Julian Norton: From tending to Mitsy to joining a legend

An evening with Geoffrey Boycott was a perfect end to the week for Julian.
An evening with Geoffrey Boycott was a perfect end to the week for Julian.
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It has been another week of contrasts.

I spent most of Wednesday morning stooped, peering at the perfectly shaved and scrubbed backside of Mitsy the spaniel. Mitsy was under general anaesthetic and blissfully unaware of this indignity, as I fastidiously and painstakingly dissected out her diseased anal glands.

Read Julian Norton's weekly column first, in Country Week every Saturday, only in your weekend edition of The Yorkshire Post. Picture by James Hardisty.

Read Julian Norton's weekly column first, in Country Week every Saturday, only in your weekend edition of The Yorkshire Post. Picture by James Hardisty.

Anal glands are an annoying inconvenience to most dogs, a remnant from their wild past. Nowadays, a dog’s territory is demarcated by the garden wall and there is no role for these smelly glands. They can range from a minor inconvenience to a painful problem if they become impacted, infected or even abscessated. In severely affected cases, the only option is to remove the glands surgically.

Mitsy had been suffering, on and off, for some time despite all our efforts to control the ongoing infection and inflammation in her glands. An hour or so later, both the abnormal glands were sitting on my surgical drape, the op sites were neatly sutured and I could finally stretch my back and breathe some fresher air.

Thursday afternoon saw me in a similar position, although this time there was no shortage of fresh air. I was on a sheep farm towards Helmsley, and my patients were a couple of very lucky young rams. They were lucky because they had been overlooked at the time of castration and so, at my suggestion, instead of being sent to market, they were about to be vasectomised. These two would soon become ‘teaser tups’.

A teaser tup is put in with a group of ewes two weeks or so before the real tups are introduced to the flock. The presence of active (though now infertile) males helps to bring the ewes into oestrus more quickly and all at a similar time, which results in a more compact lambing schedule.

Mitsy had been suffering, on and off, for some time despite all our efforts to control the ongoing infection and inflammation in her glands.

Lambing can often extend over as long as six weeks, during which time the farmers become more and more exhausted as a result of working through every night. Adding vasectomised teaser tups can nearly half this time.

It was a win-win situation! It saved the two males from the butchers and gave them a lovely life, mating with ewes to their heart’s content, without a care in the world. Both rams behaved impeccably and although the operation was every bit as fiddly as my previous day’s surgery, I was soon stretching out an aching back again, cleaning off and heading home to get showered and changed.

My next appointment was in Boston Spa, as the guest of none other than Geoffrey Boycott and his lovely wife Rachael.

I had been invited to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of Geoffrey’s 100th first class hundred, which he fittingly achieved in a test match at Headingley and, also fittingly, against Australia. The event was to raise money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance – a brilliant cause and one, ironically, that was the reason I was almost late to the event that evening, as one of the helicopters was in action, parked on the A1 very near to Boston Spa, attending to a serious car accident.

As my father, Roger, and I, scrubbed and in our best suits, perused the seating plan, it became evident that we were actually sitting on the same table as the great batsman and his family!

We felt extremely privileged and I couldn’t help but smile to myself in some disbelief, as I realised how completely this contrasted with the rest of my week. Should this really happen to a vet?

Julian’s book, Horses, Heifers & Hairy Pigs: The Life of a Yorkshire Vet, is on sale now.