Category Archives: Requests

(Obsessive) Optimist

I have become obsessed this week with a song. It happens now and then, especially when I am trying to write (and this week, for the first time in ages I have found time to work on Ready, Vet, Go!). I’m currently writing a very downbeat section, but the song is quite the opposite (for those who would like to listen, it’s Laid by James). I have been listening when driving to and from work (which I have done a lot this week). I don’t know about anyone else, but when I listen to frenetic music, crazily loud in the car, I find it very difficult to drive slowly. Of course, in Norway that’s a disastrous concept. The speed limit on normal roads is 80km/hr (50mph) and you definitely don’t want to be stopped by the police. I failed to come to a complete halt once at a stop sign, and it cost me more than 5,000kr (£500 / 650USD). So instead of speeding, I have to beat the steering wheel in time to the music. Just as well no-one is watching.

Wivek too seems to have been singing a lot this week. On Monday, when she had to give a cat a barium meal (to show up the stomach and intestines on an x-ray) she mixed it in with some tasty food and left the cat in one of the kennels for a few minutes. When I commented that maybe, just maybe it would eat, she started humming a Norwegian song – Optimist by Jahn Teigen. I had never heard this song before, so she wrote it down and I Googled it to listen on YouTube. I confess I am less obsessively interested in that one. Deeply apathetic might be a better description, but maybe I’m just not giving it a fair hearing.

Of course the cat didn’t eat enough of the food for Wivek to be satisfied, so we had to try a little ‘encouragement’. This involved a towel, a wrapped up cat and a good bit of claw dodging, but we managed it in the end. Even after all that, we didn’t find anything significant, but a lot of veterinary practice is like that. A lot of people have commented to me over the years, that it must be hard being a vet because the animals can’t tell you what is wrong. I usually counter this by pointing out that although they can’t tell you what is wrong, they also never tell you any untruths. Still, I don’t suppose my GP very often gets bitten or scratched by his patients. Later on I remember Wivek singing Manic Monday… so that must have still been on Monday. It’s been a much longer week for me than usual because Irene and Gerd are both off, and so I’ve worked four days instead of my usual two.

In addition to all that driving back and forth, there was also a meeting in Bryne on Tuesday night. Dagny told me about it in theatre in the morning. I had been feeling vaguely uneasy because I had heard people talking about some meal out, and I had been wondering whether it was something exclusive that I wasn’t involved in, or whether it was something I had missed. I was invited though. Dagny told me I was already booked in. She berated me (humorously) for the fact that I had missed the information, which she told me had been given out on more than one occasion at the Thursday staff meeting.

‘Too busy eating and everything just going past you,’ she said. I fear there may be something in that. I asked Wivek if she was going, and she told me she was. When I said I hadn’t known about it, she said it had gone over her head too, though it was in her diary, so it must have been mentioned at some point. With Jan-Arne though, I hit the jackpot. When I asked if he was going to the meeting tonight, he said,

‘What meeting?’ I could have hugged him. (Actually, I often hug him, so it’s surprising I didn’t just take the opportunity to do it again).

My favourite Wivek song of the week however, was the Propofol song. Propofol is the intravenous anaesthetic we use most often. It’s very safe and quick acting and so as well as using it to produce deep enough anaesthesia to intubate animals before using gas, now and then we also use it when the sedative we have used just hasn’t worked well enough to allow us to treat the animal without pain. It’s so short acting that the dog or cat can still go home with its owner almost immediately. I used it today, for example, on a dog with a really painful anal-gland abscess. It was a tiny dog, and those are notoriously difficult to sedate. The normal dosages often don’t really work, and higher doses… well I don’t like to use those too much in case they are not safe. And so in order to treat the little animal without causing any unnecessary pain, I topped up my sedative with some propofol intravenously. Happily Wivek was there to help me. The whole practice has been working well together as a team lately, and as I got everything ready, Wivek started singing.

‘Propofol, propofol,, propofol,’ she sang, to the tune of ‘Here we go, here we go, here we go…’ Just as well sometimes that we ask the owners to go away when we do jobs which are going to be messy. Of course, there are times when veterinary work can be very sad. There are many more times when it is very rewarding. But I like best the fact that sometimes, we just have a lot of fun.

