The calf was already gone


The odor nearly strangled the veterinary staff as they pulled the calf out.

It had no appointment, but everyone knew it was coming. The giveaway was the smell. When the trailer pulled into our parking lot more than 75 yards away, Dr. Dustin McElwee and Dr. Michael Tobias flared their nostrils at the same time.

It was Mr. Carter, the worst cow client in Dawson County. Carter is a rascal who never does anything but aggravate veterinarians. It's almost like it brings him joy to make you either stay late or smell terrible. The only trailer he owns was made for pigs. It's way too short for cattle, but he somehow manages to still get a full-grown cow in it. Getting her out is a different story.

Dr. Dustin saw the trailer and immediately braced for the worst. Dr. Michael, the intern, had not met Mr. Carter yet and had no way of knowing why Dustin was rumbling to himself and heading to the clinic for coveralls.

After a long struggle to get the cow out of the short trailer, the source of the smell became obvious. Two rotten feet were sticking out of the south end of the cow. They were dripping with goo and the hair was already falling off.

The cow's trip through the alleyway to the squeeze chute resulted in the release of gallons of vile liquid, and Dr. Dustin started trying to decide if it would be best to burn his clothes or stink up the house laundering them.

Dr. Michael was bouncing around and ready to go. He had never seen Dustin so discouraged over a cow dystocia and was still too new to realize what he was about to get into.

As is the case with all of Mr. Carter's cows, this one would just as soon kill you as look at you. She fought and snarled all the way to the squeeze chute and then bellowed and snorted while the doctors tried to help her.

There was no way that calf was coming out the hole God had put there. It was rotten. One slight pull on the leg caused hair, hoof and skin to slough off.

"Why did you wait so long to bring this cow in, Mr. Carter?" Dr. Dustin asked as he examined the handful of rotting hair left in his hand. "This cow is gonna die and the calf is already decomposing. If you would have brought her in about three days ago, she might have had a chance."

"You can save her, Doc!" exclaimed Mr. Carter confidently. "I got all the faith in the world in ya. Just do a C-section and she'll be OK."

It was no use trying to talk him out of it. Dr. Dustin knew that a C-section was going to happen and that in the end everything would turn out just terrible.

The episode progressed like a bad dream. Everything that could go wrong did. The cow strained and fought, kicked and slobbered, and finally (after the abdomen was cut open) lay down. This, of course, meant she would have to be released from the squeeze chute and run back around to be in the right position to pull the rotting calf.

As she was heading around into the swing-around, her gas-filled rumen sprang through the C-section opening. This wasn't good. It greatly increased the difficulty of getting her through the tight alleyway back into the chute.

Once the critter was finally back into restraint, the rumen was decompressed and put back in its home. This left a space to cut the uterus and begin the process of removing the super-smelly fetus. When the uterus finally breached, the gust of noxious gas that came pouring forth made everyone gag and tear up. Dr. Dustin once again told ole Carter, "This cow is gonna die."

The calf was so dead that rigor mortis had set in and it was frozen in position with all legs straight, like a plastic farm animal. Have you ever tried to remove a nonbendable, bloated, hundred-or-so-pound calf from a hole the size of a football?

After about an hour of pulling and tugging, the rotten beast was finally on the ground. As Dr. Dustin stood there panting from exertion, he reminded Carter, "This cow is gonna die."

They managed to get her back on the trailer after huge doses of pain meds and antibiotics. The last thing Dr. Dustin said as Mr. Carter pulled off into the night was, "That cow is gonna die. Don't let her suffer."

Three days later Carter showed up at the clinic, crabby and cussing up a storm. Seems the cow had died. He was about lay into Dr. Dustin, but before he could even speak a noun, Dustin interrupted: "I don't want to hear one word outta you, old fella. I told you that cow was gonna die! And if you hadn't got here when you did, neither one of us would have made any money off of her."

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

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