One of the worst disasters occurred when a favourite pair of light brown cords (probably the comfiest trousers I’ve ever owned) were washed accidentally with a bright blue fleece. They were rendered a fluorescent turquoise colour, totally incongruous at a veterinary practice. The rescue attempt of repeated washing/boiling left the corrugated velveteen a bright and clinical white.
But my most recent calamity came via the fangs of an angry Rottweiler, who came in with a painful sore on his neck.
“He doesn’t like face masks,” his owner explained. “He gets nervous if he can’t see a face properly.” It didn’t auger well. It turned out he also didn’t like vets. And he absolutely hated wearing a muzzle. I inspected Godzilla (not his real name) from a distance at first.
Experience told me the lesion was something called pyotraumatic dermatitis, a painful, oozing and infected form of superficial skin disease. Infections like this develop almost overnight and are characterised by gluey pus exuding from the skin. The solution is to clip the hair off, clean the area, apply some soothing cream and administer antibiotics to kill the suppurating infection.
None of this is possible without the patient being totally unconscious. My cunning plan was to sneak up stealthily on Godzilla and slip an injection into his muscular back leg. I’d leave him with his owners to await the sedative effects of the powerful drugs, which I knew would work well.
But Godzilla was not so happy with my plan and the huge dog flung his weight around as two owners tried to calm his head end whilst I fumbled with the syringe. Twice the needle bent in the rumpus, but the third attempt looked more promising, until disaster struck. Godzilla swung round, angrily, his teeth bared and saliva flying in long strings from his malevolent jaws. He lunged at me. With no muzzle on Godzilla and my reactions not as quick as they should have been, I was a sitting duck.
Like a scene from a Marvel film, the monster grabbed my leg, wrenching a gaping hole in both my trousers and my flesh.
I couldn’t believe my eyes! Blood was pouring from a gash in my knee and soaking into my trousers around the rip in the material. I retired temporarily to the prep room, to let Godzilla calm down and refill my syringe.
The next attempt was more successful, and I left Godzilla to fall into a deep sleep, while I attended to my knee. This was the first time I’d been bitten by a dog for many years and I was cross that I’d ended up in this position, not just because of the injury to my trousers and me, but also because of the trauma it had caused the owners and dog.
Some antiseptic and a large plaster later, the bleeding had at least abated, but the pain was only just beginning. It ranked with some of the worst bites I’d had over the years. The nastiest was sustained at a dog rehoming charity which I used to visit.
One emaciated dog, which we’d tried to distract with dog treats so I could administer a vaccine, thought I was trying to steal his precious morsels of food. He sank his teeth into my hand, right across the knuckles. He didn’t let go and I’ve still got the scars. But right now, I had a patient to fix. Under the bandage, I knew my wound would quickly heal and the pain would go.
I just hoped Godzilla’s sedation was strong!