Grandmothers can make some strange noises

dvm360dvm360 April 2021
Volume 54

As a newly minted on-call veterinarian, I made a fateful decision to bring my family along on a farm call. What they saw will stay with them forever.



The first Thanksgiving after I graduated from veterinary school brought together my sister, mother, brother, and 2 grandmothers for a visit. My grandmothers were just “so proud” of their grandson. No one in my family had ever finished college, much less gone for 8 years. They thought I could do no wrong and wanted to go with me on every call.

No pressure

When you are the new kid on the block, you are on call every weekend and holiday because everyone else is tired of not being home enough. As is always the case when you have special plans for a holiday, the phone rang at 8:00 pm. It was a woman from a town about 45 minutes away with a gilt pig that was not having luck delivering. She informed me that this was no ordinary litter. The daddy of these babies was the greatest of all pigs, and he had died since this batch was conceived. If we didn’t get a little boy pig, she told me, his genes would be gone— forever. No pressure.

Of course, my entire family wanted to go observe the pig situation and I didn’t see any harm in it. We met the pig’s family at the clinic. The client was clad in the uniform of an emergency medical technician (EMT), a fact that is vital to how the night’s events unfolded. She was a tall, big woman with a gruff voice whose EMT garb included a stethoscope and a pocket protector with all sorts of medical equipment. She was all business.

With my grandmothers right by my side, trying to assist in any way they could, I reached into the pig and realized there was no way those piglets were coming out the normal way. I told the client we were going to have to do a C-section. She got even more serious and reminded me that her world-famous boar hog had died.

No pressure at all

My grandmothers, one of whom was about 5 feet tall and 180 lb while the other was about 6 feet tall and 100 lb, were both in the background saying, “He can do it. He’s the best doctor in the world.” Eh, no pressure at all. I prepared the gilt and cut her open. Once inside, I could tell that there were only 3 babies, and I conveyed that information. “Well, one of ’em better be a live boy,” the EMT said. I cut open the uterus and pulled out a dead female. The next piglet was another female, and she was not doing very well. One pig left. One chance at a boy. The tension mounted as I struggled to extract the last piglet. Finally, it arrived and, much to my relief was a boy. But he was not doing well either.

Piggy in the piehole

Suddenly, my EMT client came swooping across the room and grabbed the piglet from my shaking hands. She rushed it over to the counter and started cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as my entire family watched intently. As she began giving chest compressions with her first 2 fingers, she counted “a 1, and a 2, and a 3.” Then, as if in a CPR instructional video, the client picked up the piglet, stuck his entire head in her mouth, and began blowing.

This was more than my outspoken grandmothers could stand. They made that grandmother noise—a kind of a cross between a high-pitched yodel and Tarzan’s call. You’ve heard it. It was the same noise your grandmother may have made when you were a kid and did something gross like pick your nose or spit ice back into your drink.

The next few moments happened in slow motion for me. My sister was retching over the sink holding her hair so as not to get anything in it, my mother was repeating, “Oh my goodness,” over and over, and my brother was laughing riotously. My grandmothers were simply aghast.

When the client slapped the piglet back onto the counter and began chest compressions again, my grandmothers performed as a team. One wiped afterbirth off the woman’s cheek while the other said, “You shouldn’t put a pig in your mouth!”

When the client was just about cleaned up, she picked the piglet back up and put him back in her mouth again, eliciting another harmonious grandma Tarzan call. I could hear them saying, together this time, “Oh, honey, you just shouldn’t put a pig in your mouth!” They offered to go to the store and get her a toothbrush. The pig lived. The EMT client was happy with her healthy male piglet. But my grandmothers would never be the same.

Bo Brock, DVM, who serves on the dvm360® Editorial Advisory Board, owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas. His latest book is Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing From Rural America.

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