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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Channeling Herriot

There were some good things about my first job in Ashburton. One of them was a house call I made my second week on the job.

There's a certain Ms. Anderson, a wee little thing probably in her mid-70s. She has a good dozen or so cats, and like most cats here in New Zealand, they roam free inside and outside of the house. Being that she's not able to get around as easily as she used to, and having so many cats that each lives by its own rules, Ms. Anderson requested that we come out to her house to catch several of the cats up on their vaccines.

Ms. Anderson had been to see me during my first week with one of her cats who was having a tooth problem. She had a really positive opinion of me after I worked on Sofia, who needed a tooth extracted, and she asked that I be the one who come out to her farm to take care of the other cats.

So one afternoon, just after it had stopped raining, Lana (one of the nurses) and I took the practice truck out to Ms. Anderson's farm. Before I continue, there is something I should say about this experience that made it meaningful, at least for me. I know it may sound cliche, but I've been a big fan of James Herriot and his stories for a long time. One of the funnier stories that was featured in the television mini-series involved his trips back and forth to visit an eccentric client named Mrs. Bond. This woman had close to 100 cats, all running around her overgrown large farm estate. James and the other two vets had a hard time trying to catch and treat one of Mrs. Bond's cats, a mean tom named Boris. Each time they were there they would find cats in nearly every available space inside and outside of the house, but they never managed to catch Boris.

Ms. Anderson's farmhouse proved to be similar to Mrs. Bond's, insofar as it was a nice large house but overgrown with vegetation. There also was no Boris and instead of dozens of cats Ms. Anderson just had a dozen, but even then they were coming out of everywhere. One of the cats, Bluebell, she had managed to trap in a large pantry. After I finished examining Bluebell, she ran terrified back to her hiding space in the pantry and we were after the next cat. This was Crumpet, a very large and friendly tomcat who had a pretty severe case of hydrocephalus but he had done very well and made it to the age of 12 and he looked good for his age. Raggerty was the next cat, corraled out in a shed, and he was a large black tom who was semi-wild but thankfully let me examine him and give him a jab (his shot). Muffin was the final cat of the day, and Ms. Anderson's friend and caretaker brought him to the main house from the stable in a wheelbarrow. Somehow, she kept him in there with only a tarp thrown over the top and he never jumped out, at least not until I tried to grab him.

Well they all looked good but since all were middle-aged or older cats, they all had teeth as bad as Sofie's, so I knew we'd be seeing Ms. Anderson again soon.

Certainly nothing as entertaining as what happened to Herriot happened to me on this trip, but the similarities were there and it was pretty cool to have an experience like that. It felt like a true, 'old school' veterinary house call should and it's times like that really make me glad all over again that I do what I do.

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