Finally, this week’s picture is of Cita who is seven years old. She is the kind of patient that makes all things worthwhile. Despite the fact that she had to have her eye removed after a cat scratched it, and has had both her hips operated on, still she comes in and is really kind and gentle towards us. I couldn’t resist taking her photo before Marita took her in to clean her teeth. I guess that if you’ve read this, you couldn’t resist her either. Have a great weekend.

 

Go Gentle

I have been wondering whether I should talk about euthanasia for a little while now. As you can probably tell, working in the clinic is mostly a joyous experience, but there are times when veterinary work can be very sad. It seems to me, after twenty years working as a vet, that death is as much a part of life as birth, but outside the clinic it is more hidden, less talked about. When it is discussed, it is done in a hushed reverential way.

From what I understand from talking to people, I believe that I have something of an unusual view. To me, death seems a peaceful thing, rather than something to be afraid of. Except in exceptional circumstances, most of the animals we put to sleep are old or very ill. There are occasions when, from seeming terribly distressed, breathless, weary or in pain, you can see your patient relax. The strain disappears and it is obvious that they have found peace.

For the owner of course, it’s a sad time: sometimes devastating. Many people feel their pets are members of their family, and so the loss is intense. For me it has always seemed somehow very intimate and it is important not to intrude, but even after all this time, with each ending, I continue to share the sorrow . I have read other vets saying that they try to keep things brisk and professional, but I have never been able to do that. Usually there are tears in my eyes.

For the animal, I try to make sure that the experience is as peaceful as I can make it. Most animals don’t enjoy going to the vets. It’s important  to take my time, to talk to both the owner and their pet. With dogs, I usually try to inject them without lifting them up onto the table. I always feel they are more comfortable on the floor: more secure, though of course smaller dogs can sit on their owner’s knee.

The process is different here in Norway and actually I prefer it. In Britain, it was the norm to give an overdose of anaesthetic directly into the vein. Personal experience has taught me that when being anaesthetised, it is like a light going out. It’s very rapid and I usually explained that before beginning, but sometimes I could see it was a shock to the owner that the whole thing was over so fast. There were difficulties sometimes in finding the vein and in making sure the injection went in correctly, as otherwise the whole experience could cause unnecessary pain.

At Tu, it is the norm to sedate the animal: deep sedation, so that he or she becomes unaware of the surroundings and is profoundly calm. Often we leave the room so the pet can go to sleep in peace alone with the people they know best. Once the animal is sleeping, we return. Generally we encourage the owner to leave the room, though they are welcome to return afterwards if they wish. The final injection is usually given into the heart, which isn’t the most pleasant thing to watch, but I am comforted by the fact that the pet is wholly unaware.

Whichever way it is carried out, I try to make sure that the owner is not too distressed by the procedure itself. Euthanasia is the last and kindest gift that an owner can give to their pet if they are in pain. The last thing I want is for their memory to be of my incompetence or of something frightening happening they did not expect. I try to ensure that I explain everything thoroughly and work as efficiently as possible. Experience has taught me that when things go wrong, it feels desperately traumatic, and if it is that way for me, then it must be even more so for the loving owner.

This week I carried out my first fully solo euthanasia in Norwegian. I was concerned that language might be a barrier. All the things that came so easily in English would be no longer second nature. I was worried I would be unable to properly offer comfort, but in the event it was obvious that body language counted for so much that it was not important that the words were not perfect or sufficiently profound. It was still a sad experience, and yet I find it somehow uplifting. It is such a generous act on the part of the owner. I am glad if I can help them carry that burden, even if only a little.

Inside Out

My week began (as it often seems to) with me assisting with a cruciate operation. I was quite pleased with myself and felt quite organised, and even remembered that I had to apply a bandage to the dog’s lower leg so as to keep the hair under wraps, so to speak. Dagny was on good form as she was heading off for some CPD in Svalbard. She hoped to see a polar bear, she told me, but when she saw my bandage she narrowed her eyes.

‘You do know you’ve put that bandage on inside out?’ she said.

I looked down at my handywork. The bandages we use are the flexible bandages that stick to themselves, and I invariably unroll them with the outer surface of the roll to the dog’s leg. Anyone who bandages often will be aware that it’s much easier to do that.

‘It’s not my bandage that’s inside out,’ I remarked. ‘They’ve just printed the pattern on the wrong side.’

