Another James Herriot Day

100_3318 smIn a James Herriot novel, it would have been funny. The hapless protagonist wakes to a day of routine animal care and vetting. The first call is to a large, languid-looking house cat who needs worming. It’s a simple operation to force open the jaws and slip a pill into the cat’s throat–over before the cat even knows what’s happening. Except that it’s not. The pill slips out of the protagonist’s fingers and lands, in all it’s bitter potency, on the cat’s tongue. His sleepy eyes spring open, pupils dilated. He squirms and gags, tongue lashing to remove the offending pill. The protagonist reaches into the now-menacing mouth and snatches the pill out for another try, but the cat is wise to her tricks, squirming and growling, tail lashing in indignation. Instead of a ten-second procedure, the pill-taking becomes a battle of wills between protagonist and feline. The feline wins, and the protagonist promises to return later to try again to administer the now slimy pill.

Next stop is a small herd of goats needing injections of worm medicine. Just five goats, three of them kids. Should be a snap. Our protagonist decides that, while she’s got the goats immobilised for the injections, she’ll trim their hooves, too. The first goat walks obediently to the milking stand and eagerly pops her head into the head lock to reach the grain she knows awaits her there. She stands perfectly still for her injection, and only struggles for a moment as her hooves are trimmed. She’s done in a snap, and our protagonist looks forward to the prospect of a quickly-accomplished task. The second goat is the one that has instigated the worm treatment. She’s been scouring recently, and is in poor condition. Unfortunately, this goat, having endured long treatment for a near-deadly illness in the past, is shy of needles. She bucks and jerks as the protagonist gently eases the needle into her skin. The needle pops out. Our protagonist tries again, and manages to inject about half the dose before the goat again dislodges the needle. As soon as the needle is free of the goat’s flesh, the medicine flows so freely, that the protagonist squirts the remainder of the dose into the animal’s fur. So the only animal that desperately needs a full dose gets only half of one. Moving on to the hooves, our protagonist discovers hoof rot. She’s not set up to treat hoof rot today, so she’ll have to get the goat back on the stand another day to do that. The third goat is a young goatling. It is her very first time ‘on leash’ and on the milking stand. She refuses to step out of the paddock, and while our protagonist is trying to haul her out, another goat makes a break for freedom. Our protagonist desperately lunges at the escaping goat, grabbing her collar and almost ending up face down in the mud as the goat lurches out the gate.

Now, the young goatling refuses to be caught. She hides behind her mother, so that the protagonist must lean over the adult to snatch the goatling’s collar. The goatling takes off, knocking the protagonist off her feet and onto the mother. After much cajoling, pushing and pulling, our protagonist finally gets the goatling onto the milking stand. When the goatling finds herself locked in the headlock, she panics, kicking, bucking and shimmying from side to side until she falls of the edge of the stand. The injection and hoof trimming go reasonably well, but only because her small size means the protagonist can hold her still. Again, she discovers hoof rot that will have to be treated another day.

The last two goatlings are too small to fit into the headlock. They will have to be treated in the paddock. But our protagonist is alone, and holding even a small goat still enough with her knees to inject her and trim her hooves (which take both hands) is beyond her skill. She narrowly avoids stabbing herself with a needle, then gives up entirely. As she stands, surveying the unruly herd, she notices that one of the goatlings is limping. There is something distinctly odd about the way the animal steps on her front right foot. The foot almost knuckles under, like newborn kids’ feet do sometimes, before they straighten out and strengthen. The goat will have to be caught and examined, but having been just caught and manhandled, she’s reluctant to submit to it a second time. Our protagonist is flat out in the mud before the little goat is again caught. Our protagonist can find no fault with the leg, foot or hoof. It moves freely and there are no visible injuries. She lets the animal go again, and she limps off. Our protagonist decides to give the leg a few days to see if it comes right before taking her to the vet.

Later in the day, our protagonist steps out of her car, directly into a huge pile of cat poo—the cat has gotten revenge for the morning’s pill.

All the story needs is some local farmer looking over our protagonist’s shoulder saying, “Ach! Tha knows nothin’ ’bout animals!”

As I say, it would have been funny in a James Herriot novel…

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