May 4, 2014
After years of working together my staff has a few stories to tell.
Like about the crazy cat that bolted from her carrier like a wild thing (“oh, I should have told you she’s never been touched before. We had to put her food in there to catch her….”) and raced across the hospital to seek refuge in the staff break room. And jumped up onto the microwave. Which was in use, warming up some hot cocoa. In her distress the cat released her bladder…which dribbled into the microwave…which smoked and fizzled….and smelled. Probably forever, we don’t really know. We threw it out that very day. Some things you just don’t try to fix. (Except the cat. We “fixed” her. She did great!).
Or the day I gave up Ostrich Practice. Ostriches live in large fields like cows. They aren’t trained to lead on halters, you’re supposed to wait until one comes up to the fence to bite you out of curiosity, grab its’ beak and swiftly pull a cut-off sweatshirt sleeve over their head – once blinded, they won’t move (I’m not kidding. I’ve really done this. Past tense). It was raining and very muddy, and this particular ostrich, though injured from a dog attack and “down”, struggled rather fiercely against the examination so that I had to straddle him for restraint. Among other problems the ostrich had lice and shared some with me. I stopped off at the clinic long enough to glare at my staff, cancel my morning, and go home to clean up. Good news? Lice are “species-specific” parasites, meaning an ostrich louse may be able to run around on a person briefly but it can’t live and breed on you, so once picked off you’re clean. This is true for all types of louse or lice.
Then there was the episode of the Peach Parrot with diarrhea. A Moluccan Cockatoo weighing about 2 ½ pounds, “Peaches” was brought in because of the large puddles of poop she was passing, instead of the neat white and green droppings most birds have. Peaches was droopy and had lost weight, quietly squawking in pain when another puddle flowed out. She was ill enough that we hospitalized her while waiting for some lab test results to come back. Early the next morning I approached my patient in her incubator to see how she had fared overnight. Surprisingly, her bedding was clean. How could her diarrhea have cleared up overnight? Hmmm. As much as I wish to see a strong response to treatment there was no real way to tell if the diarrhea had improved until I actually saw her droppings. Some birds will not go to the bathroom in their cage and will literally “hold it” until taken out in the morning. I needed to see her fecal droppings. Hmmm. I examined the incubator floor again, noting a lot of cracked seed shells and some chewed up grapes. What goes in must come out, right? Now, I know a thing or two about birds and I know that most birds will defecate when picked up. So I opened the lid of the incubator, speaking gently to the bird while asking her to perch on my arm. I picked her up. Forgetful that the bird was fully flighted. Bird knew it. Bird took off. Peaches flew straight towards Jillian standing a few feet away. Jillian shrieked and dropped to the ground (anyone remember Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”?). And, OF COURSE the bird flew right to her, landing on her prostrate back as Jillian buried her face in the floor (so the bird couldn’t pick out her eyeballs? Parrots don’t do that!). During the flapping and shrieking I attempted to reassure Jillian by yelling across the space “It’s ok, the bird’s nice!” (she was scaring my patient). Jillian remained (rather rigidly) face down, so I swooped over and re-perched the bird to return her to the incubator. Over my shoulder I heard a staff member assisting Jillian to her feet exclaim “Oh, let me clean that poop off!” I wheeled around and shouted “Wait! I need that!” Faces swiveled and stared at me. Dumbfounded, unbelieving silence. I faced them weakly. “I really need that sample” I begged, sort of inching my way towards the still crouched form of my employee. “Um, thanks” I said as I wielded a tongue depressor to obtain the desired sample. To this day not a one of them glories in the case assistance given to help this bird. Jillian says she’s forgiven me but I noticed they moved the incubator far away from her work station.
Christine McFadden, DVM