IT is always with some trepidation that we walk back into the building after a holiday – you never know what gossip has occurred in your absence, or (much more importantly) what has happened to those difficult cases you’ve been involved with before you left.
And so it was on Tuesday when I started back at one of our branches.
Happily nothing untoward had happened to any of the staff or any of my patients. In fact morning consultations were passing without incident. And then in walked, or rather staggered, a dishevelled-looking young lady (whom we shall call Miss B) with a charming little Staffordshire bull terrier (whom we shall call Mary).
Precisely which toxins were responsible for the state of Miss B was unclear, but of more pressing concern was the state of the dog.
The story, as she told it, was that Mary had been purchased the evening before for the princely sum of £30. It was only the following morning that it became apparent that the dog’s limp (of which the new owner had been aware at the time of purchase – hence the price) was due to the fact that her left hind leg was four times the size of the right hind. In fact, poor Mary could not bear any weight at all on this leg.
On initial examination, I thought the dog to be only about eight months old and generally in very good condition. The pain and swelling in the leg centred around the knee joint.
There then ensued a discussion about what could be done about this problem, especially in light of the fact that the owner’s last £30 had been spent on buying the dog.
First aid and pain relief were of course priorities and were dealt with straight away but I was keen to make some attempt to find out the cause of the lameness and hopefully to fix the problem as this was clearly something that could not wait.
Our discussions were interrupted by the entrance of Miss B’s boyfriend, who after briefly assessing the situation, commanded that the dog be euthanased there and then.
This is always an extremely difficult situation for a vet because ultimately, and sometimes in spite of our own feelings, we are obliged to do as requested by our client (provided no suffering is caused to an animal). Euthanasia would indeed be a quick route to relief of Mary’s suffering.
I was in the middle of protesting and trying to find a way of getting Mary to the care of the PDSA, when we were interrupted by the receptionist with an urgent telephone message from a well-known and well-respected client (we’ll call him Mr C) who had witnessed the initial presentation of Mary to the surgery.
He had offered, there and then, to re-home Mary (paying Miss B her £30 if necessary) and to ensure that her leg was mended irrespective of cost.
And so it was that, paperwork signed and with an agreement to share the cost of treatment (by this time I’d become pretty attached to Mary myself!), I x-rayed Mary’s leg and discovered a nasty fracture to the very top of her tibia, just below the knee joint.
The x-ray, together with the degree of swelling, suggested that the fracture was already several days old, so we transferred Mary by ambulance to our Whorral Bank centre for a couple of days’ rest and analgesia to allow the swelling to go down a little.
I operated on Thursday, and following a small struggle with an obstinate piece of bone, the placement of three steel pins and some wire, successfully restored Mary’s tibia to its correct shape.
I’m delighted to report that she recovered well from surgery and is now at home recuperating with her wonderful and very loving new family.
The rest of my first week back was relatively uneventful, which was nice!
Director and Senior Vet