The Best Conversations

With an Animal Health Technology diploma, I have been fortunate to have worked in two different Veterinary Clinics in our town.  I am now retired, (again) … (for now), but I still have endless fascinating animal stories to draw upon when story time comes around.

My family noticed early on in my illustrious career that story time inevitably seems to coincide with meal time.  My contributions to story time during meals tend to be on the less savory side.  I am somewhat more aware of this now, and I try to keep the stories on a lighter…shall we say less graphic side.  However, I was downright caught off guard the first time it was mentioned to me that the story I was sharing wasn’t ‘table appropriate’.  It may have been because the person who was letting me know of my indiscretion was my husband – not exactly the world’s foremost expert on table etiquette.

You see, I find these ‘veterinary experiences’ to be fascinating.  Take those difficult calving stories for example.  I love being there when, after a huge amount of effort on the part of the cow, the farmer, and the veterinarian – a healthy, wet, slimy calf is delivered. cute! You've got a little something on your forehead.

I find it so interesting that I want to relay that story and all of its wet slimy details to everyone who will listen.  A family sitting at the table is the perfect captive audience.  I just need to remember that some people don’t want to hear about how the cow decided to lay down mid cesarean, flopping her partially stitched uterus onto the floor and into all of the manure and goo and drippings that are part of your typical bovine cesarean section.  Did you know that even though it appears to be a lot of blood on the floor during a cesarean, it’s OK because a cow can actually lose gallons of blood before it becomes a problem?

You can see how each story runs into a new story, and each new one is more fascinating than the last.  I desperately want to share with you the story of the extremely fat cow who delivered her calf by cesarean.  Due to her obesity even her uterus was greasy.  I had a really hard time holding it up for the veterinarian to stitch.  It was like holding a 50 pound pink slippery water balloon full of jello and covered in butter. 

It’s never good when I incorporate food comparisons into my meal time veterinary clinic stories.  For example, abscess stories are not a good choice if cottage cheese is on the menu.  I can even gross myself out with that!

Yesterday was my lucky day.

I was the chosen chauffeur to drive our daughter to her evening extra-curricular events. 

After dropping her off, I headed to a nice coffee shop to enjoy a treat and catch up on a bit of work that I had brought along.

I was fortunate to bump into one of the veterinarians who I had the pleasure of working with a few years ago. While we were waiting for our turn to order, we struck up a conversation about another veterinarian who was injured at work – while she was pregnancy checking a cow.

Typical for those of us who are interested in such things, the conversation got away on us and each story grew into another.  I asked if the injured vet was using an ultrasound wand, or her arm when she was hurt.  My friend explained that no, she was using her arm and was right in there…right up to her shoulder…when the other cow came over top of her. 

The young, tough looking police officers standing beside us in the line might not have noticed our conversation if she hadn’t stuck her right arm out straight and emulated someone shoving their whole arm up a cow’s….situation…. all the while telling me the story of how one cow broke through the gate and landed on top of this lady.  The story ends well.  She’s alright and has taken a bit of time off to fully recover.

Inevitably the story turned, and now we were talking about a cesarean.  This time it was a barn cat who was brought to the clinic because she was having a difficult time trying to deliver a kitten who had become stuck.  My friend started telling me the story of explaining to the farmer that she was not going to be able to deliver the kitten without performing a cesarean because she couldn’t even get her pinky finger in there.  Again, the young, tough looking police officers standing beside us seemed to be eavesdropping.  Probably because of the extended pinky finger poking horizontally in their direction, once again demonstrating the exploration of a cat’s … situation …. as she told the story.  As before, the story ends well; the kittens were delivered and the farmer went home with his now extremely valuable barn cat and her lovely little kitties.

We had ordered and received our treats, but it was clear that both of us still had more stories to tell each other.  We chose a table near the fireplace and continued our visit. I broke in at one point with “You probably don’t want to talk about work when you are relaxing,” but she seemed to be as happy as I was to have found someone who didn’t shrink away from these stories. 


We talked about mean cats attacking our heads, dogs practicing croprophagia (which means eating poop), calves with scours (which means really really bad diarrhea), our own pets’ weird habits, among other fascinating subjects.  We realized that we were in town at a fancy coffee shop, so we kept our voices low, and stayed away from the abscess or semen testing stories because those can get a bit offensive for some people.


It was only when one of us said “yank the uterus out of those bitches” that I noticed a funny glance was exchanged between two ladies sitting nearby.  I felt that we should explain to them that we were discussing ovariohysterectomy on dogs who are chronically pregnant and contributing to the overpopulation of unwanted pets.  Bitch is a very accepted and clinical term for a female dog.  That clinical terminology is actually the correct definition of the word and was used long before the more popular slang definition we hear nowadays. However, I knew that once I told them that much, it would lead me into another story.  I decided it was probably better to leave sleeping dogs lie, so to speak.


It was a great evening.  Before we knew it the coffee shop employees were politely asking us to leave – because it was closing time.  We headed off in our seperate directions after sharing a mutual love of the fascinating, interesting and always entertaining field of veterinary medicine.  Never a dull moment.

“The best doctor in the world is a veterinarian.  He can’t ask his patients what is the matter — he’s got to just know”  – Will Rogers

“I hope to make people realize how totally helpless animals are, how dependant on us, trusting as a child must that we will be kind and take care of their needs… obligation put on us, a responsibility we have no right to neglect, nor to violate by cruelty.”   – James Herriot






3 responses to “The Best Conversations

  1. Sandy and I sat here in Surprise, AZ laughing our heads off at this story!

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