There was also a rabbit with a weepy eye to deal with. But the procedure everyone in the practice wanted to watch was the case of Mrs Tiggywinkle, who was a pet albino hedgehog.
Like her eponymous namesake, the hedgehog had become a superstar since her arrival in the waiting room a week or so before. Even though the injury to her left front leg was serious and being able to fix it was by no means guaranteed, nurses and vets alike were stealing selfies with this super cute creature.
I knew the challenge would be considerable, but I was soon to discover that there was an added pressure.
It turned out that Mrs Tiggywinkle’s owner was a toddler of nearly three years old, who had just got the hang of conversation and was full of empathy for his favourite little spiky pet. I had met him earlier in the morning.
I returned to the consulting room triumphantly clutching a glass and scooped Hammy into it - Julian NortonWith Cheltenham swiftly approaching the months seem to be racing by - Jo Foster“She’s got a poorly leg,” said Zac carefully, as he plonked the cardboard box at his head height, on to the table in front of him. He picked his nose and tried to climb up on to the table, as only toddlers can. The injured leg was, as Zac had described, very poorly.
In fact, the foot was becoming necrotic. There was only one option and that was to amputate said poorly leg. I was anxious about the anaesthetic and how the surgery would go, but I dared not contemplate the reaction of Zac, or the deflation of our staff, if Mrs T did not make it through.
I’ve amputated countless bits of animals in my career and it’s never a nice thing to do. It is always a last resort. Vets try to save things – lives and limbs – and so amputating a leg, or a tail, or a toe is a last resort and usually only employed when a cat has sustained an irreparably smashed limb under a fast-moving car or a dog has a cancerous bone.
In theory, amputating a hedgehog’s leg would be a similar process, but a new procedure on a novel patient always raises the pulse.
I had considered how would Mrs T cope with just three legs.
Generally, four-legged creatures manage just fine with a twenty-five per cent reduction in the number of weight-bearing limbs.
I’d seen many three-legged hedgehogs rescued from the wild, after accidents with garden netting or pieces of entwined string. They always seemed perfectly capable. If the worst came to the worst, I reasoned, Mrs T could become ball-shaped and roll along.
But that turned out not to be necessary. The anaesthetic – tense for just a while, Fiona, the nurse kept things stable and calm – was smooth and the surgery uneventful.
Before long, Mrs Tiggywinkle was recovered and quickly assumed a spherical pose.
At the end of the busy day, her owners reappeared to collect her. Zac’s mother was delighted that her son’s favourite albino hedgehog had made it through the tricky procedure, but not as delighted as young Zac.
Unaware of exactly the magnitude of what had just happened, he was, nevertheless, delighted to be reunited with his pet and celebrated by delving into a plastic bag and dropping a handful of cat food and mealworms in front of Mrs T. She unrolled and immediately tucked into the tasty morsels.
I was happy with a good job done, not just because I hoped I’d saved Mrs T’s spiky skin, but because it had made a little boy very happy.
Before he left, he thanked me and promptly thrust out his cat-foody hand for me to shake. It had been a good day.