Yorkshire vet Julian Norton on strange mornings and meeting Tiny Tim just before Christmas

It had been a busy morning, rather strangely, full of dogs with problematic or painful prostates.

Julian Norton.

For some reason, there are a lot of entire (i.e. not castrated) dogs around Boroughbridge.

I don’t know why- maybe it reflects the rural nature of the area, or the fact that the dogs are spread more thinly and are therefore less likely to be affected by problems connected with testosterone. My first dog, a faithful and cuddly Border Terrier, was castrated when he was about two years old.

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The increasing frequency with which he growled and threatened other male dogs on the pavements of Sowerby was becoming awkward. He thought it was his patch and his patch alone.

Tiny Tim.

The final straw came when he decided to pick a fight with a neighbour’s dog while we stood chatting. Anne, my wife and fellow vet, and I took him straight to the practice and castrated him post haste. It cured his tendencies for dominance in the village immediately.

But, for the dog population of Boroughbridge, more testicles also equals more prostatic disease (the prostates of castrated males become smaller, inert and problem-free) and on this morning I had inserted my finger and palpated the firm, enlarged and irregular glands of a sedated Doberman and several Labradors.

I’d taken X-rays and done ultrasound scans and even inserted a narrow needle to extract cells from two of these enlarged glands, in an attempt to find the cause of the problem. It’s interesting stuff and I hoped the lab would provide me with a diagnosis in both cases.

Warning over escalating problems for farmers caused by fly-tippingFarmers urged to take advantage of free health checks as winter sets inSo, after a busy morning in a darkened room with X-rays and ultrasounds, I was pleased to be heading out after lunch, into the sunshine. The first job was easy- a pony to vaccinate, but I wondered why the owner had specifically requested me. I looked up the notes to check which vaccine was needed and confirm the address.

I’d been there a year ago to do the same job, although I had little recollection of the visit and couldn’t remember the yard or the directions, let alone the animal. I set off, hopeful that it would come flooding back once I got nearby.

It didn’t at first (I got lost twice) and the phone number I’d written down was incorrect, so I was glad when my memory finally kicked back into action to help me find the right lane. Once I pulled into the yard, I recognised the pony immediately. It was Tiny Tim! I’d met him a year ago, shortly after he’d arrived on the yard as a rescue, found unwanted on Facebook.

“I saw him on the computer, read his sad story and I just had to help,” recalled his owner, recounting the time she’d first seen his picture on line. I remembered his story.

I had checked his teeth to try to confirm his age- I’d judged him to be about five- and examined him all over. The poor lad, not unlike his namesake in A Christmas Carol, was not a picture of health.

However, I was hopeful that plenty of love, affection and food would put Tiny Tim back on track.

He did look a picture of heath today though, his shiny coat and luxurious mane reflecting in the early winter sun. I patted his neck and rubbed his muzzle, keeping my vaccine in my pocket, out of sight.

“I asked for you to come today,” explained his owner, “ because I thought you’d like to see how handsome he’s become in just a year!”

I had to agree. I also had to agree that, particularly on this day, ponies were definitely preferable to prostates!