Tag Archives: Dog

Bodies

Language is an odd thing. Now I am using Norwegian more often, I notice strange things occurring with greater frequency. For example, I sometimes have conversations with people and afterwards thinking back I can’t recall which language we used. More confusing still is the phenomenon which occasionally occurs when a sprinkling of “English” words are scattered amongst the Norsk. For example, I saw a headline in the newspaper the other day. “City løftet trofeet!” It said. Trofeet? I ran it through my mind. Not sure about that one. Something to do with three? Løftet meant lifted. I knew that. So something about a city being lifted? What could it mean? An earthquake? I was trying to work out how this incredible feat of tectonic activity had occurred without my being aware of it when I noticed the accompanying photograph of a bunch of football players and it suddenly crystallised in my mind. So much for earthquakes. I was halfway up the stairs before I registered that the Norwegian word for city is “by” Had I registered that City wasn’t even a Norsk word, I would have realised that this was all about the Norwegian obsession with English football. City had lifted the trophy.

So a day or two later, I should probably have been more alert to this phenomenon when I was looking for the soap. I found Irene and asked her where it was. “Det er I skapet der bodies holdes.” she told me. My mind worked that one out. It was in the cupboard where the bodies were stored. That much I registered. But really? The soap was in cold-storage with the bodies? It couldn’t be. Or did she just mean in the room? Was there another cupboard in there? I shook my head in confusion and she must have taken pity on me because instead of trying again, she led me into the prep-room, skirted round the piles of dog food that were sitting there and opened the cupboard where the clean laundry was stored. “There!” She pointed to the big container. I just stared at it. “What?” she asked, looking at me still. “But the bodies?” I asked her. She took out one of the “Bodies” a cute little item of clothing that we use on dogs when they’ve had an operation. It was again at that point that I realised that the Norwegian for body is “kropp”. When I told her, she just laughed.

I received my authorisation notice last Friday. So now I am allowed to do official vet things like operations. I love operating. The vets here are fascinated with the way I sterilise cats. I learned a really nifty method for castrating cats years ago that involves tying a knot in the blood vessel and vas deferens using only a pair of artery forceps. Once you’ve done it a few hundred times, it can be done in about ten seconds flat. And much to their interest, I have always spayed cats through a hole in the flank. Here they go in underneath through the midline. Guro, whose middle name is Moira because secretly she’s actually Scottish, decided to jump right in there and we spayed a cat together on Thursday. Apart from the classic first-time error we managed to make when we failed to go right through into the abdomen and found ourselves having one of those odd moments when it seems the cat had no abdominal organs, the whole thing went very well. I’m glad to work with such open minded people who are keen to try different things.

Another big event on Thursday, seeing my first patient alone. It was a dog with a broken claw. Not so much to go wrong I thought. But when I looked at the dog, it was hard to tell what I should do. Dim light from the window and a dog the colour of Yorkshire jet meant that I had only the faintest sight of the claw I was examining. Happily Magnificent Magne rode in to the rescue… and switched on the light. I felt just like a new graduate again: a mind so filled with uncertainty that common sense was as elusive as the light had been. The uncertainty was replaced by a booming knowledge, reflected in the client’s eyes… “Oh no. This one’s clueless.” Still, I managed to sedate the dog and the ring block around the claw worked perfectly. The patient never even twitched as Magne gouged away the outer layer of the claw using the dental instruments. The usual frustration entered my mind as I bandaged the foot without dressing or K-Band (how am I going to survive without K-Band????) but the finished product looked neat and tidy. And the next time could only be easier surely? And so I thought, that was my week over, but on Friday morning, as I sat in bed contemplating a lovely relaxing day, a message popped up on Facebook. “Are you there?” said Irene. Wondering whether she would be eaten alive by SBL for using Facebook at work, I replied that I was. “I didn’t have your telephone number,” she said. “Guro has rung to say she can’t come in. Could you come instead?”. I was tired from a midnight run to the airport, nevertheless I like working Fridays, so I wasn’t going to turn this down.

And so I found myself in a room examining my second patient. It was one of Guro’s and she has an interest in small pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs and this one was a hamster with a lump on its bottom. I was amazed when I took it out of its cage to find the “lump” was actually the most enormous pair of testicles that I have ever seen. If a bull had an equivalent pair, they’d be dragging on the ground. Aside from their massive size, everything seemed to be normal but as Madam Self-Confidence had still not installed herself in my head, I scurried off to get a second opinion. I found Vivek first. She was probably trying to hide, but there was no escape. Scouring the books in the back-room, we couldn’t find a thing, but happily Google Images came to the rescue. Apparently these gigantic appendages were completely normal. Of course, with the client now in “Oh no. This one’s clueless” mode, I couldn’t saunter back in and casually tell her that everything was quite in order, so happily this time Vivek came in to reassure her. One day perhaps I will manage to see a patient on my own again.

