These Are My Stories to Tell

Amid all the wins, losses and loves of a veterinarian — a few animals and people always stand out.

Weimeraner head and torso — positioned staring to the left — profile pic style. Wearing a brown leather collar with a silver metal tag. Trees and sunlight in background.

This one’s for them, but order to protect the innocent, there is no chronological order to this, names/breeds/identifying details have all been changed.

I love dogs.

Like: I really love dogs.

I respect them, I am in awe of them. All of the dogs.

Here are two memorable dog stories.

Bjorn:

I was in the middle of a doctor’s meeting upstairs, when I was paged overhead to ‘report to the dog kennels’ urgently.

Frantically. And this hospital didn’t do ‘frantic’.

It’s widely regarded as uncouth for members of an ER hospital to get flustered and start freaking out on the overhead. Staff are trained to minimize the amount of of audible franticity in voice and volume and remember to sound calm and normal when paging an urgent emergency. Despite this training— upon hearing the page, with the undertone of emergence — I hustled to get to the kennels as summoned.

The kennel folks proceeded to demonstrate, charades-style, how this behemoth great dane standing before us, blood shooting out of his face everywhere in fits and spurts, had accidentally impaled his nose with an S- hook attached to his kennel door.

So now he had one end of the S hook through his nostril, and the other is attached to the kennel door.

The S hook will not come off of the door, all the doors have S hooks located up high, on the outside of the kennel door, for the purposes of hanging leash and collar.

Because he is a very very tall dog, who, when standing is over 6 feet high, he was able to reach this hook — but normally no dogs except Giant giant breeds, can reach them.

Okayyyyyyy.

Lemme understand— so his nose is pierced — and his nose percing is attached to the kennel door.

Yes.

He is attached to the kennel door.

Yes. Correct. And he’s freaking out and tries to rear his head back because he’s a bit panicked that his fucking face is attached to a door and every time the door moves, he moves, and vice versa. Every time we approach the door, or his noise to touch and try to release the S-hook, he freaks out.

Cool cool cool.

Ok, so a dog who weights what, 115lbs?

130 easy.

— is losing his mind, has impaled his nose (which readers, is a very vascular area and will bleed like STINK!) on a hook and is attached via said hook, to a metal kennel door, in which he is also contained.

Correct.

I’d love to say some fancy hospital bullshit took place, with the words gurney, stretcher, sedation, forceps, antiseptic, hemostasis, etc. But what actually happened, is this:

I slid into the kennel throught the small opening in the door gate. I put my hand on the dogs shoulder and kept my hands on him as I walked around and stood behind him, lifted his upper body and nose up off of the s-hook, effectively unpiercing his nose, and got the fuck outta there.

It didn’t look hard.

I didn’t know it would work.

It was dangerous — though I did know this dog and he was a solid dude.

Still, Dangerous. Maybe I was able to give him some crappy sedation…I don’t remember. It wasn’t a tough procedure, the crux of the assignment was about getting him to chill enough so that we could do the 2-second thing that we needed to do.

As is so often the case in vet med.

Like daily example with the cats:

Tux, Sit still so I can pull this splinter out of your cornea — daydreaming about veterinary medicine with patient compliance — what a world that would be.

But they won’t comply, of course, so you have to do blood work and make sure they’re well enough to handle sedation and then you have to sedate or anesthetize them. And that, you must do so carefully. And it costs the client money, which is generally not super appreciated.

Thus, now you understand, maybe a little, why “such a simple thing” is not a simple thing when you take your animal to the vet.

Back to Bjorn:

I called to communicate the accidental and traumatic facial piercing to his owner, as a diligent vet does. The owner paid the incident no mind, gave zero shits. As long as his dog was ok, which he most def. was, the owner was happy,

That was the first, but not the last time I’ve had a dog pierce his own nose during my workday.

Clara

She was a middle aged lady Weimeraner dog, owned by a young couple who seemed pretty cool.

I was not cool.

Clara had recently had a constellation of changes at home — changes in appetite and water intake, urinating all the time, hair texture and color had changed. Things were not right.

I did the usual doctory things: Long informative chat with the cool owners, physical exam and diagnostic workup things. Labwork indicated that she was an Addisonian (Hypoadrenocorticism).

She was the first dog I ever diagnosed as an Addisonian.

And then she became the first I ever treated.

I administered the DOCP (desoxycorticosterone pivalate)by intramuscular injection, and then sat there. Staring at her. Waiting for her to instantaneously normalize in every parameter.

When that didn’t happen, I brought in a chair. I waited some more.

The clients did too. We just stared at her — for a couple of days. Clara walked around the exam room like a confused free range chicken, with all humans firmly planted in chairs — observing her every whisker twitch.

What does it mean?

Is she better?

Something was still amiss, so we regrouped, delved a bit deeper, and diagnosed her as hypothyroid as well, and started her on meds for that.

Then something still wasn’t quite right. We’d done all we we could do and something was clearly still going on, so I referred her out to an internist.

We were all stressed. They were totally dedicated owners with only one goal — to have Clara feeling good again. They would have moved mountains for this dog. The did move mountains for her.

Turns out that Clara had developed multiple (3) autoimmune diseases simultaneously, including a rager of a cardiomyopathy.

That would have been way out of the scope of WTF I knew anyway.

I became friendly with these owners. They loved their dog, enjoyed my level of engagement (it seemed) and eventually invited me (and my husband) to hang out at their house. Socially.

These folks were around our age but lived in a super fancy majorly nice house in the suburbs. We drank beers, too many — as was my signature move back in those days.

Over said beers, Mr. Owner of Clara pulled out a handgun.

Like is he going to kill us?

No, he wanted to excitedly it show us.

My husband and I ooh’ed and aah’ed while we touched it. We are not and were not ‘gun people’, so this was fucked up, though oddly — not the first time my husband and I had sat through a handgun show and tell.

(While silently exchanging looks that said: WHaaaaaT? Why? I DON’T FUCKING KNOW. Is this the correct reaction? What is even happening here? Why are we drinking and touching a gun?)

There’s a recurrent memory of discomfort from that night, and it’s not involving the gun, or the dog.

I have hazy memories of something (I perceived as ) horrifying that happened when I was alone in their house. Their powder room, specifically. Maybe I tried unsuccessfully to flush a tampon and then shoved it into the bottom drawer of a decorative chest in the bathroom? Clogged or overflowed a toilet? Unclear.

RIP lost memories due to high volume/no limit alcohol consumption. Sigh.

Who knows, though. I also thought I was straight back then. Seems maybe my judgement could have been poor all around.

Then the party was over and I went on being their overly involved vet.

Clara lived on, once all of her medical maladies were definitively diagnosed and treated, and I still don’t know what happened in their bathroom. It never came up.

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Emily Roawr

Career veterinarian pivoting. I write about animals, queers, adoption, alcohol free life, and art. Inquiries may be directed to emilyroawr@gmail.com