Gas Abuse; Paw Pain

man and dog

First in a series

Frustrations come with every job. I’ve been lucky. Problems that have risked baldness, you know – tearing out my hair – have been followed by good things. Most pets get well. Bonds are forged with their people. Veterinary medicine is challenging but it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.

A few years into my life as owner of the Adobe Animal Clinic I’d sent Amos, Heidi, and our other staff home on time, most days, but as we got busier they started looking frazzled. So I hired Mike, a high school student, to come in after hours to vacuum and mop. He did OK for a month or two.

One morning I arrived to find our gas anesthetic machine on its side with its valve wide open, the reservoir empty. Well, that just wasn’t normal. Who could have done this? Mice from the feed store next door? A cockroach army? Gremlins?

The next evening, I returned to the scene of the crime, rolled to a stop with my lights off, and scurried like a cockroach to our front door. Squatting below the window I peeped over the sill to spy Mike and a couple of other juvenile hooligans laughing and staggering. So I nipped home, called the sheriff (no cell phones then), hustled back, and waited in the shadows.

The deputies disrupted the anesthesia-fueled festivities in rather dramatic fashion. The shame-faced knuckle heads had upended my equipment once again, this time breaking the vaporizer. They were alive and quickly becoming cognizant of their burgeoning police records. I returned home, feeling better and worse.

The next day I met “Little Dog”, recently found on the roadside by a really good guy named Marty, who remains a friend to this day. His new pupster’s injury was obvious. I was struck by the grotesque flattening of his right front paw, which could only have been inflicted by a car tire. While not infected the exposed and desiccated metacarpal bones were surrounded by chronically inflamed skin. Little Dog had been doing a whole lot of licking for at least several weeks. He was tough but he wasn’t happy.

Next week: A winning loss.


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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom ( Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Email pet behavior or physical questions to or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.