Keeping animals brings joy. Like being treated to one of Teri’s aerial displays…
…. or watching the chickens gossiping like old women …
… and witnessing trophallaxis between honey bees
(don’t be smutty, it’s the posh word for food sharing).
But with joy comes the triple whammy of helplessness, guilt and frustration. Helplessness because you want to help but don’t know how. Guilt because you wonder if it was all your fault in the first place. Frustration because saying “I’m trying to help” and “this will make you feel better” mean “blah blah blah” to the sick animal who has one eye on its escape route and the other on the loaded hypodermic needle in your hand.
Once upon a time you would have found the likes of Elvis Presley, Rhett Butler, Mr Darcy and John Cusack sipping champagne at my fantasy dinner party. Now I’m thinking of ditching John Cusack in favour of Dr Dolittle and shoving Mr Darcy out of his chair to make way for James Herriot. Dr Dolittle could teach me how to whisper words of comfort in an assortment of animal languages (well I’m learning Welsh so how much more difficult can piggish and chook-speak be). Mr Herriot could teach me all I need to know about animal anatomy, be on hand for all the tricky bits, but in return for fabulous cooking at each fantasy dinner he’ll never charge me a penny for his veterinary services. In fact, while we’re on the subject, goodbye Rhett Butler and hello Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - if all hell breaks loose and Dolittle and Herriot mess it up, the cooking tips may come in handy. Naturally Elvis retains his place at the fantasy dinner table. Afterall, someone’s got to keep my champagne glass topped up and entertain the diners as they exchange hilarious animal husbandry anecdotes.
So why the tales of woe? The bible tells us that when Noah stocked his ark, the animals came in two-by-two. What the bible didn’t go on to explain was that when the animals on the ark fell sick it wasn’t a case of two-by-two, but one after the other in quick succession. It started with a cat(and now I find myself humming the tune for Hot Chocolate’s “It Started with a kiss”!). As Charlie lacked the opposable thumb and technical savvy to check his symptoms online, I played hypochondriac by proxy. It didn’t take long to diagnose him as being on the cusp of multiple organ failure and generally knock, knock, knocking on death’s door. Cue sharp intake of breath, hand wringing, heart ache. The vet only had to say “so what seems to be the problem” for the dam to break. Rendered incapable of speech due to tears and unable to mime “he’s puking his guts up all over the stairs, please save him or I’ll never forgive you and will curse all vets ‘til kingdom come”, Dave had to come to my rescue. One neck shave, one blood test, one thryoid test, 3 injections, many pouches of dirty cat comfort food and £130 later, he’s right as rain, thinner but just as lazy. Diagnosis – poisoning.
Exactly one week later I’m stood at a sink gently massaging the abdomen and applying Vaseline to the vent of a chicken who’s standing in a bowl of warn water quietly clucking to herself. Within the hour I’m back at the vet, but with a chicken instead of a cat in my cage. One abdomen syringing (nasty, really nasty, seriously nasty), 10 traumatic days of antibiotic injections and £22 later, she’s still alive and has laid the sum total of one small funny shaped egg. Diagnosis – egg bound infected abdomen.
Two weeks later, my heart sinks as I hear the words “Fatty’s limping”. Lo and behold, within 48 hours I’m welly deep in mud watching Dave attempt to pin down 20 kilos of angry, squealing, limping pig. Don’t try this at home, kids. Believe me, not one of us is enjoying the daily bum injection. Diagnosis – God only knows, but please, please, please let it not happen again.
So what next? Well, I lost a honey bee colony. And I’m pretty sure I saw the dog limping yesterday. Is that sheep just resting?