Later on I found myself helping out Jan-Arne. He was going to see a few more of Guro’s clients and so I examined a dog with him that was in for a biopsy of a lump beside her bottom. Obviously a day for it. It felt to me a bit like a lipoma, albeit in an awkward position, so I asked for permission to remove the whole thing, rather than doing the biopsy, if on inspection it turned out to be just that. And it was. It came away beautifully. My satisfaction was complete when I saw the owner’s face when I told her that it had been a benign fatty lump. To me, it was a small, if very satisfying operation. To her, it meant so much more. It is those moments that make life as a vet worthwhile.

Smil

Beike came in last week to have his teeth cleaned. For those who aren’t aware, Beike is my friend Marian’s dog, a handsome Border Collie with a passionate love of balls and Frisbees. That’s him at the top of the page. Beike, Marian and I often go walking together and so I know him well. I think most vets would agree it’s more difficult treating an animal that has become a friend, whether it is an acquaintance from outside work or a long-standing patient that you have got to know over time. Anyway, I was nervous before he arrived and there was no escape because Marian had specifically requested that I treat him.

He went to sleep very quickly and we soon had him through in the dental room. The dental room is one of my favourite parts of the clinic. I’ve never worked in a practice with a dedicated dentistry area, but it undoubtedly makes for better treatment, both for the vets and for the animals. There is suction ventilation to remove the spray from the ultrasound descaler, excellent lighting that can be manoeuvred into position so you can see right into the mouth, polisher and drill, as well as more dental instruments for removing teeth than I have seen anywhere else. There’s even a specialised x-ray machine.

Anyway, back to Beike. The only complication was that he had a broken tooth right at the front of his mouth. In fact, if you look at the picture at the top of the page, you can see it. Happily for me Wivek was available to help. As well as wonderful facilities, Tu clinic has the best veterinary dentist I’ve ever come across. The more I get to know Wivek, the more impressed I am. She seemed very quiet to begin with, she never shows off, and yet she knows an incredible amount. If I read up about anything I can talk to her, and she is still ahead of me. Anyway when it comes to removing teeth she is second to none. I began to loosen Beike’s tooth, but as usual I came to a (literally) crunching halt. Wivek came to the rescue and very patiently worked away until, as if by magic, she produced the intact root. I, of course, was watching carefully. It’s great to learn new things!

After Beike’s teeth, it was nearly time for lunch. Every Thursday lunch is laid on and we have a practice meeting so that SBL can tell us all that we’ve been doing right and wrong. This week it was car parking. Apparently we are supposed to park down the side of the building, leaving the spaces in front for the clients. I kept my head well down at this point of the meeting because since arriving I have invariably parked my car in one of the prime sites. I have always stayed away from the doorways. I had worked out that when people had to take their sleepy animals to the car, it was better they could park there. But other than that, I have shamelessly avoided that difficult, overcrowded corner where all the staff seemed to leave their vehicles. Not any more it seems.

The meeting always ends with the Ukens Smil (The Week’s Smile). This is when the staff get to thank each other for favours done and congratulate one another for their achievements. There’s a little box in the staff-room with a hole in the top, and when someone does something nice, you write your thanks on a piece of paper and slip it into the box. Every Thursday the compliments are read out for everyone to hear. The person who gets the most smiles gets a packet of chocolates, conveniently named “Smil”. Incidentally, Marvellous Magne, whose English is good, but not as good as the vets who studied in English has never read my blog and therefore was wholly unaware of the extent of my evilness. He finally discovered last week that I had given Dagny the nickname, Scary Boss Lady. Since then he seems to have been Smil-ing rather a lot!

And finally, as promised two weeks ago, I attach below photographic evidence of the chicken-head ritual. There has been speculation that these events are part of contemporary Norwegian culture, similar to their habit of filling highly flammable wooden houses with candles each Christmas, or the more localised Jaeren farming custom of blasting liquefied animal dung into the air whenever washing is hung out to dry. However my personal theory is that this particular activity is related to Norse mythology, more specifically to Thaw, Goddess of Deep-Chilled Poultry. Irene has now gone on holiday and is sunning herself in Thailand amongst the mosquitos. If only it had been Turkey….

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Cute

The first thing I saw on Thursday morning when I got in was Dagny. Officially it was her day off, but she had received a message in the early hours of the morning about a whelping bitch, or more accurately, about a bitch that was not whelping, and by nine in the morning, Ninja’s owners had decided that she required some veterinary assistance. For the record, Ninja is a sweet little Chihuahua with big eyes, though when she arrived at the clinic, those big eyes looked definitely troubled. Not surprising because when Dagny carried out a vaginal examination, there was a puppy stuck in the passage.  Using plenty of lubricant, Dagny managed to draw the pup out into the world. Sadly despite all her efforts, the pup never started to breathe. An x-ray showed that there was another puppy, and by measuring its skull, Dagny estimated that it might still be born normally, and so instead of spending her time off relaxing, she stayed in the clinic while Ninja’s owners gave their pet some time to try to give birth naturally.

