Tag Archives: Vet

Decisions

Sunrise/sunset: 05:51 / 19:34. Daylength: 13hr 42min.

I arrived home on Wednesday to find John outside, sawing wood. He has designed a new winter cage for the guinea pigs and now he is making it.

Brownie is growing fast. She’s very lively, rushing around, pop-corning all over the place, and it will be wonderful for both her and Susie to have a lovely big cage to run around in.

It’s been another interesting week at work. During a conversation on Monday about car keys, Hilde dropped in the information that the winter tyres would probably go on the work cars this month. Back in Scotland, autumn conversations often start with the phrase, “The nights are fair drawin’ in.” Here, the more Game of Thrones like, “Winter is coming!” is the message.

Hilde asked me what I’d done at the weekend and I had to confess I hadn’t done much, other than having a film night with John and Andrew. She reminded me of it then, “Winter is coming! You should do things now while you can.”

Obviously as it’s my first time, I have no idea how it’s going to feel, but for now I’m looking forward to it. I’ve always loved winter, though of course there will be a lot more of it than I’m used to. Hilde looked thoughtful after telling me about the winter tyres. “Of course this year, they didn’t come off again till June,” she said with a smile.

I decided I should go for it and tell her about our film night. As Dr Sleep had now arrived on Netflix, the boys were keen to watch it and so was I. After all, it is the sequel to The Shining: one of the most iconic films of all time. We had watched The Shining as well for completeness. As far as film nights go, I thought this more worthy of mention than most.

“We watched Dr Sleep… and The Shining,” I said.

Hilde looked at me. “The Shining? What’s that?” she asked.

“Umm… The Shining,” I muttered again, assuming she perhaps had misheard. Surely even in Norway, The Shining was a film everyone would know, but there was no change in her expression. “It’s a… horror film,” I told her (though I didn’t know the Norwegian for horror, and had to ask). “Stanley Kubrik…”

She was still looking blank.

“Steven King?” I added. Hilde was smiling, but there was no dawning recognition.The conversation drew to a halt. For a moment, I considered pulling out my phone and finding an image of THAT photograph… but the conversation around the table was already moving on.

Thursday was a big day for me as I went out on my first welfare visits. Thomas had received three separate messages about animals that were allegedly being mistreated and he had agreed to take me along so I could see what procedures Mattilsynet follow. A good deal of my time recently has been spent on online courses which outlined some of the ways in which we work. For example, every decision we take regarding the cases we see has to be backed up by an explanation of how we are guided by the law, and we have to be very specific, right down to which clause we are invoking.

On the other side of the equation, we need strong evidence, and more and more, this in provided in the form of photographs. Everything has to be recorded, but for privacy reasons, none of it can be stored on iCloud. This had worried me a little when I had read it. I had no idea how to stop photographs going onto the cloud, other than by switching off all internet connections, but surely as soon as you went to transfer them, the result would be the same. The answer, of course, is that there is an app.

Similarly, with the legal aspect, there is a programme on the computer that you go through with regard to each case. You type in the concerns that have been raised and the computer adds specific areas that are covered by the law. A checklist is then created in the form of a table. So there is a lot of work to do before and after any visit, but for now I was interested in the human side of the task.

Only one of the cases turned out to be difficult in terms of animal welfare.  I can’t really explain in any detail what it was about as the pet owner in question deserves full privacy. I was, however, reminded of a case I saw many years ago, aged 23 in my very first job as a newly minted young vet. I had been called out to put an old lady’s dog to sleep and I spoke to her first, explaining the injection and the overdose and how it might go. I was kneeling beside her to explain and as I pushed myself upright, she laid a hand on my arm and looked up into my eyes. “Can’t you take me with him?” she asked.

I can’t really remember how I reacted. I had a wonderful mature nurse with me, who spoke to her. I don’t think I managed to say a word, but the moment has stayed with me. So all I will say is that managing the end of life care for the pet of an older person can be one of the most emotional and difficult tasks in a veterinary surgeon’s life. Even though animal welfare has to be at the heart of what we do, it is the more human side of the equation that complicates the picture.

