Thursday, January 27, 2011
We had a troop of Black and White Colobus Monkeys. They were very amusing to watch play. We got a call from the keeper early one morning. There was an extra monkey! One of the females had a baby in the night. We didn't even know she was pregnant. Well, mom wasn't doing well. She was darted and brought to the hospital. She didn't put up a fight, which is very unusual. The baby was pure white and so tiny! She was scared, which is very normal. We had two teams, one working on mom, the other dealing with the baby. I was on baby duty. She was small enough to sit in my hand perfectly comfortable. We weighed her, drew some blood, did an exam and waited to see what would happen with mom. The baby was having a hard time, calling for her mom and panicking about all these hairless, pink apes handling her. I snuggled the baby up next to my chest. She kept looking for something to hold on to. I gave her a pinkie. She held onto it with both paws as if it was her only lifeline. I then cooed at her, talking softly. I told her she was safe and her mom would be ok. I rocked back and forth trying to soothe this poor, frightened baby. She was calling for her mom pretty loud and as we walked and talked, her cries lessened and softened. Finally, the poor thing fell asleep in three of my fingers, still gripping my pinkie. The other people around me stopped because the baby's cries had stopped. They all turned to me expecting the baby to have died and found her sleeping soundly cuddled in my hand. Awe and amazement came over everyone. All I could say was "I'm good at putting babies to sleep, no matter what the species."
It was time for the annual exams of the Western Diamond Back Rattlesnakes. I was beside myself with joy. How often do you get to be involved in dealing with a deadly animal? Ok, in my world, it was fairly often.. So, we all head down to the reptile house and I was given very specific instructions that I was to keep calm and not get overly excited. I tried my best. The vet and two reptile keepers went into the room and locked it, despite my begging to be in the room as they caught up the snakes. These snakes were about 8 lbs and 6 feet long approximately. There was a male and female, the female being the bigger of the two. In order to safely handle the snakes, the keepers would have them slither up a clear plastic tube about half way up the animal's body, then they would hold them in place so they couldn't bite or get away. I literally danced outside as they caught up one snake at a time. The moment arrived and I was allowed into the room. There was this huge snake inside this tube staring me down. It was awesome! I was given the opportunity to exam the "non-lethal" end. It was the female that I examined. She was soft on the underside and rough and bumpy on top. She was pissed that I was touching her. She was bristling with indignation. I went to draw blood off her. She flipped and tried to get out of the grasp of the keeper. She looked at me, opened her mouth and spit venom in my direction. You could see this clear, viscous fluid running down the tube. Man, she was angry! I didn't back down. I calmly collected the blood from her, gave her another pet and handed her back. Luckily, she had already peed on the keeper when he caught her up, so I was spared that happiness. Snake "musk" doesn't come out of your clothes or off your skin. It's a very nasty smell. It was an amazing moment for me. The feeling of holding a predator in your hands in indescribable. It gives you pause. We all survived the day though that snake always watched me closely whenever I came around.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
It was morning on a warm summers day. I was rather nervous because it was going to be my first day working with macaws. These particular macaws were a mated pair and buggers. They knew full well that their nasty beaks could snap a finger off. I think someone accidentally told them, which is sad. So due to this knowledge they had, it was rather difficult to catch them up. Several of us were waiting with baited breath while the one keeper in the zoo who could catch them without losing a finger arrived. The macaws were housed in the old cat house at the time. I was sitting along the observation window to the outside enclosure for the tigers. A couple of the cat keepers were there with me to learn how to catch these wicked birds. Well, being morning, one of the female tigers was released into the yard so her enclosure could be cleaned properly without fear of being eaten. She entered the yard and saw me sitting with my back to the window. She crouched immediately. Her prey was in sight. Stealthy and sly she crept forward, making herself as invisible as possible. I had seen her out of the corner of my eye and knew the game was afoot. I stayed perfectly still waiting for my opportunity. She wiggled and pounced hitting the glass pretty darn hard. I saw her leap and jumped up myself hitting the glass at the same time she did. And now it was my turn. I crouched down low and stalked the waiting tiger. I wiggled and pounced and as before she hit the glass at the same time that I did. This time she stayed on her hind legs digging at the glass with her front paws. I put my hands where her front paws were and tried to make the glass disappear. No luck, so she ran around the enclosure and got into position. Again, crouching, stalking and wiggling from both of us. And again, pounce! Much digging again and this time she dropped to all fours and cheeked rubbed my hands. I was trying so desperately to make that horrible glass go away! She head butted the glass a few times, as did I and was called away for breakfast. I then realized that there were about half a dozen people staring at me, gaping. One of the cat keepers looked at me and said "I have never seen her play like that with anyone. That was the coolest thing I think I have ever witnessed."