For me this could be only viewed as an opportunity. Thursday is the day that Irene has designated that the dental room and laboratory should be cleaned and maintenance carried out. I think everything in the lab is jogging along fine, but it was only recently I realised that there were weekly and monthly services to be carried out on the dental machine and that they weren’t being done. There is a sheet on the wall of the dental room that I hadn’t noticed, and on that sheet were daily and weekly spaces for initials. Leah had been doing the checks, but in the weeks since she left, the boxes have all remained blank, and when I checked with Irene, it transpired that she didn’t know either. Most of the time in between I have been distracted by other things, but now and then my imagination would go into overdrive as I pictured the whole dental machine seizing up through lack of oiling.

Dagny had tried to call the maintenance rep, but there was no reply and so  she suggested phoning Kari Anna, who is still on maternity leave. ‘After all,’ she said with a laugh, ‘It’s not as if she will have anything else better to do.’

This proved to be incorrect. Dagny held the phone away from her ear for a moment, and even I could hear the wails of the baby from across the room. Still, the dental machine is VERY important, and Kari Anna is VERY patient, so with her help, we managed to oil the handsets. All that was left then was to oil the compressors down in the bowels of the appliance, and so, by ten a.m., Dagny and I were crawling around on the floor of the dental room, pointing a handily discovered ultra-violet light into the guts of the machine.

There was a horrible moment when Dagny thought she had been pouring oil into the air-compressor itself, but happily, it did turn out to be the correct orifice (obviously it’s very important for a vet to get the right orifice).  Finally, the oil levels were back to the right place. As we finished, I pushed myself up from the floor and stretched. I fully expected Dagny to do the same, but for some reason, she was still on the floor.

‘I’m not sure if I should get up,’ she said. ‘This is my day off. Maybe I should just lie here.’  I offered to get her one of the cushions we use for patients, but she turned it down. She checked the time on her phone. ‘Actually,’ she said, ‘I should be at the gym,’ and before I knew what was happening, she had started to wave her feet around in the air.

I was taken away from all this excitement by Wivek. Her daughter had hurt herself at school, and as Wivek had run to work (what a healthy lot of people I work with) she had no car. I drove her to the school, but happily it transpired that the injury was not as serious as had originally been thought. I arrived back at the surgery to see Ninja and her owners taking a walk down the road and I assumed all was well, but when I went back in, I discovered that they were still waiting for pup number two to arrive.

She returned from her walk, and still was making no progress, and so finally Dagny and Ninja’s owners decided  it was time to go ahead with a Caesarean.  Dagny is a quick and decisive surgeon, and so within a very short time, the gorgeous little pup in the photo at the top of the page was born. It’s always lovely to see how all the staff gather round to help when there is a newborn to be revived. Somehow, even after years in practice, there is always something magical about the gift of birth.

Ninja still sleeping while her pup begins to explore.
Ninja still sleeping while her pup begins to explore.

 

 

 

 

The Eyes Have It

It’s been an interesting and busy week in the clinic. Dagny and Magne were both away on holiday, and what with working an extra day and with not being so intensively taken up in theatre, I felt a wonderful growth of teamwork with Wivek, Jan-Arne, and particularly Marita, with whom I spent more time this week than ever before. Given that we were two vets down, and the clinic was still busy, I was pressed into more directly clinical work than usual, and although it can be stressful at times, when things go well there is a huge satisfaction in meeting the challenges and knowing that you are making things better for the animals.

Of course, as soon as Scary Boss Lady and Magnanimous Magne, the ocular specialists were out of the picture, two of the cases that came in were eye problems. The first, a handsome spaniel who had been out for a long moorland trek the day before, arrived with a very sore looking eye. He was in so much discomfort that he wouldn’t even let me look at it and the first thing I had to do was sedate him. It was then quite hard to examine the cornea, because his eye rolled down as he got sleepier and so I asked Marita to come in and give me a hand. The cornea looked to be all clear, and it was at that moment, that Connie, a student who has been helping out for the past couple of weeks pointed out that there was actually a tiny splinter of wood stuck on the white part of the eye. I was tremendously glad of Magne’s special tiny eye instruments as we clipped a tiny hole in the conjunctiva and removed it. It was wonderful to see him yesterday for his check-up looking much more comfortable.

