Monday, January 14, 2013


No Patience With Patients
            He bit his lower lip in pain and stared at me with nearly hate-filled eyes. His assistant, not quite hiding her amusement, handed him a wet towel to soak up some of the blood that ran from his forearm.
            “Looks like ten to fourteen stitches to me,” she said, barely controlling her grin. “You probably ought to sit down. You look a little pale. I’ll sew it up when your blood pressure stabilizes.”

            Jessica crouched on the stainless steel table and purred.

            Jessica was my cat, a bobcat to be exact. She was about six months old, and I had brought her to the veterinarian’s office for routine shots. Bobcats need them, just as housecats do. The veterinarian was Delmar Dawe. Well, that’s not exactly right. At best, Delmar was a vetinary. Primarily a large animal vet, Delmar also had an office for his small animal practice just off the highway in almost-Arkansas, Missouri. He wasn’t much of a vet, but he was the only game in town. He was the only game for over thirty miles in any direction, and he was an authority on handling all kinds of animals. He’d tell you so.

            When I’d arrived at his office, the receptionist/assistant, a lovely young woman named Etta, was fascinated by the bobcat. She cooed and petted, stroked and purred at Jessica, and Jess returned the attention, a real hound for affection. Delmar was unimpressed at dealing with a bobcat. “A cat’s a cat,” he said, as he prepared the shot.
           “Etta, I’ll stretch her, you give her the injection.”
            I spoke up, mentioning the possibility of a squeeze cage, trying to impress Delmar with the fact that bobcats, even half-grown ones, were wild animals, capable of extreme feats in time of stress. He ignored my advice, grabbed Jessica by the fur on top her butt, and the hair behind her head, and pulled her out to her full length. She rotated inside her skin, sunk her fangs three quarters of an inch into his left wrist, and opened up two six-inch tears in Delmar’s right forearm with her rear claws. He screamed and released her. She crouched, eyeing him coldly while she waiting for his next move.

            Bobcats one, Delmar nothing. 

            Delmar came to the ranch on one occasion to float the wolf-teeth on a four year-old gelding. Floating wolf-teeth is a brutal procedure that requires using a wood rasp to file down a set of teeth to keep them from interfering with the bit when it is in a horse’s mouth. Horses are bigger than most of us and are prone to resists this treatment. To maintain control, a “twitch” is used. A twitch is a two-foot length of quarter-inch nylon rope secured to the end of an eighteen-inch dowel. The rope is slipped over the horse’s upper lip, the stick is spun, tightening the loop of line about a bulge of muzzle, and the horse is thus restrained, while the vet reaches into his mouth, and files down, or knocks out, the teeth in question.

            Observing Delmar casually perform the application of the twitch one afternoon, I watched as he forgot to remain at arm’s length during the procedure. The horse found the twitch to be unpleasant, threw is head violently upward jerking the dowel from Delmar’s grasp, causing it to strike him briskly on the nose. The crack of the blow could be heard throughout the barn, leaving Delmar sitting in the hay attempting to staunch significant blood flow from his broken beak.

            Horses one, Delmar zip. 

            Then there was the good-natured German shepherd who became so outraged at Delmar’s cavalier insertion of a rectal thermometer that he whirled on the table and delivered a massive bite to Delmar’s left wrist. Delmar suffered no injury from the attack, but his brand-new Rolex wristwatch, in spite of its three thousand dollar price tag and its solid stainless steel case, could not resist the crunch of the doggy’s massive jaws. As Delmar sat holding pieces of the watch in his hand, Etta had to leave the room to laugh. Jobs were scarce in almost-Arkansas, Missouri.

            German shepherds one, Delmar zilch. 

            A five hundred pound Charolais heifer is one of the waspiest animals on the planet. They have the speed of a leopard, the kick of an ostrich, and the mind-set of an L. A. Banger. We had fifty-six of them to vaccinate and called Delmar. The heifers, penned in a small corral, were driven down a chute and into a headgate for treatment. Delmar became dissatisfied with the way we were handling the cattle and jumped into the pen to show us how it should be done. He rapidly approached the nearest heifer, who lashed out with the speed of a striking snake and kicked him squarely in the crotch. The poor man folded like a pair of deuces into the muck at the bottom of the pen amid raucous laughter from all of us on hand. I took compassion on him and led the bent and broken man from the corral and eased him to the ground.

            Heifers one, Delmar nada. 
            He sipped from a cup of water I brought him and regarded me through bloodshot eyes.
            “Ya know,” he winced, “I was gonna be a doctor for a while. A human doctor.”
            “Why didn’t you?” I asked.
            “Aw, hell,” he grunted. “I just can’t stand people. I really like animals, though.”

            Humans one, Delmar. . .well, you get the drift.



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