Always be on the lookout for a wolf in cow’s clothing. This is what they look like right before they attack. (photo courtesy of travelblog.org)
When I write these blogs, I often think back to vet school often because I really enjoyed my time there. The last two years of vet school are undoubtedly the best, mainly because of the variety of experiences you have. In those two years, vet students rotate through different clinics and specialties such as Surgery, Small Animal Medicine, Large Animal Ambulatory, and Equine Medicine & Surgery. You’re doing practical work. You’re fixing things. You’re solving puzzles. Instead of sitting in a classroom or behind a microscope, you’ve got your hands on animals.
The “hands on animals” part is where the unpredictability lies, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Large Animal rotations. During this time, you spend a significant part of your day working on horses, cattle, sheep, llamas, goats, or whatever else may come along. You’re outside in the barns listening to your instructors talk you through milking cows, suturing up horses with barbed wire cuts, telling you how to avoid having the llamas spit on you, etc.
But above all, you’re listening to them tell you how not to get “Mocked”.
A “Mocking” was the most dreaded thing that could happen to you on large animal rotations. It meant that you had been totally outsmarted by an animal and were being made to look like a fool. What made this even worse is that every clinician wore a radio, and whenever a student (or, for that matter, an entire group of students on a rotation) was getting Mocked, a radio call went out summoning all of the other students to the area where the drama was taking place.
The radio code for this was “M.I.P.”- Mocking In Progress. Being the object of an M.I.P. was undesirable, but being called to witness somebody else’s M.I.P. was the highlight of the week.
One Fall afternoon, I was on equine rotation watching a subtly lame horse run to and fro between barns as I desperately tried to figure out where the problem was. There are a lot of reasons that I don’t work on horses. One of the biggest is that equine lameness has always baffled me. When a person who is good with horses tells me where the leg problem is, I figure that there are three possibilities:
1) they’re really good,
2) they could be making it up, or
3) they might have magical powers.
Just when I was about to have to swallow my pride and tell my rotation mates that I could only tell that the limp was in one of the front legs, I heard our professor’s radio come to life.
“M.I.P at the dairy barn! M.I.P. at the dairy barn!”
I had been rescued. All instruction, learning, and productive activity stopped immediately, and the whole group migrated over to the milking parlor to see what was up.
A circle of people had already gathered to see the spectacle. In the middle of the circle was an angry Jersey cow that had doubled back on the students trying to herd her into the parlor to be milked. She was trying to make a break for it and get back into the open pasture when she was intercepted by two of the students assigned to dairy rotation. They were trying to turn her around and get her into the barn. She was having none of it.
When a cornered cow is angry, several things usually happen. When we arrived, she was spinning around wildly in circles looking for a way to evade the students trying to interfere with her escape plan. While spinning, she was bellowing a low, drawn-out, loud moo. She was slinging snot and spit and manure in wide arcs around her as she turned, like a lawn sprinkler filled with… well… the kind of things cows are typically filled with. The cascade was soaking bystanders and students who ventured too close to the whirling beast.
Eventually, the two saturated and frustrated students literally pushed the cow in the direction they wanted her to go (as dairy cattle go, Jerseys are small). Half a minute later, she had her head in a feed bucket and was eating away as if nothing had ever happened. With the standoff over, the people and cow involved got a standing ovation from the assembled crowd, then it was back to business as usual. We went back over to the equine barns. There was a lame horse waiting for me there, and I hadn’t figured out the puzzle yet.
That was about 12 years ago, but the memory of a Mocking stays with you. In practice here in Odenville, other kinds of Mockings happen occasionally. This one was pretty good, so I figured I’d take a picture and share it with all of you. I had been gone for a couple of days during the holidays and came back into town to find this:In my absence, one of the BAH crew had turned my office door into an homage to Justin Bieber. We’ve had a lot of fun with it. We still occasionally add new images to it, but like all good things, it must eventually come to an end. I figured that I’d share it before the magic is gone…-RAB