The second case, the gorgeous seven-week-old pup at the top of the page came in on Tuesday morning. He’d had some kind of accident with his mother, and his eye had completely prolapsed from its socket. He too was in a lot of pain, and needed a full anaesthetic before we could start to try to put his eye back into the right place. Again Marita and I worked as a team to place some stitches into his eyelids before carefully sliding everything back into position. The stitches in his eye have to stay in for two or three weeks and although everything went well, we will only know for sure how much damage has been done to his eye when the sutures are removed. Happily Dagny and Magne will be back by then.

Jan-Arne has been his usual crazy, endearing self. I love the way he takes his time and gets to know the patients really well and goes out of his way to make them feel at home. I went in at the end of one of his consultations on Tuesday to find him sitting cross-legged on the floor. When I worked in the emergency clinic in Scotland, I gradually got more and more idiosyncratic and often consulted sitting down on the floor at dog level and I think he is the first other vet I have seen doing the same. I also overheard him yesterday singing back at a German Shepherd who had been singing at him. It was a beautiful duet.

And somehow, though the quiet week I had anticipated with only two or three vets consulting didn’t emerge, I still found a few minutes on Tuesday to complete the first part of a project I am undertaking with Wivek to set up a consistent anaesthetic protocol for the practice to ensure that we are completely up to date with providing anaesthesia that is both safe and provides a high level of pain-relief for all our surgical patients. Of course, as I am in Norway, I thought that it would be a good idea to provide the poster I was creating about Gas Flow Rates in Norwegian. Having showed it to Irene, who assured me it was fine, I proudly printed it out and laminated it… and then went to show Wivek. How was I to know that the word that means flow when it is water and electricity doesn’t apply to gas? And of course my assumption that if you exchanged the “c” in “maintenance” to an “s” would turn it into a Norwegian word seemed logical enough at the time. And litre… apparently the Noregians prefer the American spelling. Ah well, after six years in Norway, I am probably one of the most proficient writers of Norglish that the world has ever seen, and that is something to be very proud of.

Holiday

Even after many years, I still greet Christmas and the New Year with a heightened sense of joy that I don’t have to work on either day. All round the world, many wonderful people in the emergency services give up those days to help others, and I send my good wishes to all my friends and colleagues who have been, and will be working over the holiday period this year. I expect when I return tomorrow, there may be a few Christmas related cases. It only takes a moment or two for a dog to eat something that he or she shouldn’t, and chocolate and raisins can be toxic for dogs, as well as the simple problem of too much turkey.

Last Tuesday, the day began as I walked through the prep-room on the way to change into my uniform.  Linus, (whose picture you can see at the top of the page) had been very ill and vomiting for a few days, and he was in a lot of pain and seemed utterly exhausted. His abdomen was so painful that Dagny had to sedate him to examine him properly, and when she did, she could feel something. Whatever it was, it wasn’t visible on the x-ray (some items show up clearly, but not all do) so the only way to help Linus was an exploratory operation. His owners were naturally very fearful. Linus is eleven years old and as the lump wasn’t visible on the x-rays, it could be anything from a peach-stone to a tumour.

As Dagny readied herself for surgery, I prepared Linus for the operation. The monitors attached, I was concerned to find that the oxygen levels in Linus’ blood were very low: not very surprising as I could see that his gums were pale, nothing like the fresh pink colour they are in a healthy dog. I turned the intravenous drip as fast as it would go, and kept the anaesthetic levels to a minimum as Dagny began to cut.

It didn’t take long for her to locate the lump, and it was immediately obvious that it was a foreign body and not a tumour. The gut was inflamed where whatever-it-was had already passed through. I opened up the set of special clamps and the  multiple packs of gauze I had ready and Dangy placed them around the gut to keep everything clean.

Pausing for a moment, she looked up and smiled. ‘What do you think?’ she asked. ‘I’m betting on a kongle!’ Kongle is Norwegian for pine cone. Her attention firmly back on her work , she cut carefully into the segment of intestine and drew out what proved indeed to be a section of pine cone. Poor Linus. No wonder it had been so painful.

From that point in the operation, it was obvious that things were improving. As Linus’ guts began to function again and the fluids from the drip got to work, his oxygen levels climbed from sixty-two right up into the high nineties, which is where they should be when everything is functioning well.

‘Would you mind just quickly going and telling his owners that it wasn’t a tumour?’ Dagny asked, as with the hole in the gut closed, she began to stitch the abdominal muscles. ‘They were so worried.’  As everything was stable, I was delighted to run through and tell them. What better Christmas present could there possibly be for me and them?

There are one or two things I find difficult about being an assistant. It’s not so easy for me to telephone owners and ask for an update, as I might do with one of my own patients. But I hope that the signs that I saw during that operation boded well for Linus and that he and his owners have had a wonderful Christmas together.

Merry Christmas everybody.

