Sometimes, I like to think about myself and my loved ones in the context of how useful we’d be in the event of an apocalypse.
I personally would not be very useful, given that my day job involves making imaginary numbers do meaningless things with senseless letter sequences and other series of imaginary numbers, but I’m not without apocalypse backup plans. The shepherd thing could be pretty useful if my apocalypse situation managed to grant me some livestock and dogs, and if all else fails, I could be the Apocalypse Village Teacher. I’m basing this off of my resounding recent success breaking the will of a 10-year-old into sitting down and trudging through the addition and subtraction of mixed-number fractions, as well as the fact that Josh directs his children to me for a variety of important educational questions such as What is more than one Pegasus, is it Pegasuses or Pegasi? and How do you make the color brown?
Josh himself, of course, is obviously the Apocalypse Village Doctor. It’s one of those plot points which serves to illustrate the dire nature of the apocalypse itself, when you have some poor sap with mismatched blue scrubs and glasses that got scratched up by an AR-15 (these are both actual Josh Attributes by the way) sitting there on camera amongst the smoldering apocalypse ruins, stepping nobly up to the plate for the betterment of what’s left of mankind, “Well, I used to be a vet tech, but now…” And then the scene cuts to Josh resecting someone’s colon or something.
The Apocalypse Village might be a little way off, but for better or worse we’ve become the neighborhood veterinary professionals here in our mini-neighborhood at the TTH, and have done our best to assist creatures in peril when we are called to action.
Peril 1: Tapeworms, no wait, maggots, no wait…
“I’m so sorry,” our neighbor texted, which is Neighbor Speak for, I’m about to ask you something embarrassing related to my pets, “Can you come look at our rabbit? There are worms in his poop.”
While not everyone is cool with conversations involving a detailed analysis of poop worms, not everyone is a vet tech. I only did it for a short time, and I’m relatively immune to disgusting things. Because Josh has been a vet tech for 12 years and a parent for 10, he is almost completely immune to disgusting things, and I’m certain that there is absolutely no bodily fluid, human or animal, that can distress him anymore. “Sure,” we said, “We’ll check out the poop worms.” Suspecting tapeworms, the usual culprits in a case like this, we brought over some flea treatment (fleas being a common vector for the arrival of tapeworms).
It was dark by the time we were able to come over, but we still fearlessly pointed our flashlights at a pile of bunny turds and thoughtfully poked through them with a stick, searching for the little white rice-looking bits which indicate the presence of tapeworms. We didn’t find tapeworms. “Those are maggots,” Josh informed our neighbor. “They probably didn’t come out in the poop, they’re probably from fly eggs laid in it after it was already out.” Neighbor was mortified. “Oh… can you look him over anyway, to be sure?” So we flipped over Mistletoe the rabbit, and inspected his underside, searching for flea dirt or other indications of problems, maggot related or otherwise. “My god,” gasped the neighbor, “What’s that?”
“His testicles,” answered Josh, champion of learning, healer of animals, finder of balls.
So a deworming wasn’t really necessary after all, but it was an informative evening nonetheless.
Peril 2: Sheep beyond our skill to heal
One of the things about ranch life is that while creatures are born and thrive and it’s wonderful, death is part of this life as well. You certainly don’t want animals to die and you do your best to prevent it, but their loss isn’t the same as that of a companion animal. It happens more frequently, and you have to be more pragmatic about it. Robin, Josh and I have spent plenty of time vaccinating, medicating, and otherwise caring for the health of the sheep, however, and the unexpected demise of one of them is still jarring and unpleasant. I hate walking into a pen to find a dead sheep lying there to greet me, its legs cold and stiff and completely incompatible with getting stuffed into a body bag. I particularly hate this when I’m running the show for the day and I’m going to have clients appearing in a couple hours. Clients are way less philosophical about the whole circle of life thing, and regardless, it’s just bad form to have dead things in your place of business unless you’re a butcher or a taxidermist. So as usual, when the going gets tough, the tough call their poor boyfriend who is trying to enjoy the first Saturday morning he’s had off in 12 years.
“JOSH,” I spazzed.
“What?” said Josh.
“JOSH HUGE DEAD SHEEP HELP,” I spazzed some more.
“Okay, I’m on my way.” Josh understands Spaz pretty fluently, bless him.
