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Saturday, July 15, 2006

Number 8 Wire

There is a saying in New Zealand, 'number 8 wire', and it refers to a sort of overall philosophy that Kiwis have about life in general. It refers specifically to a type of wire used for making fences, and the number 8 means what diameter the wire is. It is a pretty versatile bit of wire as it was used by the earliest settlers of NZ as not only fencing material, but also to fix things and keep them together. To settle this land and prepare it for farming, the English who came over here in the 19th century had to not only have a lot of initiative but had to also be pretty creative and able to adapt to sudden changes and difficult circumstances.

So now, when you hear someone mention number 8 wire, they are referring to a sort of mentality wherein you make the most and best of the situation you're in by improvising and innovating. Sure, there might be a particular right way to do something but it's not always the best or only way, and number 8 wire allows you to come up with other solutions.

I mention this because I really admire this sort of attitude. Kind of a Macgyver-like approach to everyday life. Nothing is going to keep them down and they'll always overcome, even though it means getting a little dirty in the process.

It's a little alarming in the field of veterinary medicine sometimes, though, as coming from America I am obsessed with sterile technique when it comes to surgery. Over here, there's a pretty casual view taken towards sterility, but the amazing thing is that so far in my limited amount of experience here it doesn't seem to matter too much.

Hell, they've been practicing this way for decades without me and they're doing just fine, thank you very much. The quality of medicine and surgery and the knowledge base in general over here in NZ are certainly equal to that in the United States, but it was kind of a shock the first time I saw someone doing surgery with no mask, no gown, and having staff with none of those things or any gloves leaning right over the surgery field. It was a bit funny as they had a hard and fast rule about keeping the surgery door closed at all times, to keep it sterile, yet when it comes to actual surgery time they forego mask and gown and even gloves at times.

Hey, it's not a complaint, just an observation, and it's one illustration of the number 8 wire philosophy at work - sometimes just getting by with the minimum is good enough.

Now here are some things I really like about being a vet in New Zealand: they don't declaw cats over here, they all practice excellent pain relief protocols, and they often get newer drugs on the market faster than we do in the States.

Plus, they get to go to Australia for their continuing education!

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