‘I suppose they’re the other way out in Scotland,’ she said with a grin. The odd thing is that I seem to remember that for a while, we did have bandages with patterns on, and that the patterned side was inside the roll. I wonder whether now they sell these things online to the general public, whether they feel the need to put the pattern on the outside as a gimmick. Or whether my memory is just hopelessly faulty. Maybe there are some dino-vets in the UK who can set my mind at rest. Either way, I will continue to put the bandages on inside out. I don’t suppose the dogs will really mind. At least I’m no longer in the Glasgow PDSA, where you had to work out whether the owner was a Rangers or Celtic supporter so you could put on the wrong coloured bandage just to annoy them. Or better still, a bright pink bandage on their illegal male Pit-Bull. I wonder whether I could start a craze for blue, white and red bandages for Norway’s 17th May celebrations.

Thursday was much quieter. I confess I was really looking forward to lunchtime. Often, when Dagny isn’t coming in, Jan-Arne is asked to buy lunch for everyone on his way in at eleven o’clock. As well as the usual meats, bread and salad, he frequently brings pre-cooked burgers and I was so hungry I really fancied one. So it was with sadness that I discovered that everyone had been informed yesterday that there would be no lunch provided. Luckily, the ever-generous Wivek came to my assistance with some fibre-rich knekkebrød, (like Ryvita, only nicer for those in the UK) some smoked salmon spread and various salad items. Although there was no Thursday meeting, we still all had our lunch break at the same time and I was amused to look round and see what everyone was eating.

As you can probably tell from my list, Wivek’s lunch was very healthy. It suited her personality: conscientious and rather serious (though to be fair, she also confided in me afterwards that she had chocolate for breakfast, which just goes to show she has an underlying wicked streak). Marita had something not to dissimilar from Wivek: practical and organised. Irene wasn’t eating with us. She’s a woman of mystery.  Jacqueline like me, had no lunch, but rather than steal from Wivek, she extracted an ice-lolly from the freezer. Of course she’s incredibly cool at all times, and just a little bit quirky and so that too was very suitable. And what about Jan-Arne? Well he had brought a couple of bread rolls, which he smothered in ketchup and mustard, filled with ham and cheese, then sprinkled liberally with Piffi, a spicy mix of salt, chilli, onion powder and other tasty stuff. He then proceeded to put this in the microwave and heated it up. So does this reflect his personality? Well it was warm and frivolous, cheesy and spicy and more than a little bit crazy. But somehow together it just works. Comfort food, comfort friend. I’ll take it. In fact, I’ll take them all.

 

Today’s photo is Pernille, who is having her blood pressure checked before an operation.

 

 

The Return of the Triumphant Polar Explorer

And so, the Scary Boss Lady returned triumphant from her travels in the cold, cold North. She had seen a polar bear, she told me. I presume she learned some stuff about eyes as well. I forgot to ask if the polar bear had healthy corneas, but I’m sure she would have mentioned it if it had needed treatment. She did bring back some pictures. This is my favourite.

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The hand belongs to Dagny’s husband Sondre, so that is a pretty big paw-print. The actual photos of the bear are very distant, but the place looks stunningly beautiful.

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And they did see some Svalbard reindeer.

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Meanwhile, back in the real world, the weather has been quite warm some days this week. So much so, that the first of this year’s flies appeared in the clinic. I couldn’t find the fly swat, so when the evil menace entered the operating theatre, I had to create a cunning fly opening by propping the doors outwards to encourage it to remove itself. Happily I didn’t make the same mistake I made last year when I announced to Dagny and Magne that there was ‘et fly’ in the room. They managed to keep straight faces, despite the fact that I had just told them there was an aeroplane buzzing around their heads. A fly in Norwegian is ‘en flue’. It’s an easy mistake to make.

Tuesday was a good day to forget my lunch. As sometimes happens, I remembered about five minutes into my journey that I had left it lying on the side in the kitchen at home, and as I never set out with more than five minutes to spare, there was no time to retrieve it. Fortunately there was a rep in from Bayer, who brought the usual inducements to buy their products in the shape of a few sandwiches and a bowl of chocolates. It’s good that big pharma likes to spend so much in bribes. Actually I had to laugh the other day when I realised the pen I had in my pocket was actually a Vets Now pen, presumably purloined from some conference or other. Those things get everywhere. It was a nice reminder of a happy past.

Thursday saw Wivek carrying out some major dental work on a dog. As we don’t have gaseous anaesthesia in the dental room, we often rely mostly on deep sedation for doing dental work, but as she was potentially going to be working on the animal for up to three hours, she wanted something that would remain reliably stable for much longer. She therefore used the new infusion and syringe driver to give a complex mixture of anaesthetic and pain-relieving drugs and we used the new oxygen pump for breathing. It all worked like a dream. I monitored the breathing and pulse for her and she achieved wonderful stability. I have always been a big fan of gas anaesthesia, but I could definitely be converted.

