Born Yesterday


I gave him some ointment and a giant pair of sunglasses I had won at the fair.

Have you ever wondered how some people manage to function in society? I mean, how did you get to be so old without learning some things?

The phone rang at 9:00 p.m. the other night, and the woman on the other end of the phone wanted me to come over to her house to catch a mouse that she had just seen. She sounded like she was in her 60s, and I'm thinking: How do you get that old without knowing something so simple?

Would calling a veterinarian be your first thought if a mouse came running across the floor? Veterinarians make animals well; we typically don't administer animal relocation programs. Did she think I could lasso it and turn it loose in the field? What was even stranger about the entire thing is that I went about telling her how to catch it. She wasn't even sure what a mousetrap looked like or where to get one. I told her how to set the trap with cheese, making sure to tell her to be careful so it wouldn't snap back while she set it. She kept telling me to slow down, like maybe she was taking notes or something.

But that was nothing compared to this one: I wasn't even sure myself what to do when this case came into the clinic. The presenting complaint was a horse that could not see. The owner told us that when he made the appointment, and that was what I expected when the horse came lumbering off the trailer.

Much to my surprise, the horse hit the ground with his head up while it looked around. His eyes looked perfectly normal, and he didn't seem a bit uncomfortable in the surroundings. The man led him toward the clinic past a bucket and two rolled-up garden hoses, and the horse stepped around them all.

I got the horse in the stocks to start my examination. The eyes were clear and responded normally to light. He followed motion and blinked when you moved a hand quickly toward the eye. This is about all we veterinarians have to go by. There are no charts with big letters or hard black plastic deals with multiple lenses to look through.

"I think he can see just fine," I said with a bit of a questioning tone. "What makes you think he can't see?"

"Well, I am building some pens at the farm, and we are using some pipe I got from the oil field," he began. "We put the corner posts in for the first couple of days, and then we started putting it all together. This horse is in the pen right next to where we have been working, and for the last two days, he has been standing there watching us weld. I think he looked at it too long, and now his eyes are damaged."

This guy was a city slicker that moved to the country to pursue his life-long dream of owning some land. I call it the Mr. Douglas syndrome, kinda like Green Acres. We see a lot of it, and they often bring questions like this.

Now he had me wondering. I have been around pen building with metal pipe all my life, but I never once worried about the horse standing there, staring at the weld until it could not see. Would a horse do that? I did it once, and my grandma made me lay on the couch for an hour with potato slices on my eyelids. I'm not sure why, but that was the only medical treatment I had ever seen or heard of for looking at a weld too long.

I started to tell him to go get a potato slice, just to see how he would try to get the remedy to stay in place. But I decided to just give him some ointment and a giant pair of sunglasses that I won at the fair about 20 years ago.

Not really. I actually called the veterinary school to talk to the eye doctor there to see if this actually could happen. After listening to him laugh at me on the other end of the phone for about five minutes, he finally assured me that there was nothing to worry about, and the horse would be just fine.

He went on to say something like: "I wonder how some veterinarians can actually function in society when they ask questions like that. I mean, how do you practice that long and not know something so simple?"

Dr. Bo Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

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