We took our leave and then stopped for coffee and discussion before driving to the next visit. It’s a case that will be complicated to resolve, and anyway, it was good to have a break before we carried on. Fortunately, the other two visits were more straightforward and we drove back to the office. It was time to go home, leaving the remaining work and all final decisions for another day.

Killing Time

Sunrise/sunset: 04:57 / 20:37. Daylength: 15hr 40min.

On Monday, Hilde drove me over to the abattoir where I will be spending a good chunk of my working days over the next few weeks. With the short summer and long, hard winter, most of the spring lambs will be brought in before it’s time for the remaining animals to be moved into their winter housing. Vets play an essential part in the process. The health of the animals must be checked before they are humanely killed and the welfare and conditions are carefully monitored.

Afterwards, a team of vets and technicians inspect the meat to check whether it is fit for consumption. This is another chance to check health and welfare. All the information from the checks, both ante and post mortem, is recorded. Nobody could claim it’s glamorous work, but as well as ensuring the animals are treated well in the abattoir, the findings are used to assess whether there might be problems on the farms where the animals were raised. If the animals are too thin, have overgrown feet, or show significant signs of illness, then a message is sent back to the local Mattilsynet office, where their vets will contact the farmer and take measures to improve the situation.

On Monday’s visit I was fitted out with a uniform, boots, a locker and a card to open the door. Hilde brought cake again, and I met a few of the staff.

On Tuesday I drove through again with Thomas. I had met him on my first day at work and he seemed friendly, but I hadn’t seen him since. Now he was to give me my first taste in working in an abattoir in northern Norway.

For my part, I was most interested in the inspection of the live animals. It is hard to spend much time on the internet without seeing horror stories, but my impression over the course of the first week has been that most of the animals coming through are very relaxed. Though the pigs all had balls in their pens to play with, most of them were sleeping when we went to see them. Some of the sheep were more skittish than others, but many of them came and were nibbling on my wellington boots. All animals have fresh water in their pens and any cows that are milking are milked if they are in for any length of time. The surroundings are quite similar to those you’d see on the farm and most farms here in Norway are small, so a lot of the animals are used to being handled.

The slaughter process itself was quick and efficient. Thomas showed me how to time the interval between stunning and bleeding. With the cattle, we checked the animal was unconscious before being moved on to the next stage.

It’s a forty minute drive to get to the abattoir and the road is dotted with warning signs for moose. Thomas told me I would see more of them in the winter, though for now they are elusive. The filling station near the E6 has leaflets explaining what to do and who to call if you hit one. I hope it never happens to me, though it is possible I might be called out to do meat inspection on those too if they are injured and have to be shot.

It’s cooling towards autumn now. It was 4°C when I arrived at work yesterday morning. Though the trees are still clinging to their leaves, they are beginning to fade. The ground flora is wonderfully colourful and intensifying as a multitude of berries appear.

There was only one near miss with technology this week. Thomas handed me over to Ammar on Wednesday and he suggested some reading material. The season (as they call it) will begin very soon, and by then I have to be up to speed with meat inspection for lamb. Back in the office, I had chosen a pin code for the printer. You send your file, retrieve it and then put in your number. I assumed the process was the same in the abattoir, and so I went through the retrieval process and began to put in my four figure number. Luckily Ammar stopped me in time, before I set the printer in action printing out *9250 copies of an eight page document on red meat.

Friday afternoon was rounded off with waffles. In Norway they are traditionally eaten with strawberry jam and soured cream. It took me a while to get used to this combination, but now I love it. And what could be more Norwegian than a mountain of waffles to round off the week?

*Not my actual PIN.

Fest!

There’s only a week left until Christmas, but there is still lots going on in Tu. Tuesday started with a bitch spay. The patient was a lovely little dog, and naturally her owner was worried. Happily, with Dagny and Magne’s nimble fingers, the operation was very swift and her owner was hugely relieved to see her friend back safely. Even with surgery that seems routine to us,  for every owner it’s a unique and frightening experience.

For some reason, every time I walked into the laboratory, Marita was there using the hairdryer. We have quite a lot of technical equipment in Tu, but there are also some much more down-to-earth items that we use, and the hairdryer is one of them. It’s used on microscope slides to dry the material before staining and to me this is usually a very prosaic action, but as Marita stood there with her left foot at a rakish angle, right hand merrily oscillating, she looked very glamorous. Maybe in a previous life she was a stylist to a famous film star.

