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Just doing his job, and getting a kick out of it


People I meet often believe that, because I completed veterinary school, I should know everything about every animal that God created. News flash: It isn't so.

People I meet often believe that, because I completed veterinary school, I should know everything about every animal that God created. News flash: It isn't so.

There are enough differences between various species that one can't make bold generalizations. Except this one, perhaps: All animals have ways of defending themselves and aren't afraid to use them.

The female elk was trying to give birth, but only the head and one front leg had made it out. She was trapped inside a 15-acre space and in no mood to be handled. It was obvious she needed help, but getting caught by humans wasn't in her plans for the day.

The landowner already had chased her around the pasture in a pickup truck, trying to guide her back to the barn where it might be possible to restrain her a bit. When I arrived, we had two pickups to herd her toward the corner of the pasture, where a trailer awaited. We succeeded, but it took a good two hours and about a thousand laps around the 15 acres.

Now it was my turn. We managed to confine the elk to a 20-foot trailer, but what now? Was I supposed to get in there with her? She was tired from the marathon pasture chase, but still had quite a weight advantage over me and seemed to have the attitude that I was there to kill and eat her, rather than help her.

Finally she calmed a bit and lay down a few feet inside the trailer, with her fanny facing the gate. I watched for a couple of minutes and decided I might just sneak in and try to manipulate the baby to come on out. We slowly opened the gate and stood motionless to see what she would do. She didn't move, and seemed much calmer now.

I began a slow but deliberate journey through the partly opened gate toward her. It was only a few feet, but seemed like a mile. All I could think about was a video I'd seen on some television show, of a deer that reared up on its hind legs and beat a man with its front feet for what seemed like five minutes.

But the elk remained quiet. She even had a content look on her face as I reached down to gently manipulate the hopelessly stuck baby.

Just as I was about to touch it, however, she hopped up, kicked me in the crotch three times and then lay back down. The kicks were a direct hit; they couldn't have been more precise if she had tried.

I fell backward out of the trailer and assumed the fetal position. My voice had gained a few octaves and the 20 or so people standing around began asking if I was OK. Among them were several women, not exactly a comforting view when all you can think about is checking to see what the damage had been.

I finally managed to get on my feet and asked everyone to stay there while I went around to the side of the barn to examine myself. I was almost sure something had been knocked off and I would find it in the top of my boot.

One grandmotherly type insisted that she go with me. Why would she feel the need to do that? I may not be a human doctor, but I've seen more soft-tissue injury than Grandma and certainly don't need to explain this kind of personal business to a stranger.

She kept saying, "Oh my, Honey, you need someone with you in case you faint when you see it."

I told her and the others that if I didn't return in five minutes to come and get me.

I was sore and swollen, but determined that nothing was broken.

That was several years ago, and I still have a parasympathetic response every time I drive by that place. Since then, the owners have set up a working facility that practically eliminates the need for wearing an athletic cup when working there.

They never called me back, and I later found out why. Their regular veterinarian refused to help them until they had the proper facilities. Maybe I should have done the same.

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

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