Last night several animals were brought in (every day many animals come to the hospital via ferry), one of which was a stork that had collided with some electric lines. The accident sheared off a wing, paralyzed part of its body, and amputated the bottom portion of one of its legs. The bird flailed around the emergency room floor, terrified and clearly in pain. The remaining part of its amputated leg quivered as though electricity still coursed through its body. I felt terrible for this poor bird and sat with it for a long time—stroking its body and its long, graceful neck—trying to bring it some sort of comfort, even if only a little. It calmed down considerably under my touch, which made me feel gratified that I could help in some small way. Still, the bird died in the night—its injuries were just too grave.
Not all terribly-injured animals die, however. I wonder about those animals that survive despite the fact that they are missing vital parts of their bodies. How can they survive in the wild? Though I appreciate the hospital’s efforts to save every animal (their philosophy seems to be ‘attempt to save all, then let nature take its course’), I can’t help but question the wisdom in this philosophy when that means animals that can no longer survive in the wild are now doomed to a life in captivity. Is this a better quality of life? Is it better than a humane death?
Speaking of death, I recently performed my very first necropsy, which is an autopsy for animals. I am not sure if it can truly be called a ‘necropsy’ when the purpose is purely for practice and less to determine cause of death, but I did it nonetheless. The results of my attempt were inconclusive—the bird had been dead too long to perform a decent investigation (ideally, necropsies should be performed within two days of death—any longer and the vital organs decompose to a point where they become too soft to detect anything properly). I realize I have little need to know how to do a necropsy in my profession, but I was eager for the experience, anyway. Besides, as I’ve said before, a person in my position can stand to beef-up her skills ; )
Today, because I was in a hurry to clean some cages and in a very irritable mood due to a bite from one of our red foxes (no worries…it was a shallow bite and the foxes don’t have rabies), I neglected to pay proper attention to Sheldon, my newfound love, who was peeping away madly in want of my affections. Later, when I finally had a moment to spend some time with the little duck, I was surprised to see it turn its head away from me. Sure, maybe it was just tired, but if I didn’t know any better, I would say that he was punishing me for ignoring his previous requests. The attitude went on for a good part of the afternoon until Sheldon finally either forgot my earlier indiscretion or decided that ignoring me was too great a sacrifice when it meant losing the desired attention. I have to admit that I grow fonder of that bird every day and find myself wondering—only half in jest—how I could smuggle him through customs. If he just didn’t make so many of those cute peeping sounds, maybe it could be done. A duck living in a condo in the middle of downtown Portland doesn’t seem that odd, does it? Okay, maybe just a smidge. But I’ve seen some designer dogs in my neighborhood that are far less cute.