 

The Cat Charmer and the Messy Chef

There’s a game I remember from childhood parties at my grandmother’s house. A tempting bar of chocolate was set on an table in the middle of a ring of children. Each child had to throw a pair of dice and if you got two sixes, you had a chance to go to the table and eat the chocolate. Before you could do so, however, you first had to put on a large pair of mittens followed by a woolly hat and scarf. Then, and only then, could you go and attack the chocolate, which you had to eat with a knife and fork, but woe betide you if another child threw two sixes before the process was complete. I was reminded of that game this week in the dental room. Whenever we are using the ultrasonic descaler, we put on protective gloves and a face mask and normally this takes seconds.

However, for some reason, the latest batch of masks are different from normal. Rather than elastic which slides easily behind your ears, these have individual ties, one set at the top and one at the bottom. Twice this week, one of my colleagues has come to me and asked, ‘Could you just begin this dental for me?’ and both times I have found myself putting on the latex gloves first (as I have always done in the past) and then went to put on the mask and found myself fiddling around for ages, trying to tie the bows at top and bottom. It sounds easy, but what with trying to get both tight enough so that the thing doesn’t slide off, and with my hair getting woven in, all hindered somewhat by the tight gloves which seemed specially designed for hair tanglage, I was inexorably reminded of the chocolate game as I wondered frustratedly whether the colleague in question would return before I had even managed to don the protective clothing.

I seem to have spent a lot of time in the dental room this week (not all of it getting myself tied in knots). Dagny called me in yesterday as she had decided the dog she was working on needed to go on a drip. Irene came to help me to put in the i/v catheter and both of them watched with some sympathy as I doused the leg in alcohol and then started doing the traditional ‘my fingers are nipping’ dance where you jig around the room shaking your hand where the alcohol has entered a wound.

‘Is it sore?’ Dagny asked (in Norwegian you understand).

‘Yes,’ I gazed down at both thumbs which were stinging horribly. ‘I must have a hole.’ It took me a minute or two to register that both Irene and Dagny were laughing at me, and a moment longer to realise what I had said. Of course we have been in this position before, only in English and with the roles reversed. Existing in a language that isn’t your mother tongue really does lead to a lot of faux pas.

With their laughter still ringing in my ears, I set up the drip and hung it up on a hook on the wall and Dagny said something to me. Thinking it was something about getting the drip into place, I failed to turn round to look at her… only to hear a few seconds later,

‘Ahem. Sarah.’ It was that tone. The one that lets me know I have missed something. I turned round… and realised that as I had hung up the drip bag, I had inadvertently turned the spotlight out. Dagny was trying to work in the dark. Fortunately she just laughed at my expression and carried on. At least she was using the light as it was meant to be used. Later in the day, in a moment of confusion, Wivek pulled the light fitting into position against a cats jaw. This would have all been very well if she was needing more light, but as she was trying to take an x-ray at the time, it was somewhat ineffective.

The cat in question was a beautiful cat called Laila. Earlier I had gone into Wivek’s consulting room to help with her sedation. It can be difficult to get cats out of their baskets when you want to examine them, but I was amused to see that Wivek, in a continuation of last week’s singing, decided that the way to charm Laila from her cage was by chanting her name very tunefully over and over. It was at least partially successful. Laila’s head appeared as she looked outside to see who it was who was singing so beautifully. Poor Laila. It must have felt a bit like the Siren’s song: irresistibly sweet, but concluding with an injection that sent her to sleep. Though whether those who were seduced by the real Sirens woke up with beautifully clean teeth, no-one will ever know.

Marita too was thinking of a change in direction this week as she stood in theatre, removing some tumours from a dog. She had discovered the pleasure of removing lipomas (fatty lumps) from under the skin by ‘dissecting’ bluntly using her fingers. It’s amazing how efficiently a lipoma can be removed as they are usually well defined and ‘shell-out’ quite easily.

‘I feel like a messy chef,’ she commented idly as she ran her fingers around the mass. She didn’t seem particularly amused when I suggested that after she was finished, she could use the lumps to make meatballs.

This week’s picture is of Dagny suturing a puppy’s eye. The unlucky pup had been scratched by an angry cat and as you can see in the picture, Dagny used the microscope to carry out the repair to the cornea using tiny suture material that was about the same thickness as a human hair. After stitching up the breach, Dagny clipped a section of the conjunctiva and sutured a flap over the damaged area both to protect it, and to carry blood to the area, which has no natural blood supply. The flap will be left in place for at least six weeks. Dagny’s final act was to inject some fluid into the front of the eye to make up for that which had leaked out. The whole process was utterly fascinating. Best of all though, without such care, the pup would have definitely lost one of her eyes. Hopefully this operation will give her a chance to grow up with both.

Specialist eye instruments (tiny scissors and forceps)
Specialist eye instruments (tiny scissors and forceps)

 

The Need to Feed

I attended my first ever Webinar last night on the subject of nutrition in acute gastrointestinal disease. An interesting experience, not least because the lecturer, Ava Firth, is a friend and someone I used to work with in the UK at Vets Now. Wivek also linked up to listen. It was announced that 300 people round the world had signed up, which I thought was pretty impressive. Ava is very practical and always relevant so it was a worthwhile use of my CPD time.

