Mince pies with farmers and pig in labour - Yorkshire vets readied for Christmas Day shifts

Life as an on-call vet is fraught with the unknown, from sudden call outs to farmyard stock, pet emergencies, and even coming to the aid of abandoned or mistreated animals.

NO FESTIVE LET UP: Julian Norton, co-star of The Yorkshire Vet.

The festive season offers no let-up for veterinary professionals on standby, including Julian Norton and Peter Wright, co-stars of The Yorkshire Vet television series which documents veterinary life in rural North Yorkshire on Channel 5.

“The festive period doesn’t bring any break for a vet’s on-call responsibilities. This year, as many previous ones, I’m on duty on Christmas Day,” Mr Norton told The Yorkshire Post.

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“It can be a quiet day, but equally it can be busy. I’ve treated outbreaks of pneumonia in calves and one Christmas Day I visited an elderly chap whose dog wasn’t really that poorly. I think he just wanted some company.

“I took round a few mince pies to share with him. I think that was more useful than the injection I gave his dog!”

The Boroughbridge-based vet and Country Week columnist, last night took part in Help the Animals at Christmas on Channel 5 with Mr Wright from Thirsk’s Skeldale Veterinary Centre. It was the country’s first national telethon to raise funds for animal welfare charities.

The three-hour show raised awareness of animal cruelty and shared stories of animals in need of rescuing, rehoming or extra care this Christmas.

Mr Norton helped to profile the work of the Blue Cross which helps sick, injured and homeless pets and said: “I’m very aware of the difficulties charities face and the heart-wrenching stories that often develop.

“Only the other week, I had a phone call from a chap on his way home from the pub. He had found an injured cat hiding under a hedge and unable to walk. I went to see it, caught the cat, hospitalised it and treated it.

“At this time it had no owner and there was nobody to cover the bill. It’s work we do for free if there is nobody to pay, so in a way a lot of what vets do is also charitable.”

Fellow vet Mr Wright is also working at Christmas. The cases he has experienced over the festive period have varied hugely.

“One year I was playing Father Christmas for Alf Wight’s grandchildren and Jim, his son, whispered in my ear, ‘we’ve got three cases come in, a sow farrowing, a vomiting dog and a goat that has colic’.

“Soon after I was lying on the floor of a pig farrowing house pulling pigs out of a sow.”

Friday’s telethon, for which he visited and promoted The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon, had been a wonderful cause to be part of, he said, having seen animal cruelty up close during his career.

He said: “I was once called out by the RSPCA to some ponies. When I got there I could only see their feet. They were running round the rafters of a building because muck and straw had been allowed to build up above the door.

“We had to get the fire brigade out to free them. They were wild and needed 18 inches of hoof taking off.

“Once these animals are rescued they can have a good life, but some people just don’t consider what they are taking on.”

Mr Wright added: “It is a cliché that a pet is for life not just for Christmas but I think some people don’t think it through.”


Julian Norton and Peter Wright appear in a special episode of The Yorkshire Vet on Monday at 8.30pm on Channel 5.

The hour-long festive edition features Mr Norton judging the best Christmas window competition in Boroughbridge and Mr Wright playing Father Christmas at a grotto for children and their pets at Thirsk’s World of James Herriot.

The vets also intervene when a barn owl badly damages a wing and a cow causes problems by tormenting his barn mates.

A second winter special follows on New Year’s Day at 9pm and a new series, again produced by Leeds-based Daisybeck Studios, will be shown in the spring.