as well as a fox could be responsible but with no shells around those species could be discounted as a cause. I asked my friend Dave Parsons, a taxidermist at Yale's Peabody Museum and he laughed and said he would think I might have guessed. Crows were no doubt the thiefs. I did not know that possibility and frankly questioned it- to myself. To convince me I brought 4 hens eggs from our frig. and placed them in the empty nest, walked back to our house where we had picture windows through which we could watch goings-ons around the pond and sat down to watch any crow thief. The time could not have been 5 minutes when I looked across the pond to see a crow with one of the eggs in its mouth fly away with it. I called my wife to tell her and she came promptly but turning back to watch before Dot arrived another crow, I presume, had landed and Dot was able to witness that second thievery. Incidentally I had not seen or heard a crow around when I placed those hens eggs in the nest. One of the most distressing events of my vet career concerned an old parrot. The Smith sisters had a pet dog and their mother had a parrot. both animals were clients I enjoyed the sisters because they were such nice people and were highly respected in the neighboring community where they lived and were retired grade school teachers. Their mother had died and over many years I had the job of trimming the bird's beak and nails. I had suggested fixing a rat tailed file in the cage for the beak and it worked but still about every 6 months they would bring the bird in for the trimming. One day I had a new assistant and so I explained that I would take the bird out of the cage and wrap a towel around it so it could not bite the assistant but I explained that he must not squeeze the bird as that could be fatal. My assistant was a middle aged kindly man but I could see by his trembling hands that he was concerned of being bitten by the bird so again I mentioned not to squeeze the old creature. I brought the bird out, draped a turkish towel around it and handed it to the assistant, turned to get an instrument for the clipping of the beak and turning back the bird was dead. My problem was exaggerated by the fact that the bird had been entrusted by their long dead mother but also the affection I had developed over the years for the two sisters. I asked them to come into my private office and explained what had happened expecting the worse. "Dr. Whitney, thank you, thank you." They were both on their feet thanking me. It seems their mother had made them promise on her death bead never to leave the bird alone and they had honored her wish for years. Now they could travel as they had longed to do. Would I dispose of the remains and, "keep the cage." No charge!

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