I had a slightly bizarre experience on Thursday. The washing machine and tumble drier are in the changing room area of the clinic, as is the toilet. As I stood unloading the machine and folding up the clean washing, Jan-Arne rushed in.

‘I have to go to the toilet,’ he said with obvious urgency. I took some of the uniforms through to fold them up in the next room as I had no great desire to listen, but the next moment, I heard the skirl of bagpipes emanating from behind the door. For a mind-blowing moment, I wondered whether Jan-Arne was actually Scottish. After all, only a true Scot could possibly blow that kind of noise from his bottom. But then it dawned on me.

‘Are you using your iPhone in there?’ I asked.

‘Oh yes,’ he said, obviously perfectly happy that I was there. Men are strange creatures.

Towards the end of the day, I was chatting to Dagny and she was trying to send me her is-bjørn photographs. It was taking ages (maybe Jan-Arne was on the toilet again). Marita walked in.

‘I just had a telephone call from a boy, wanting to know how long it would take for a rabbit to get pregnant if the boy rabbit and the girl rabbit got in together. I told him about five seconds,’ she said with a grin.

Dagny put her head on her side. ‘Oh no,’ she said. ‘I don’t think that’s right.’ She paused for a long moment for effect. ‘Not SO long as that,’ and we all laughed. It was the perfect end to a very pleasant day.

 

This week’s picture is of Jan-Arne’s dog Susii Because he chats to his clients enthusiastically about his own pets, those who have similar dogs tend to want to see him again. It always amazes me how many cute little brown dogs make their way onto his patient list.

 

Twice as Scary

I’ve been feeling much better this week. So much so that a few minutes ago, I found myself dancing around my kitchen eating a slice of leftover barbecued haggis (yes you did read that correctly –  it’s delicious). The working week started well with an unexpected hug from Dagny. She told me how glad she was to see me and asked whether I had received my final pathology report on my tonsils, which I had. I was able to assure her that everything had come back clear.

I had a moment of quiet confusion when I walked into the kennel room and saw Dagny again, apparently on her hands and knees cleaning out one of the kennels. When she heard me coming, she pulled her head out of the kennel and smiled infectiously. It wasn’t Dagny at all, but a young girl who looked so like her I knew it must be her daughter. She said ‘Hi’ and a few minutes later, Dagny introduced us.

‘This is my Sara’ she said. ‘She’s here to help clean.’

Irene arrived at about the same time and as there were no operations, she, Sara and I set out on a mission to give the clinic a full spring clean. Having cleaned out one of the consulting rooms, right down to the bookshelves and inside the cupboards, we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves when Dagny came in to see how we were doing. Having admired most of the room, she came to a standstill in front of a pin board in the corner, where a random-looking set of dosage sheets of all shapes and colours were hanging in squinty profusion.

‘You could tidy this up,’ she suggested. I stared at it. Amazing how invisible things become to my eyes when I am used to seeing them. No wonder my house is never perfectly tidy.

IMG_5480The most amusing moment with Sara came when Jan-Arne arrived. By this time, Irene and she were outside cleaning the windows. Jan-Arne walked into the prep room, where Dagny was working on the computer. His eyes opened wide, he shook his head and slowly raised a shaking hand to point.

‘But you’re out there,’ he said. The confusion in his voice was comical.

‘Do we really look so much alike?’ Dagny asked a few minutes later, when Sara was back in the room.

‘Mostly from behind,’ Irene assured her, and took a photograph to demonstrate.

Twice as scary

My brain was functioning much better with the Norwegian this week. I find it astonishing though, how often I still can’t understand the entries made when the patients are being booked in. Considering how many times I see animals with the same or similar conditions, I find this mildly disconcerting, but mostly amusing. At least when it’s written down, I can ask before I come face to face with the client.

‘Har vært is slåsskamp’ (has been in a fight) was straightforward enough.  Can you beat the wonderful word slåsskamp? Kamp translates as match (as in football). Somehow for me then, slåss (rough pronunciation sloss) just sounds like a competition where the combatants are sloshing away at each other. That doesn’t make sense? Somehow in my brain it just works.