Not only did Josh give up his relaxing Saturday morning to help me relocate a sheep corpse, he had to do it all alone, because I was occupied with morning clients (happily in a different part of the ranch, none the wiser about the circle of life occurring elsewhere). Not only did he relocate it, he carried the thing halfway across the ranch by himself, instead of troubling me to get him the keys to the 4 wheeler or truck.
“Oh my god,” I said later, “Why didn’t you say something, I would have helped you use the ATV.”
“It was a good workout,” Josh insisted.
“That thing was huge!” I protested. “It probably weighed more than I do!”
“My arms hurt.” Josh is human after all.
But on the bright side, he’s super qualified to be the Apocalypse Village Undertaker if the Doctor position is already taken.
Peril 3: Chicken fluid
The dogs alerted me to our neighbor’s arrival this morning by completely losing their shit and entering a ridiculous barking frenzy, which is obviously the best way to herald the arrival of someone you’ve met dozens of times. This arriving neighbor was the same neighbor as Rabbit Neighbor, who in the intervening weeks had also called upon Josh’s veterinary skills to examine a torn dew claw on one of her dogs. Between Non Tapeworm, Definitely Male Rabbit and Dewclaw Dog, she’s starting to feel pretty guilty about her use and abuse of Josh’s vet tech services, despite our repeated assurances that it’s okay. Josh was at work today though, so she was stuck with me.
“What’s up?” I asked, ineffectively pushing my dogs away from the door and squashing Jet’s face between the screen and the door frame as I attempted to extricate myself from my well-behaved pets and exit my home.
“It’s my chicken,” fretted Neighbor. “She’s not acting right.”
“What’s wrong with your chicken?” I asked.
“I think she has an impacted crop,” Neighbor explained. “…Or something.”
Lacking better information to go on, we consulted Doctor Internet and treated my neighbor’s chicken for Impacted Crop, Or Something. The crop is a part of a bird’s body where food hangs out before it’s digested, or so I surmise from the avian anatomy I learned from the one time I spoke to a falconer, and all the times I sort of paid attention to Georgia’s parrot rescue. Chickens, it seems, can eat stupid things sometimes (huge surprise), block up their crop, and get all sorts of problems from it. I think in most of the world, an ailing chicken automatically means chicken for dinner, but chickens in this neighborhood are egg-layers and pets. So we sat in my neighbor’s front yard with a chicken and a MacBook Pro, and together we watched a variety of youtube videos in which people with deeply red-state accents “flushed the crop” of their hens, explaining the steps while bored goats wandered the background of the filming. My neighbor wanted to try it, so, we tried it.
Flushing the crop (according to youtube) involves restraining the chicken and syringe-feeding warm water into the bird, and then holding the chicken upside down by the legs until an evil-looking substance made of undigested chicken food, bacteria, and hurt feelings comes back out of the chicken’s mouth. It is kind of terrible. The goal is to try to loosen up whatever is stuck in there and ailing the chicken, but the whole thing just seems like something hens would to to each other if they were mean and had sorority hazings. I held the chicken while my neighbor squirted water into it, and we both tried hard not to get chicken poop or bird bile all over Neighbor’s laptop. She held the chicken upside down and we both stood back while it spewed for us, and because we both imagine ourselves to be resourceful country(ish) women, we did not comment about the way the Chicken Fluid smells like the water from the rivers of hell. But it does. We repeated the process until I was soaked by the chicken, who disapproved of being waterboarded in this fashion, and the water coming back out of the chicken smelled a little less like the souls of the damned. At last report, the chicken (whose name is Cookies n’ Cream) was doing a little better, but to be honest, I don’t have high hopes for a full recovery. Many of the videos, again with the pragmatism of farm death, simply announced that “sometimes they get better and sometimes they don’t,” while other, more ambitious videos described expensive-looking avian surgery for correcting the problem. I hate to predict a dark fate for Cookies n’ Cream, but there is a reason everyone else in the world goes straight to soup for this kind of chicken situation.
Update, 11/14/14: I am pleased to report that Cookies n’ Cream is much improved, and has returned to her usual schedule of wandering around my neighbor’s chicken coop, looking for more stupid things to eat.
I will add a disclaimer here that if something is wrong with your animals and they need medical attention, they should be taken to an actual veterinary hospital to consult with an actual DVM — it’s what we would do for our own pets, without a doubt. But for surface scrapes, mysterious poop worm inspection, super pro body disposal, chicken restraint, or the fearless investigation of testicles, go ahead and give us a call. We’ve got you covered.