Some folks just won't let sleeping dogs lie


All seemed to be going great until I cut the ovary away. ... I could feel my first real case of surgical panic coming on.

The day ended late, and I was just about at the end of my endurance when it occurred to me that I hadn't talked to Dr. Deyhle in quite a while. He was my mentor and took the risk of hiring me straight from veterinary school. He is in his mid-80's now and has been retired about 10 years, but still is quicker-witted than most 40-year-olds.

I had received news a few days earlier of a practitioner award our clinic received, and I wanted to give him a call and thank him for getting me off to a good start all those years ago. To this day, I give him credit for instilling an attitude and ethic in me that have persisted.

I was in the middle of thanking him for all he did for me when he interrupted to remind me of an event at the start of my career that I'd rather forget.

After saying he was proud of me and all the things we've been blessed with in Lamesa, he went on to remind me of the first dog I spayed when I went to work with him. I could feel my cheeks turning red as he starting recalling the details.

The dog was a big, fat Labrador Retriever, owned by a decrepit old man who told me it was given to him by his deceased wife. He said the dog meant more to him tha anything in the world.

To make matters worse, the dog was in heat. If you are not a seasoned dog-spayer, you may not know that there is nothing worse than a big, fat dog in heat. The fat makes everything slick, and the blood vessels are huge and hard to ligate because of the massive amount of encasing tissue.

I had spayed no more than 10 dogs in my vet-school career, and none was anything like this one. I was so dumb I didn't even know to be afraid until I cut that rascal open.

Nothing looked like it did in school. Everything was coated with a healthy layer of fat, and I could barely identify anything. One of the key duties of a spay is finding and tying off all the blood vessels that feed the ovaries and uterus. If you don't do that correctly, the dog could bleed to death.

I finally found the artery going to the left ovary and began tying it off. All seemed to be going great until I cut the ovary away and blood squirted all over the room. I could feel my first real case of surgical panic coming on.

"Dr. Deyhle, Dr. Deyhle! You gotta come quick!"

I was about to prolapse. All I could think about was breaking the news to this old fella that his most important possession had passed away.

Meanwhile, where was Dr. Deyhle?

I called out again and again, with no response. I was getting into a frenzy. If something didn't happen pretty quickly, this critter was going to room temperature. I finally took off at a dead run throughout the clinic looking for him.

Not in his office. Not in the large-animal clinic. Not in the waiting room. Not with the secretaries. Where in the world could he be?

The look on my face must have precluded the need to say anything. The secretary quickly pointed to the bathroom.

Picture this: Just out of school, you're spaying your first dog for a man who has nothing else to live for. You have dropped the stump, and the only person who can save you is...well, indisposed.

Not wanting to break sterility, I began banging on the bathroom door with my elbow, hollering so fast I didn't even understand my words but Dr. Deyhle must have picked up on the urgency.

He emerged from the bathroom with his shirt untucked and his pants undone. I will never forget the look on his face — somewhere between panic and embarrassment as he held up his pants with one hand and fumbled with the bathroom doorknob with the other. He short-stepped down the hall, still holding up his pants.

The tech quickly gloved him, and he went to work fixing everything I'd done wrong. In no time the bleeding was stopped, and he finished spaying the dog. In fact, he did the entire surgery with his legs apart to keep his pants from dropping. We could find no volunteer to button to zip them while he worked.

"You've come a long way since those days, Bo, but I just want you to know that you will always be a snotty-nosed, novice veterinarian to me. That is how you were when I met you, and you had barely passed that stage by the time you left."

I just love that man.

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

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