Blatherings of a bone geek, bookseller, and unapologetic bird nerd. (Now with vegany goodness.)

Monthly Archives: July 2010

If I ever needed confirmation that I’ve got a strong enough stomach for this work, Monday provided it.

The call was fairly vague. A dog was bleeding. There was a tumor. There was already an appointment to see the vet later that afternoon, but the bleeding was alarming enough to make it an emergency. Contact was made with the vet to see if they could take the dog right away. We drove to the house not knowing what to expect.

What we found was a very large, very sweet dog (likely a boxer mix), with a huge mammary tumor and a very shaken owner. (Who turned out not to be the owner.)  The dog had been biting at the tumor overnight and now it was bleeding. While the bleeding wasn’t life threatening, the dog was clearly suffering, the swelling was infected, and she likely had a high fever. The woman explained the horrible horrible situation to us. The chronology was a bit confusing to me, but it was clear that she and her children were victims of domestic violence. The dog had been her ex’s. She hadn’t seen either of them in almost a year. Recently, ex had shown up again, dropped the dog off with her, then proceeded to smash in a bunch of windows in the house. The police were involved. The woman was alarmed to see the state the dog was in and had immediately made a vet appointment but it clearly couldn’t wait.

WARNING: Squeamish readers should probably skip this next paragraph.

We transported the dog and the women to the vet just a few blocks away. While walking from the ambulance to the office, something happened the sight of which I’ll never forget. A wet clump of tumor the size of an orange dropped from the dog onto the pavement with a sickening splat. Suddenly what had been a relatively modest flow of blood turned into a gushing faucet. I pulled on a pair of latex gloves and picked up the warm bloody tissue while my partner ran ahead into the office to get a plastic bag to contain it. The women went from shaken to distressed. We calmly but urgently led them into the vet’s waiting room where the blood pooled on the linoleum underneath the poor dog and a metallic odor filled the seating area. Needless to say, the vet saw us right away.

The vet confirmed that the dog was running a high fever. We were all amazed considering the fever, the infection, the bleeding, and what must have been a considerable amount of pain, that the dog still remained sweet and affectionate. The doctor said that surgery was possible but it would have to be extensive and include spaying the dog (without which she’d be guaranteed to have a recurrence sooner rather than later). Sadly the cost of surgery plus post-surgery care would come to more than the woman’s monthly income. She had enough love to heal the dog but she just couldn’t afford it. It was heart-wrenching to watch her realize that not only her and her kids had been affected by abuse; this poor dog – a dog that wasn’t even hers but that she clearly cared about – was also a victim. It was decided that the kindest thing would be to put the dog to sleep. Waiving the standard ambulance fee, we left the women there to say goodbye to this sweet animal that clearly deserved a lot better than she’d gotten in life.

We moved on to our next call.

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It just occurred to me, after seeing it on another blog (see below), to add a subscription widget to my sidebar. Don’t know why I didn’t think of this sooner, but especially considering my sporadic posting habits of late, this might save some of you from asking “have you updated your blog yet?” or to keep checking back here. Handy schmandy!

And while I’m posting about bloggy stuff, I want to welcome my friend Dominique to the blogosphere (or whatever the hell they call it) with her new blog counterNarratives! Dom is one of the smartest people I know and I’m looking forward to reading her musings! Thanks for coming over to the blog side, Dom!


My ambulance training is officially over and I’ve been declared ready to work independently. Today was my first day working in a team of two as a full-fledged “dierenhulpverlener” (animal care worker/first responder). It was, as usual, a day filled with varied experiences, from stray dogs to severed legs (don’t ask) with lots of birds and cats in between.

One of the most special moments came when we were called to come rescue a gull that was trapped on the fire escape of a large office building belonging to a bank. We didn’t know what to expect, having been told that the bird had evaded capture until then, so we grabbed a carrying case and our trusty net and reported at the front desk as instructed. The security guard there led us through the gate, up the elevator to the fourth floor and to another reception desk. Two ladies there told us that the bird had gotten away from them again and was now on the third floor. They joined our convoy as we made our way with our security escort down the central staircase, through an office space full of very curious workers, and onto the third floor fire escape.

There on the landing, just an inch from the ledge, with nothing but some wide-set bars between it and open air, was a not-quite-fledgling Herring gull: about half the size of an adult, mostly fluffy and spotty but with a few flight feathers starting to unfurl on its wings. It was clearly not yet ready to fly but it sure looked ready to jump. Without even thinking, I pounced on the little fluffer before it could make its escape. It was healthy, fat, and absolutely gorgeous! It was also calling loudly for its mother in between trying to bite me and mother was circling overhead calling back in turn.

Lots of gulls nest on the roofs of high office buildings, so we suspected that it had plunged off the ledge of this one. We asked the security guard if we could go up and see if we could find a nest. He hemmed and hawed for a second, but soon agreed. So our motley crew – two ambulance workers, two receptionists, one security guard, and one baby gull in a cat carrier – headed back through the crowded office space, a wake of bored office workers rubbernecking to get a glimpse of the action as we passed down the center aisle. Up two more flights in the lift, through another locked door up onto the roof. It didn’t take long to find the round twiggy nest nestled into the roof gravel. I opened up the carrier, grabbed the little gull, and popped it back on its wooden throne. At which point it stood up and took a runner for the edge of the roof. We all held our hearts, afraid it was going to bolt over the ledge and end up on the fire escape again or worse, plunge six floors to certain death. Thankfully, it stopped just on the edge of the roof, landing in the wide, flat rain gutter just an inch lower. We beat a hasty retreat to allow him the space he needed to gather the courage to wander away from the ledge, and also to allow mom to come back to her babe. We could see through the window in the door that junior had walked back a bit further from the ledge and was calling to mom again.

You can’t help but worry about the babies living such a precarious life. The receptionists were surprised we didn’t take the bird with us, assuming that it would be safer in the care of the local bird sanctuary. But a baby bird is always better off with its parents, and it’s a rare treat for us to be able to reunite them. Too often, they’re snatched away from their parents and can’t be returned for whatever reason. To be able to do so is the best of all possible outcomes. The precariousness of survival on the edge for these little ones is just part and parcel of life in the wild.

As we emerged from the building on the ground floor and walked back to the ambulance with our unused net and empty carrier, we heard gulls calling above. Looking up, we saw an adult Herring gull circle the corner of the building where the juvenile was last seen, once, twice, and then come in for a landing.