She was talking about gastro-enteritis, amongst other things and it struck me that I haven’t seen a single case of Parvo since I have been working here. This scourge, which is an ongoing cause of distress in every area of Britain (and I believe, the US) has never gained a foothold here, though I believe there have been a couple of sporadic outbreaks. As Ava commented, Parvo often affects puppies and is therefore intensely traumatic, both for the owner and the vets and nurses who have to carry out their care when (as they often do) they require hospitalisation. I wondered when I began consulting here, why they had no oral rehydration treatments available (up until now, most cases I have seen have been treated with anti-emetics and pro-biotics).  Ava definitely managed to remind and (re)-convert me though. I will be asking Gerd if we can buy some Oralade, even if only for the many dogs we seem to have in with foreign bodies. It’ll certainly be a more up-to-date solution than the current recommendation of giving fishballs to sick pets. I confess that is a nutritional suggestion I have never come across outside Norway.

Speaking of foreign bodies, I saw a competition somewhere last week for radiographs of “most amusing things swallowed by a dog”. I think the oddest thing I ever found inside a dog was half a pair of knickers. Since coming here, there has been the odd natural product such as pieces of wood and pine cones. There has also been a teat from a baby’s dummy, which I believe is quite common. But the latest feeding frenzy seems to be… tampons. Wivek removed two from a dog’s stomach only last week. There was even one a few months back where the string had caught around the dog’s tongue and it had to be retrieved under sedation. Sadly none of these things show up on radiographs, so we won’t be winning any competition, but this special canine enthusiasm is just one of the more interesting international differences I have noticed.

It hasn’t been the best week for me. Two weeks ago, I saw an ear, nose and throat doctor. I have had tonsil stones for years and although it has gradually been getting worse, I’ve lived with it so long that I didn’t think much about it until I thought I saw a black speck on my left tonsil. With a long history of melanomata, I had to get it checked out. By the time the ENT actually got round to seeing me, the fleck had disappeared (perhaps it was a blood blister), but to my shock, he said I had to have my tonsils out. I was relieved however when he said there was a six to nine month waiting list: plenty of time to get used to the idea. My shock was much greater when an appointment arrived on Wednesday for the 13th May.

Fortunately, Wivek was there to listen to my wailings. One thing that interests me is that from comments I have seen on the internet, the most up-to date recommendation is to eat rough crunchy food afterwards(think toast and cornflakes). I was disappointed that the old fashioned jelly and ice-cream was no longer on the table. Happily  it seems Norway is behind the times in these matters, and so the recommendations here are still for soft non-warmed foods. Wivek did point out that it was fortunate that we had a nutritional webinar coming up, which would obviously answer all my questions. Sadly tonsillectomy wasn’t one of the topics covered. I expect though, that fish-balls will not be on my eating list. That would be a step too far.

 

 

 

Miss Direction

It seems that last week in the clinic, I missed out on the exciting moment when one of our feline patients did the wall of death around consulting room A. Most of the cats here seem very reasonable, but apparently this one was half wild. It’s amazing how  much damage can be done by one cat on a dedicated shelf bombing mission. Fortunately Dagny’s arm was long enough to reach in to its hiding place behind the fridge and inject it with enough anaesthetic to calm it down.

Hair raising anaesthesia was also the order of the day earlier this week when one of the patients I was monitoring stopped breathing near the beginning of its operation. Of course with gas anaesthesia, it is straightforward enough to carry out assisted breathing, indeed on our anaesthesia course, the lecturer quite casually mentioned that it didn’t really matter whether the animal breathed itself or not as it was easy to respirate. I guess it happens often enough that it must eventually become almost routine. It has happened a few times and every single time it has been fine, but I still find myself checking and rechecking the equipment and assessing the animal in every way possible, whilst trying to look perfectly calm. Having been the surgeon in that situation, I know how disconcerting it is trying to operate and wondering all the time whether the animal is okay, and whether you should be doing something  to help. Trust is very important in those circumstances. Jacqueline has been incredibly calm before in that situation. Indeed when I asked her if everything was okay, she looked at me as if there was nothing untoward going on at all. My nerves are not as steely as hers though and I was profoundly happy when the dog woke up perfectly normally at the end of the operation.

On Wednesday I went in for my own hospital appointment. It seems that with tonsillectomy, there is a risk of post-operative bleeding and as I am attending a wedding in Scotland on the 24th May, I won’t be able to have my operation next week. They have rebooked it for Wednesday 27th May, just two days after I return. As I live an hour away from the hospital, they will be keeping me in overnight. Just as well as Charlie will be in Spain at the time. I’m glad now that I don’t have to wait any longer.