Although the day was busy, somehow in the afternoon, Magne and I managed to sit down for a cup of coffee. I think it must be a first for us to have time to do that. As well as coffee, Magne took a chocolate from his advent calendar and immediately afterwards he began to cough. I wondered whether he was so over-excited that he was choking, but when I asked he assured me it was only kennel cough and he acquired it because he hadn’t been vaccinated with sufficient aquavit.

Thursday was the day of our Christmas lunch in the klinikk, but before that, I had to help Magne clean out a dog’s ears. Pio, who weighed in at about seventy kilos was probably the biggest dog I have ever seen. Happily, he was also very good-natured. He and I had a lovely cuddle.

Pio
Pio

As for the fest (party) of the title, everyone in the clinic was invited, including the large animal vets whose office is in the same building. In the UK, an office Christmas party might consist of crisps and mince pies, or on a good day, sausage rolls and turkey sandwiches. Here they serve risgrøt, or rice porridge,  which is liberally sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, and garnished with butter. I still always find it slightly disconcerting to be presented with a plate of rice-pudding for lunch, but it’s definitely not objectionable. Somewhere in the risgrøt, there is usually an almond or two, and whoever finds one wins a prize. In this case, the winnings were three large bars of chocolate, and they were won by Gerd, Jaqueline and Jan-Arne.

Of course, no Christmas party would be complete without the Christmas Banter. This year it was provided by Scary Boss Lady and her Whipping Boy. It began with Dagny laughing at Jan-Arne for the fact that he had been caught for a second time leaving his trousers on the  floor of the changing room. Then she asked,

‘Is it true as well that you came to work in your pyjamas?’ Jan-Arne flushed slightly, but valiantly defended himself.

‘Well at least I don’t scuff my feet along the ground when I come in in the morning.’

Dagny frowned and shook her head. ‘I don’t scuff my feet.’

‘You do. Everyone can hear when you arrive.’

Dagny opened her eyes wide. ‘It isn’t true,’ she said and looked challengingly around the room. ‘A show of hands please, who can tell when I come in?’

I fear that the vote would have been unanimous, if only I had been keeping up properly with the conversation, but as usual, I was five steps behind.

I suspect that Dagny is one of those people who believe that attack is the best form of defence, and so she returned to a subject that had been going on since before the meal had started.

‘Well at least I didn’t open the chocolates that were meant to be eaten with this lunch. I think you should give your bar of chocolate back so we can all share it. Without another word, Jan-Arne carefully lifted up his prize and slid it into his pocket.

But all in all, it just goes to show, that however much effort you make, and however far you travel at Christmas, there will still always be someone who has to argue over who it was that ate all the chocolates.

Belated Bacon Powder

As some of you might have noticed, I didn’t blog last week. Sadly, last Friday I was on my way to Scotland for the funeral of my much-loved father-in-law. Among the sadness however there were some bright moments. On Sunday morning with the official ceremonies behind us, we paid a visit to the Barras Market which was fascinating. I loved it, but felt utterly out of place: a real tourist in a land I couldn’t fit into, and I couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to be a part of that culture. Still Monday brought us back to Norway and to normality, and although for a moment I felt a little homesick, the return to work steadied me, as it always does.

Now and then at work, someone will bring in home-baking, and last week I decided to take in some scones (recipe here). I took in strawberry jam, and squirty cream to eat with them, and they went down very well. Jan-Arne, of course, who is as fascinated with food as I am, said that he had heard about scones, and that he had expected them to be much drier. I suspect that whoever told him about them probably had eaten one when it was a bit stale, because of course, they don’t last long.

‘So how do you make them?’ was his next question.

I explained that you used flour and baking powder, and then rubbed in some butter and brought it all together with milk, but I could see his face cloud over, and his next question really confused me.

‘But what makes it rise?’ he said. Before I go on, I should explain that in Norway, the self-raising flour that I took completely for granted when I was in the UK just doesn’t exist here. For almost all baked goods thicker than biscuits*, you use baking power, so it seemed almost impossible that he hadn’t understood.

‘Well, the baking powder makes it rise,’ I said, and his face suddenly cleared.

