Alone in a sea of parties

2012-02-24 00:00

IT was New Year’s Eve. I had drawn the short straw and was on call for our practice. My wife had joined friends in the Berg and the children were at functions on the coast. I had been looking forward to a bit of solitude after a recent very hectic work and social programme, but ended up feeling kind of maudlin and left out.

Was I the only person on this most lovely planet in work mode?

I had renewed sympathy for the lonely and unloved. I phoned my mother-in-law earlier in the evening (the only other person I knew who was on her own). She was watching last year’s version of the Royal Variety Performance on SABC3. I suggested that she wait an hour or two longer so she could see this year’s performance on MNet. She did not want to stay up that late.

I had a couple of call-outs earlier. Two puppies with diarrhoea and vomiting, one serious enough to require hospitalisation. Also a fox terrier that had engaged in an unequal tussle with a Rottweiler. It never ceases to amaze me that, although we have fast-tracked the evolution of the size and shape of the body of dogs by artificial selection, we have not managed to reprogramme their minds. Little dogs often don’t consider size as a deterrent (they still think they are wolves), often leading to their downfall. In the hospital was a Jack Russell that had suffered a similar fate at the paws of a German shepherd. He came second in that race. The big dog roughed him up badly, tearing and bruising large chunks of tissue on the neck and body. I put him on a drip and intensive treatment — prognosis guarded. I also had a nine-year-old schnauzer in the hospital. He had a chequered medical career, having lost one of his legs many years earlier when he decided to take on a moving farm vehicle. He had come in the previous night because he was experiencing continuous epileptic fits (Status Epilepticus) — for the first time in his life — out of the blue. That night I anaesthetised him and put him on a Propofol drip. Interestingly, the same agent that killed Michael Jackson and earned Dr Conrad Murray international notoriety. It is the drug of choice for conditions like this and he responded completely. He has been clinically normal since then. One dog’s meat is another man’s poison.

He, like me, spent New Year’s Eve on his own in the hospital, a situation he did not appear to appreciate, having attempted to sink his canines into my hand when I tried to change his drip. Ho-hum.

I was waiting on a call about a horse. Two horses were hit by a car on the Table Mountain Road on Christmas day. One was killed and the other had serious head injuries — probably a fractured jaw. This animal had run away into the bush and was only found the day before (January 30). I was called out but when I arrived, he had once again disappeared. I was on stand-by for when he was rediscovered. This never materialised and his body was found weeks later.

I managed to watch Dinner for One and a bit of the Royal Variety Performance (the 2011 version) but got bored with the stale jokes and tepid singing-and-dancing routines and retired early.

I doped the German short-haired pointer (GSP) and the dachsie, both of which have pronounced noise phobias and were starting to get really jumpy as the bangs outside my window got louder. Dispensing of tranquillisers for dogs that are frightened by loud noises is an issue, by the way. We are restricted to supplying innocuous and mild natural remedies over the counter as the more effective hard-core drugs are strictly controlled by law and require an examination of the animal before we are allowed to use them, a situation most off-the-street pet owners are unprepared for and may view with suspicion.

It is frustrating for us as well, but understandable given that these drugs are narcotics and could very well be misused by the pet owners.

So there I was, two spaced-out dogs and one ancient, deaf poodle on my nuptial couch with me (and an equally aged, overweight Labrador next to the bed), when the old year called it quits and the new one emerged to a barrage of bangs and explosions, which caused the dachsie to erupt from her stupor and scuttle into a cupboard, and the quivering GSP to sit on my face.

It is now the 21st century and we are in an era of iPods, electronic tablets and other advanced technologies, but we still have people celebrating as if they existed in the Middle Ages. I waited in trepidation for the phone to shriek, with concerned pet owners reporting that their petrified Staffie was stuck in the Trellidor or that the collie had impaled himself on the palisade.

The phone did actually ring twice after the midnight chimes rang, but both calls were fortunately from family members, wishing me a happy New Year.


• The author is a practising vet with a passion for his profession and a giggle in his heart.


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