I was reminded the other night by a conversation with Wivek just how difficult it can be to get an accurate picture over the telephone and how confusing it can be when the owner has already made a diagnosis. It was Marita who was on call and Wivek was helping when they had a call from a client who told them that her bitch had a prolapsed uterus. In twenty or so years of veterinary practice, I have never seen such a thing in a dog. Plenty of cows, a couple of sheep and a very occasional pig, but never in a dog. Of course, such a conversation usually causes that lightning strike in your brain. How on earth will I deal with that? In that frozen state, it can be difficult to rationalise. So busy working out what you are going to have to do that alternative thought is banished. The reality is often that the owner hasn’t got things quite right, (in this case it turned out that the bitch had a polyp in her vagina) but I am sure I have a few extra grey hairs from this phenomenon.

Very occasionally the owner turns out to be correct. The one day old puppy I once saw with its liver hanging out really was just that. A proud moment for me when that dog reached six months of age. But more often, with hindsight, it is possible to look back and laugh, though obviously not in front of the client. Great tact was called for on the day when the owner rushed her dog into the clinic on an autumn day in Glasgow with a wound on the back leg which the lady thought had become infected.

‘It’s the wound on her leg. It’s gone all yellow.’ Dramatic hand to forehead. ‘Oh I can’t bear to look.’ Bending over the dog to inspect its leg, I was initially surprised by just how yellow it was until I realised that actually the dog must have sat down on a fallen leaf which had stuck to the slightly sticky wound. Another occasion, another panicky phone call.

‘My dog’s broken its leg. There’s a piece of bone hanging out,’ and then once again those portentous words, ‘Oh I can’t bear to look.’ On that occasion it was part of a stick of rock that was stuck to the leg. Quite how the owner had missed the fact that her dog was using its broken limb without even limping still passes me by.

My favourite story however is the apocryphal tale of the PDSA client who came into the clinic very angry. They had bought an expensive Rottweiler puppy and it wasn’t growing. It was left to the rather bemused vet to explain that the reason that the puppy was not making much progress was because it was actually a guinea pig. Somehow I have never been able to convince myself that story was true, even though I have been assured that it did really happen. Still it’s a great story, and there is just enough possibility in there to make it wonderfully tantalising. You really do need a great deal of tact to be a vet.

Today’s picture is Tiger who is in for a vaccination and is looking very fine at the great age of 16 years and 9 months.

 

 

 

Touched (in the Head)

It seems like an age since I have written here. In my last post I was about to head off to Scotland. That weekend already feels like a distant memory. It was a wonderful wedding. I won’t share all the details, but just as a random sample of how great it was, here are some photos of the venue and the  wedding cake.

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The day after I returned was a whirlwind of hospital appointments and seeing Charlie off to the airport and then suddenly it was Wednesday and time for my operation. Wivek very kindly drove me to the hospital, and to my surprise (and relief) rather than dropping me in the car park, she accompanied me up to the ward, helped me find where I had to go and then waited with me until the nurse arrived. I was bundled into a bed and given some pain relief. I don’t know what it was, but somehow I managed to fall asleep and they had to wake me up to take me into theatre.

I came round a while later to be presented with some ice-cubes to suck. These were oddly soothing, but there was a horrible taste in my mouth and I remember a strange moment of overwhelming gratitude when the nurse came over to me proffering a lurid pink and yellow ice lolly.

At some point I was reunited with my mobile phone and it struck me that it might be a good idea to let my nearest and dearest know that I had survived. Having sent a boringly factual message to Charlie, I then concluded that I should also let Wivek know. I’m not sure what kind of madness seized my brain at this point. Rather than repeating the factual tone, my fingers sketched in the abstract statement ‘Ice-cubes are my friends.’ At least I think it was something like that. Having typed this gibberish, my clouded brain then decided it would be a good plan to include Dagny and Jan-Arne. To their credit, Dagny and Wivek just wrote back saying they were glad.

Jan-Arne however was obviously confused. Unlike the other two, I suspect that he didn’t have my number programmed into his phone, and faced with some random babble about ice-cubery, he rapidly texted back ‘Que?’ Followed by another message saying ‘Who is this?’ When I let him know it was me, he decided to call me. Goodness knows what I sounded like with a swollen throat and a brain filled with opiates, but it was lovely to hear his friendly voice.

At some point, the surgeon also very kindly visited to let me know that although they wouldn’t have the definitive pathology back for a week or so, there had been no sign of anything severely wrong with my tonsils. As the reason I skipped the waiting-list was that there was some concern over my history of melanoma, this was an enormous relief.

Anyway, my two weeks off raced past in a blur of writing (trying to get Ready. Vet, Go edited in time for a summer onslaught of literary agents) and Come Dine With Me on the TV. In defence of my (appalling) taste in TV programmes, I must say that I only watch such drivel when my brain and body are drained.

