Media – Hyperbole? Or “Did that really happen?”


Back in the day, before the advent of computers, I was writing notes in a medical record when Martha, our unflappable receptionist, appeared at my side. “A lady on the phone says the dog next door has torn off her heeler’s leg. What should I tell her?” Really? In the space of one second, my mind darted from: when frightened by sudden events people exaggerate often minor injuries to: could that have actually happened? And so I replied, “Tell her to bring that dog right in”. How-ever severe the problem truly was, it would need our help.

While waiting for the injured dog to arrive I finished my records as my mind recalled hyperboles of past pet parent panic. “There was blood everywhere” and “He vomited all over me”. Surely, I hoped, this wouldn’t delay dinner. Then Martha burst back into the treatment room. Her wide-eyed expression said it all.

I headed for the reception room double time. Standing with a leash in one hand and the complete right front leg of a blue heeler in the other, was a mother of two nearby youngsters. At the end of the leash stood a rather unconcerned 3 -legged blue heeler.

As I scooped that pupster up and hustled him into the treatment room I gave orders for IV catheter, fluids, and rapid acting corticosteroids. While Bruce, our competent but sometimes headstrong veterinary assistant, gently held our patient I completed an efficient exam. The dog’s front leg had been literally ripped-off. Not even the shoulder blade remained, only torn nerves, muscles, and arteries – temporarily spasmed shut. The dog showed no clear signs of shock – yet. It was remarkable.

Emergency medications were flowing fast. Anesthesia was started and the “amputation site” was prepped and sterilized. As we hurried this lucky-unlucky dog into surgery I realized I hadn’t said a word to his family. While quickly scrubbing I summoned Martha for a quick word. “Please inform these folks that their dog’s situation is tenuous but ‘So far, so good’. I’ll share updates as we go.”

Next week: Recovery and “What happened?”

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Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.