Good Job!

Sunrise/sunset: 05:55/19:51 Daylength: 13hr55min

I am not going to say much about last week’s case. Thank you so much to all of you who reached out to me with both comfort and bracing advice. One lovely friend advised me to “Shake the dust off [my] sandals and move on.” Given my job, I think that “Hose the bullshit off your wellies” might be a more apt version, but the advice is good. As a quick summary, I haven’t paid yet. I shall pay at the last possible moment. I know it isn’t clear cut enough for a court case, but I have in mind a complaint as the person who was supposed to represent me was obviously as much use as a leaking wellie boot in an undrained pig pen. I have therefore reached out to two sources who know Norwegian law well and will (hopefully) give me free advice. My therapist suggested I should do as much as I felt was reasonable before moving on and that is what I am doing.

Last weekend, John and I drove to the top of the fell he and I climbed in May last year. Unless otherwise stated, the photographs this week are taken from there.

I had planned a much more upbeat post last week, before the doomsday judgment arrived, so I shall revert to what I was talking about, which is that, exhausting though it is, I am increasingly enjoying my job. There are parts of it that probably don’t seem too attractive to many. Back in the UK, I quite enjoyed filling in forms neatly, creating clear, useful instructions for how to perform complex activities and writing reports. Though it’s more challenging to do all that in Norwegian, it does make up quite a chunk of my job. It pleases me though, that I am quite efficient at it. Some of my colleagues don’t like to write reports, but have other, complementary skills. We have to carry out inspections in the abattoir, for example. I don’t (yet) have the knowledge that others who have worked there long time have, but I am delighted to follow them and learn from them, and then write up the summary of findings afterwards.

I also like problem solving and don’t mind responsibility. I qualified as a vet at 22. Suddenly I found myself out in the real world, having to take huge responsibilities that I hadn’t even considered when I was training, probably because I was too young. It was a gruelling experience, but young minds adjust, and adjust mine did. And it’s not like I am alone, as I often found myself in veterinary practice in the UK. If there are things I need to find out in order to resolve a case, I have a whole team of people round me. Better still, I have a boss who believes in me, gives pragmatic advice and is generally supportive if something goes wrong. Those things are beyond price when the job you do includes significant power and comes with high moral obligations.

But as well as all the heavy stuff, there are brighter moments, when I feel I am being paid to do something that is so light that I could happily do it on holiday. At the end of last week, we had a gathering of Team Dyrego, which is the team responsible for animal health and welfare out in the field. We are scattered far and wide – Birgit and Astrid are in Storslett, which is nearly four hours driving from Finnsnes. Thomas and I work in Finnsnes and Anya and Annik work in Tromsø, which is perhaps half way between, though also not on a direct route between the two. These team meetings generally take a similar format. We drive to meet on Thursday, taking some inspections along the way, spend a night in a hotel, then hold a meeting the next day to share information and plan for the coming season. Some of the team were covering heavy cases on the way there, but as I am now mostly working in the abattoir, my inspections were routine. In order to comply with traceability regulations, we have to check a certain number of farms each year to see if they are eartagging their animals in line with European law. And in order to maintain our disease status for TSEs (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy – which can occur in many species, but the most famous is “mad cow disease”) we have to go out, inform about the symptoms and remind 10% of our sheep farmers of their obligations for testing.

I almost didn’t go. Due to people being signed off sick, I thought I would have to work in the abattoir, but my lovely colleague, Kaj, stepped in. On Tuesday, I was quailing as I didn’t think I had enough time for preparation for a day’s inspections, but he also stepped up on Wednesday, so I threw some stuff together, spent an hour on Thursday morning compiling a list of possible farms and phone numbers, and then headed out on a delicious sunny day to visit some farmers. Because of the short notice, I hadn’t warned them I was coming. We are now allowed to do so if there is a good reason (the sheer distance and the chances of sheep farmers being out as most have day jobs is reason enough) so I had no idea how successful I would be, but I had planned for six and hoped for at least two or three.

I had a hit with the first farm I went to. I knew it was a smallholding, so I thought it would be a nice one to start with. The farmer was in and what’s more, she was very welcoming. I have commented before that we are considered by some to be rather like the police. When we turn up at the door, it can be a worrying experience for an animal owner. But quite a few farmers seem to regard us as an agency they can look to for help and advice, and that is part of our role as well. So I asked her some questions and she asked me some, and then we looked at her sheep. They were a traditional Norwegian breed (Gammel Norsk Spælsau) with wonderfully thick wool and a hardy nature. They lived mostly outside, all through the winter, though with a sturdy, dry shelter, good food and clean water. Seeing well looked after animals is a pleasure for me that goes very deep.

It was a beautiful day in Bardu district.

After that, I didn’t have so much success. The GPS in the car had died, but I made my way round with Google Maps, taking care to ensure I didn’t drain my phone’s battery too much. It was minus twenty in places, so if the car broke down altogether, being stranded would be unsafe. I finally tracked down another farm with someone who could show me round. The farmer himself was away moving snow, but he had employed a young Dutch woman, who was available. She showed me the sheep, which were also well cared for and gave me warming coffee. I left there at about two in the afternoon and, hoping to get one more, I visited another two farms, but one had only a very old lady on crutches present and the other had moved to keeping cattle, due to living in close proximity to a bear that liked eating sheep (mentioned in my very first post here).

And so, having enjoyed a very pleasant day at work, I drove up to Vollan Gjestestue, where we spent the night in comfort (see pictures of cake and fruit from our meeting below). It was lovely to meet up with my colleagues and one of my aims is to improve the links between the abattoir team and the team out in the field. Together, I think we will have a great knowledge base and it’s a way that I can focus on improving animal welfare, which should surely be the aim of any vet.

The past week has also been satisfying. Konstantin is now on holiday, so he has been intensively teaching me about all the routine work he does in the abattoir. I had assumed I would assimilate these routines over time but, with everyone who knows how to do them now absent, it will be up to me to keep things ticking over for the next two weeks.

It was looking like things were going to be quiet, but there has been heavy snow and wind over the last few days. There was news last night of some horrifying avalanches in our area and I know that some farms and farmers have been affected. Where there are welfare issues, I know Mattilsynet will be involved. We are second in line to be called in, after the emergency services. So I am not sure what is on the way, but I sent a message to my boss last night that I was available if I was needed. She was still working, despite being on holiday. That is how it is and I can honestly say that I would always want to help, when there are people and animals in need. Despite occasional frustrations, doubts, and wishes for a quieter life, I know I am in the right job. Bring it on.

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