The next appointment was more confusing. ‘Hull i huden på hodet etter fjerning av hårsekk.’

‘Hull i huden på hodet’ (hole in the skin on the head) was straightforward enough. But ‘fjerning av hårsekk’? ‘Fjerning’ means removal but what on earth was a hair-sac? Somehow my mind was imagining a hole filled with fluff. Really though, it was logical, and thanks to google translate I was able to find out that it was actually a hair follicle.

The next case, ‘Sår etter bet’. Well I still don’t know what ‘bet’ means but I guessed correctly that this was a cat bite abscess andl I managed well enough. The hole in the skin after the hair follicle incident, was actually a gaping gap between the dog’s eyes following the emptying of a cyst. Generally when a cyst has burst, unless it is recurring, it is best just to clean out the hole and then leave it to heal. I do sometimes still find the ‘I know it looks awful, but we really don’t need to do anything,’ conversation harder in Norwegian than English. It’s far more noticeable to me when I have to translate everything, that people often repeat information in slightly different ways. There is a lot of speaking which could realistically be compressed into a very few words. This isn’t in any way a criticism. Indeed consulting here makes me realise that back in the UK, faced with an owner who was obviously confused about what I was telling them, I would re-explain in a different form. In Norwegian, that is more difficult as I tend to run out of words. Having explained to the owner that despite the fact that there was quite a large hole in the skin on her dog’s face, it would heal best if left alone, I could tell she was still unconvinced. Luckily, a quick conversation with Dagny allowed me to go back into the room and assure her that my boss agreed with me. Amazing the things I have to resort to, but at least it worked. Still, it’s cheering that consulting on cases with your colleagues is so encouraged here, that Dagny never batted an eyelid when I asked her about something as simple as a sebaceous cyst. It makes for a great working environment when everybody works as a team.

 

 

 

Pomeranian Progress

 

This holiday has been a wonderful voyage of discovery. A few impressions stay with me: of rustic farmyards, of swaying fields of barley scattered with indigo cornflowers, of scarlet poppies and tall, tall trees.

 

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There is so much to do in Leba and the surrounding area. Leba itself is in many ways unashamedly touristy, filled with restaurants and stalls. There are still signs of the old ways of life, also of industry, especially surrounding the docks, which appear to be undergoing a transformation.

Cinnamon and honey latte at the Sweet Café in Leba.
Cinnamon and honey latte at the Sweet Café in Leba.

The hotel itself, as shown in other posts, has been a haven of friendliness and wonderful food. As well as catering to our every need, Mieszko and his family treated us to a kayaking trip along a beautiful river in a nature reserve and across a lagoon. I will never forget the wonderful iridescence of the dragon flies reflected in the clear water as we glided unseen through the reed beds.

And so, as usual, I will share a few photographs, wonderful memories from an unforgettable holiday.

A Good Start to the Day
A Good Start to the Day
Easy to get lost in Leba
Easy to get lost in Leba
We found this Pomeranian Minotaur at the centre of the labyrinth.
We found this Pomeranian Minotaur at the centre of the labyrinth.

 

 

Storks on a Stalk
Storks on a Stalk
Jack Sparrow has invaded Leba.
Jack Sparrow has invaded Leba.
But the dinosaurs got there first.
But the dinosaurs got there first.
The sunsets can be stunning.
The sunsets can be stunning.
As can the ice-creams.
As can the ice-creams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being put through my paces at thirty-one degrees.
Being put through my paces at thirty-one degrees.

 

Better head to the beach.
Better head to the beach.
To cool off in the Baltic Sea.
To cool off in the Baltic Sea.
Just hangin' with Charlie.
Just hangin’ with Charlie.

 

 

At the Upside Down house in Szymbark.
At the Upside Down house in Szymbark.
The Eiffel Tower - miniature version.
The Eiffel Tower – miniature version.
And cocktails in the sun.
And cocktails in the sun.
A bird's eye view of Gdansk.
A bird’s eye view of Gdansk.
And a more pedestrian view.
And a more pedestrian view.

Fin

Venice in Spring

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Rooftops
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Maze
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From the bell tower of St Georges church.
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I was fascinated by the back-lane feel of these miniature canals.
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On the Waterfront
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Police, Venetian style.
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Who knew there were daleks as well as vampires in Venice?
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Grand canal from a gondola.
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Chaz’n’Saz
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The fish market.
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Buy one, get one free!
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And, of course…
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…the obligatory pictures of wonderful food.