The lab that lives in infamy

dvm360dvm360 March 2021
Volume 53

Among the many lessons I learned in veterinary school were these: Don’t be late, and always be prepared.

Suthiporn /

Suthiporn /

In veterinary school, lab classes taught us how to do the things we were going to do in real life when we graduated. We learned all kinds of stuff in those labs, from floating teeth on a horse to placing intravenous catheters in dogs to palpating cows and much more.

My best friend and lab partner was John Horn, and we were always on time and read our labs in advance, but for some reason, we were a bit late one day and had not prepared for a particular lab. Because I was unprepared, when I entered the room, I could not believe my eyes. At first, I was dumbfounded, then I began to giggle, and finally, I was mortified.

Shocking and hilarious

This was a lab for collecting semen from a dog. Before this moment, I had never considered how one extracts semen from a dog. I had done it in bulls and stallions, but never even thought about extracting from a dog. It seemed that the only way to get the job done was the old-fashioned way—by hand. And here I was, watching a tableful of women doing that to a dog.

I had known the individuals in my class for well over 2 years. There were 128 of us, and after spending 40 to 50 hours a week together, I knew everything about everyone.

The women at the first table we encountered were very proper. Seeing these very prim students doing that to a dog struck me as funny. It hit John the same way at about the same time because I could hear his familiar snicker as I felt my face turning red. These women were trying to get this 25-pound mutt to give them a semen sample so they could evaluate it under the microscope set up at the same table.

But the fun wasn’t over. My glance moved to the next table, only to find 4 male students doing the same thing. John saw them about the same time I did, and he nudged my shoulder and pointed. There was definitely a particular look on these faces. One guy did the deed as the other 3 stood there red-faced and disgusted. They wore rubber gloves and palpation sleeves and had their sunglasses on as if maybe no one would recognize them. John was laughing out loud by now, which opened the door for me to let it go and cackle hard with him. These guys had a 45-pound blue heeler, and that dog was smiling from ear to ear.


Then I realized that I was going to have to do that same thing. John quit laughing at about the same time as a woman entered the lab from the back with an old-looking beagle and handed the leash to me. She said we would be sorry we were late because we’d gotten the last dog, Snoopy, a 15-year-old beagle that had been through this lab about 30 times and “knew how to make it last.” Snoopy had only 2 responsibilities in this world, she told us; one was donating blood, and the other was this lab, adding that he liked this responsibility much more than the other.

As I looked around the room for an empty table, I noticed that some students were already examining the collected samples. Man, we were just 5 minutes late; those dogs must have been easy collections. Our dog, on the other hand, looked like he was no adolescent rookie. He was pacing as we walked toward the table.

“I will get the dog on the table and get the microscope ready. You can do the stroking,” came bubbling out of my mouth as I picked old Snoopy up and set him on the table.

“No way, dude! I will get the microscope ready; you’re not getting off that easy,” John replied as he wrestled the dog out of my arms and set him closer to my side.

“I think you should just do it and get it over with,” John said.

“OK. Let’s just flip a coin and get done with this so we can go home,” I said.

I lost the toss

I couldn’t believe I had to do this to a 15-year-old beagle. By now, everyone else was through, but they weren’t leaving. No, they had seen me laugh at them, and now it was their turn.

I went to work with sans sunglasses. This dog was the master. He would almost deliver, and then it was as if he realized it and relaxed all over, so I would have to start again. Everyone was laughing hysterically, and I was about as embarrassed as I had ever been in my life. I couldn’t help but think that if we were anywhere other than veterinary school, I would go to jail. That lab finally came to an end after what seemed like an hour, and with it came my resolution that I would never do that again. If my clients ever needed a semen evaluation on their dogs, they were just going to have to do that themselves.

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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