Saturday, January 15, 2011
One day this very small, very cute teacup Pomeranian came in. He was about 2 lbs, white and the sweetest pup I had ever met. He was very excited about being alive and because of his excitement, he was under foot a lot. Well, being so small and under foot, he accidentally got stepped on. His poor paw was broken. Off to surgery he went. The bone was so tiny that the doctor ended up having to use a 25 gauge needle to pin the bone together. (It's a very small needle..) So, after surgery the paw was bandaged in a cast like wrap and held until he woke up. He was too cute to put down. All was well! He went home to heal later that day. He came back several times to have the wrap changed, check on the progress of the healing and just making sure everything was ok. Also, we were so in love with this little cherub that we wanted to see him and snuggle him. Every time this brave, sweet pup would come in, he would wag his tail, give kisses and was just so excited to see everyone. When all the happy parts were taken care of, he knew the hurting parts would commence. He would then hide his head into his owners chest and stick out the affected paw. Right about now, we would all melt. He would keep his head buried as we unwrapped the paw and examined the wound. Poor thing! He was so brave! After we poked at it for a bit, he would lift his head and we would say "All done!" The happiness would then begin a new! Kisses for everyone and lots of wiggling and tail wagging. I think many of us swore we were going to kidnap that beautiful pup.
Thursday, January 13, 2011
So without failure, I would get a call on Sunday at 3pm, half an hour before I was to go home. Sunday's I worked by myself in the hospital. So sure enough, 3 pm shows up and the phone rings. "Please come see the male giraffe." That's all I got. I asked why. "Because.. he is bleeding, uh... from uh, his.. just come see ok?". Ok. So I head to the giraffe house. I get there and there is a large crowd of people in the building. Now I'm really curious. I fight my way to the front of the crowd of about 50 or so people and there is my male giraffe pacing the floor. I see big puddles of a watery blood all over the floor. Naturally I am alarmed! I finally get the keeper's attention and ask what happened. Here is what happened. The female alpha giraffe was in heat and the male, who is younger and not as tall as her, got excited about the prospects and went for it. The keeper then says "I think he broke his.. you know what." What?! At that moment a large gush of blood comes out of that area. So I examine the area as best I can with a crowd of people recording the entire thing, a giraffe pacing frantically and me not being able to get real near the animal. I then get a tap on the shoulder. A very attentive woman says to me "Do you realize he is hurt and bleeding?" I had been there studying his winky for a good 5 minutes at this point. "Yes, I am aware", was all I could say to her. So, I call the doctor, explain the situation and ask what do I do? She says she will be there in 10 minutes. After I get off the phone with her, the effected appendage decides to make an appearance. It looks broken. It is curled back on itself. I look at the keeper in astonishment and ask "Is this normal?". He says he doesn't know. Great! How are we going to split a broken.. you know what? I also notice a bloody spot on the females rump about 4 inches shy of where he should have been. Ahh! Now this all makes sense. He broke it trying to do what all male giraffes want to do more than anything else. Poor thing! The doctor arrives. She sees the 'situation' and says to me "How are we going to splint that thing?" My thoughts exactly. After clearing the building, calming the animals and doing some research, we discovered that that particular flavor of giraffe have a fold and stow feature for the males. It curls back on itself for easier storage! Yay! It wasn't broke just rubbed raw. Poor kid was sore for several days and later we found out he did hit his target because a beautiful baby boy was born about 18 months later!
I worked at a small animal clinic for a while. We had a gentleman that would bring in his German Shepard / Rottweiler mix for all his medical needs. He refused to neuter the dog though. We would discuss the pros and cons to neutering the animal to no avail. This went on for years. Finally one day someone asked why he wouldn't neuter the dog. We usually get the response that the people are afraid that the dog's masculinity will be removed or that it will change the dog's personality. Not this time. His response was, "My dog is very valuable. He is part German Shepard and part Rottweiler. He can father both purebred German Shepard and purebred Rottweiler puppies. Why would I neuter a dog that could make me so much money?" Nobody had much to say to that.
One of the weirdest days I had at the zoo involved an infestation of bird lice and chickens. It was a rather warm summer and we had a nest of small birds in the doorway to the hospital. I got there first and was greeted by a shower of bird lice. I was covered! They were in my hair, clothes, shoes.. it was intensely gross. It was decided that all the birds needed to be dusted for the bird lice. Now, the dust you use is the same that is used to de-bug flowers. Random but true. So, after I showered and changed clothes at work, we started a major round up of birds. We started with the jungle fowl or chickens as they are known to the every day person. One chicken in particular was rather amusing. His name was Hank and he hated the identity band on his leg. He walked and ran, as if something was on his leg, which there was. He never got use to the feeling of the band on his poor little leg. So, I am chasing after a limping chicken trying hard not to laugh. I didn't succeed. I ended up falling over laughing because this poor chicken ran with a giddy-up! It was hysterical! So, we finally got all the chickens caught up minus Hank, and started the dusting. The humans would suit up in disposable surgical gowns, choose a chicken, write down all its information, weigh it, do a quick exam and hand it over to me and the veterinarian outside. I was already covered in the lice so I was volunteered to be the one to handle the chickens for their dusting. The vet and I are outside covered in lice and pesticide, I have a chicken upside down ready for dust. The vet looks at the bottle that says "Rhododendron Pesticide", then looks at the chicken I have in my hands and says to the chicken "You're a rhododendron, you're a rhododendron!" I lost it again! I burst into laughter almost dropping the "rhododendron". The vet looks at me like I have lost my mind and asks what is so funny. I couldn't tell her I was laughing so hard. She finally understood what she was doing and started to laugh also. We laughed so hard it attracted the attention of the people inside the hospital, which of course made the situation that much funnier, cause how do you explain that a chicken is a rhododendron?