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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.


The period of late November to mid February is like the doldrums for many a large animal practice. Days will go by with an appointment for horse vaccinations here, a call for goat hoof trimming there, and the occasional emergency laceration sprinkled in for good measure.

To put it another way, I was able to complete my Christmas shopping at the mall one slow afternoon in December and take a nap in my truck at the 7-11 the following day. A few weeks later I commented to my boss that after a day of five appointments, I was stressed out, to which she replied, "That’s because you haven’t worked a full day in months!" Touché.

When things are quiet, my mind tends to wander. I do crazy things like decide it’s a good idea to purchase a pink flamingo and set it in my front yard, or mistakenly think I’m artsy and begin a project that, in my head, I’m sure will turn out like the Sistine Chapel, but then, in reality, looks like a smashed Faberge egg. Luckily, my husband looks the other way, knowing this phase will pass as the weather warms up.

I should use this quiet time to review old notes, explore new diagnostic aids, practice my suturing skills, polish my calf jack (a large metal contraption used to help pull big, stubborn, and usually backward calves into the world), and throw out any expired medications that are floating around in the back of my truck. Instead, I catch up on sleep, write thank-you letters to clients who gave me Christmas presents (a perk of large animal practice in an area of the country that has alpacas is alpaca socks — the warmest, most comfy socks you will even put your feet into), contemplate the varieties of coffee available at the local gas stations, and read books.

This time of the year is like the calm before the storm. Mid-February is the beginning of lambing season, and by March and April we are suddenly in full swing, as the babies of all species are hitting the ground fast and furious.

With the glorious come-back of warmth, sunshine, and leaves on the trees comes late night calving emergencies, lame horses because they ate too much lush grass, and lambs too weak to nurse. And suddenly, my ship (or rather, blue and white Ford F-250) is out of the doldrums and into a tempest, one that lasts until, oh, sometime in late summer.

So I suppose it is with half anticipation and half trepidation that I peak my head out of my warm, cozy truck, 7-11 coffee in hand, and ask, "Is it spring yet?"

Dr. Anna O'Brien

Image: Eric Gevaert / via Shutterstock

Comments  7

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  • Feast or Famine
    02/10/2012 07:25am

    I have yet to find a job that had a nice, steady workload.

    However, when the lambing season begins, it's very possible you'll have to drive through a snowstorm multiple times a day to arrive at an appointment.

    At least I only have to fight my way to and from work once (I'm a geek by trade) a day when that happens.

  • 02/14/2012 05:04pm

    The title of your message says it all: Feast or famine! Not much snow yet.... although I may have just jinxed myself....!

  • Donkeys mmmmm
    02/14/2012 11:33am

    yea man, bring spring,please.

    I love Llamas. I also always wanted to own a donkey. I hear they are half dog or at least act like it. A friend in Arizona adopted an old donkey. Now the donkey sleeps in their sun room and if someone is not in there with him he brays and brays. So they now have to let the dogs sleep with him in the sun room. He even has a mattress in there. He does have his own barn but this donkey does not like to be along. In the daytime he comes into the sun room and they all watch TV, the donkey doesn't watch TV of course: he just lays on his mattress. If you ever have a chance I would love to hear your take on donkeys. They seem so cool.

  • 02/14/2012 05:08pm

    Ah yes - donkeys. Always interesting to work with! They all have such remarkable personalities and smart as all get out. Plus, I think they really just have a great sense of humor. I definitely think I've been laughed at by a donkey or two. I'll try to work in some stories about donkeys in future blogs :)

  • LLamas too please
    02/14/2012 09:32pm

    We went upstate in NY and spent some time in those old 1940's cottages. In the 40's everyone in Manhattan used to go and spend the summers in these cottages, the men would work and stay in town and come up on the weekends.So we spent some time in these referbished cottages.

    Anyway there were these two Llamas there, a male and female. Every time I would go up to the female she would stare at me and start swishing spit and she would start sniffing up some nose snot, like she was going to hawk a loogie at me. If my wife came up to her she was fine, no spit swishing. I know they say Llamas wont spit at you but I swear this one was getting ready to spit at me.

  • 02/17/2012 03:44pm

    Oh yes, there will be tales of llamas and their smaller compatriots, alpacas. We actually see a lot of alpacas in this area. They are funny creatures, for sure. And yes, beware the spit. I've been nailed with a giant, green, slimy alpaca spit ball more times than I'd like to admit. And when it gets in your hair? Let's just say the odor stays with you for the rest of the day. ;)

  • 06/27/2012 02:25am

    Llama spit has an odor? What does it smell like?

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