How to Bring a Baby to Life Without Killing It First
Being in the midst of baby season here in large animal land, I can’t help but talk about a somewhat amusing OB story that comes to mind involving alpacas. But the lead up is puppies. Let me explain.
I haven’t delivered any puppies since my externship during vet school. That last experience brought seven Golden Retrievers into the world and a lesson from the clinic’s head vet tech on how to revive and stimulate slow newborns — you fling them. Cradle a puppy in the palm of your hand, she said, and head first, fling it between your legs in a downward motion to clear the airways. She demonstrated, flinging the puppy up and down like it was on one of those amusement rides where you’re on a huge ship that swings back and forth as if on the high seas. I was getting sick just watching her.
One word of caution, she mentioned after her demo: hold on tight. Don’t fling so hard that the little thing goes flying between your legs and through the door into the hall. That might be bad for business. But, apparently, puppies are hardy little turd-like creatures and, if necessary, they do bounce (I’m kidding!!!).
Spring forward a few years after graduation when I was out on my own. I was assisting in a particularly challenging delivery of a cria, which is a baby alpaca. With the cria twisted around and the mother not dilated to her full potential, I wasn’t sure the baby was alive as I felt no movement during my manipulations. Telling the owner as such, I worked silently to deliver the baby, not feeling hopeful.
When I finally pulled the cria out and laid it on the floor to feel for a heartbeat, the owner pointed: It’s breathing! Sure enough, it was. So, doing as I had been instructed just a handful of years ago, I took this cria and starting flinging. I flung and I flung to help the mucus and birthing fluids exit its nasal cavities and I continued to fling (which, I must remind you, doesn’t look very professional through a client’s eyes) until about the seventh time when — thunk! — the cria’s head touched the floor. Ohhh! The owner yelped. Oops! I said.
OK, please believe me when I say it didn’t hit THAT hard. It just SOUNDED bad. Needless to say, that was the end of the flinging.
After that, I laid the cria on some straw, wiped it clean and watched as it lifted its (quite undamaged) head and then its sternum off the ground. Tangled in its own legs, it took quite a while to stand, but the vet-induced concussion didn’t seem to set it back any and soon things were looking quite good.
At least I didn’t fling it into the next stall, or the aisle, or the next county. You never realize how hard you are flinging something until it hits the ground.
Words to practice by, I suppose.
Dr. Anna O’Brien
Image: Manamana / Shutterstock