And so yesterday, I returned to work. I had been there less than an hour when I began to feel shaky and exhausted. Somehow, everyone but me was swamped with work and this was doubly frustrating as a vomiting cat had been booked in for me and left by the client, and despite having time to spare, without another pair of hands, I was unable to examine it. In between flurries of washing, topping up and resetting the haematology machine, I spent quite a while sitting in the lunch room feeling utterly drained, mentally and physically. I struggled most of the day, both with my veterinary work (thanks are due to Wivek and Marita, who very patiently helped me with each and every case) and with my Norwegian. At one point, I saw a very stressed owner whose dog had been hit by a car. Whilst my emergency-clinic primed brain was still ticking over well enough to asses the dog,  I struggled so much with explaining the concept of keeping an eye on the dog’s breathing that I was worried that I wasn’t managing to reassure the owner well enough that she could cope with monitoring the dog for the rest of the day.

I was also still horribly aware of the poor cat which was awaiting a full assessment. I had checked him out and put him in a comfortable kennel with some water so I knew his condition wasn’t critical, but as soon as Jacqueline had arrived, Magne had rushed her in to help him in theatre and I was beginning to wonder whether I was ever going to get a chance to examine and blood test him. I think the emotional roller coaster of the past few weeks was taking its toll, because there were moments when without logical reason, I found my eyes were suddenly threatening to overflow. It’s a long time since I have felt so oddly helpless.

Still there were a few lighter moments which kept me from being overwhelmed. Marita had two cats booked in for clipping and grooming under sedation. She appeared in the prep room clutching the wrong end of one of those evil plastic aprons that come in a roll and from the quizzical way she was examining one of the side tapes, I could tell that she had no idea which part of the thing she was gripping. It became apparent to me at this moment, that despite the fact that most of the logical and language sections of my brain were running on empty, spatial awareness was still fizzing away in a miasma of over-efficiency. I took it from her, tore away the throwaway sections and handed it back to her the correct way up.

‘What kind of IQ do you need to sort out one of those things?’ she asked, rolling her eyes.

‘Not very high,’ I responded. ‘After all I managed it.’

I think this probably demonstrates just how disconnected my brain was. Fortunately, instead of thumping me as I deserved, she just laughed and fixed me with a fake glare.

‘So are you saying my IQ is really low then?’ she demanded. In response, I just grinned rather weakly.

After the road-traffic-accident dog, I managed to snaffle Jacqueline to help me with the vomiting cat. Having tried unsuccessfully earlier to take his temperature on my own, I finally managed it with her there to help. Logic however, had deserted. Somehow I had forgotten  it might be better to blood test him first before winding him up by inserting an object up his bottom, however fortunately for me, despite turning into a wildcat with the thermometer, he reverted to sweet pussy cat while I wielded the syringe to take blood from his jugular.

Time was going on, and we were broaching the Thursday communal lunch hour. There was no meeting as Dagny was absent, but people kept urging me to come and get my lunch. Thinking that this was mainly out of concern for my health, I stubbornly sat and waited for the cat’s blood test results, and when they came through, I burrowed my head in a laboratory book to check the significance. I think I had been once or twice into the lunch room. I had started to prepare my lunch and was frankly oblivious to what was going on around me. Suddenly someone started to sing ‘Happy birthday’ and I finally looked up from my book.

‘Whose birthday is it?’ I asked.

‘We’re singing it for you,’ they replied.

I confess that, at this point, I was a million miles away, utterly disconnected from the clinic and wishing I could go home.

‘It’s not my birthday.’ I said in grumpy confusion. There was a rather long silence, filled with suppressed giggles and when I finally managed to reconnect my brain, I realised they were all  glancing between me and some stunning flowers rather obviously placed right in the middle of the table.

‘They’re for you,’ they said. The message on the card welcomed me back and said they had missed me and it was signed by Irene, Wivek, Jan-Arne, Jacqueline and Marita. Suddenly my eyes were filled with tears again, but happy ones this time. This was a gift from my friends, not an official token from the clinic and that meant a lot.

Finally, as I was leaving, Jan-Arne came up and gave me a huge hug.

‘I really missed you,’ he said. ‘It just isn’t the same when you’re not here.’

Magne appeared in the passage behind him and said something, at which point Jan-Arne went over and offered to give him a hug as well, but he was humorously rebuffed. For a moment, I considered giving Magne a hug as well as I suspected that might have been more to his taste, but somehow at the last minute, we both lost our nerve. Instead he patted me rather awkwardly on the shoulder and told me how glad he was to see me back. Despite the fact that yesterday was my worst day at work for a very long time, I am  very grateful to all my colleagues for their obstinate insistence (despite all the evidence) that I am lovely.

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.