‘Oh!’ A long drawn out sound. ‘That explains, it. I thought you said bacon powder,’ and he went off into his trademark giggle.

At this point Wivek arrived and asked what we were laughing about, and so we explained. ‘We’d probably all get a rise if she had used bacon powder.’ was her rather dry comment.

I don’t remember so many outstanding cases from the past two weeks. I know that last Thursday, Perle, the dog in the picture at the top of the page was booked in for a possible operation to relieve a build up of fluid following cruciate surgery, but that when she came, the situation was beginning to resolve and so the op was cancelled. That meant that my normal morning anaesthetic duties were out of the window, and as there were a few rooms that needed cleaning, I decided to get on with them. After sorting out the kennel room, the lab, and the x-ray room, I was walking towards consulting room A with my bucket, when Jacqueline, who had been clipping the claws of a dog for Marita came out of the dental room and yawned widely. It really was that kind of morning.

Of course, nothing is reliable in vet practice, and despite having hours of time in the morning to clean, I shouldn’t have been surprised when mid-afternoon, at the time when if I was working in an office I might be winding down for the last half-hour of the day, an emergency operation arrived and as everyone else was busy, I rolled up my sleeves (well metaphorically. In reality, I donned a surgical gown and gloves) and got on with it.

Thursday this week was quite quiet as well. Lucky for me, as I am trying to get up to speed on everything before I start officially consulting next week. Years ago, I was so used to my job that almost everything could be done on automatic pilot. I would say the same things over and over when I admitted an animal for an operation, and I knew exactly which drugs I would choose for a typical skin infection or diarrhoea case. Although I have re-learned a lot of things since starting work, I also (because I have done it all before) am aware of how many things I don’t remember. In the UK, it is common to have all the tablets and medicines in the practice, so if you are a bit stumped about dosages or applications, you can just pop through to the pharmacy and read the box. Here, almost all the drugs are provided via a prescription, so you have to know where to look everything up, and even when you do, it’s all in Norwegian, so it doesn’t only take a second to read, as it would have done before. No doubt once I start, it will all begin to come together, but just looking at it from the outside, it is a tiny bit daunting. I don’t really have any real uncertainty that it is the right thing to do though. It’s time I was properly back in harness.

As part of the learning process, I did get to spend some time in consulting rooms with my colleagues, and late on Thursday I found myself practising writing up the computer in Jan-Arne’s room. He had just micro-chipped a cat, and idly he started to run the scanner over his own neck.

‘Wouldn’t it be weird and alarming, if I were actually to find something,’ he said idly. Picking up one of the unused chips, still in its covering, he held it up to my back and scanned it so that the machine beeped. Of course, having seen him picking up the packet, I knew he was just messing around, but even as I watched him, I saw a mischievous look come over his face.

‘Where’s Marita?’ he said. ‘I want to see how she reacts.’ Of course, Jan-Arne in this mood is irresistible, and barely able to supress a giggle, I followed him. We couldn’t immediately find her, but sticking our heads into the prep-room, we saw Jaqueline sitting at the computer.

‘Why don’t you try it on her,’ I whispered to him, but he shook his head.

‘She’ll never fall for it,’ he said. I couldn’t imagine that anyone would really, but still always ready for some fun, I continued to follow him until he tracked Marita down, sitting in the office beside reception, looking at the computer. Sidling up behind her, he waved the microchip reader at her and ostentatiously started to scan himself.

‘Wouldn’t it be weird if I found something,’ he said, his face completely deadpan. Then without asking, he started to run the scanner over Marita’s  neck and back, and I watched as he slid the chip up into place and ran the machine over it. Marita’s face was a picture as she heard the beep, and for a moment it was obvious she really thought he had found something, but as she turned, she caught site of the package in his hand.

‘Uh!’ she rolled her eyes at him and laughed ruefully and I must confess that what impressed me most about this whole scenario, was Jan-Arnes unerring instinct for playing pranks to maximum effect. He really is a fun guy to be around.

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*I have been told by a friend from Texas, that what I call a scone is called a biscuit where she lives, and that the thing I call a biscuit, she calls a cookie, so if the whole of the recipe discussion is incomprehensible in your part of the world, I can only apologise.