You Don't Have to Tip the Vet... But There Are Exceptions
After a recent visit to a local coffee house (okay, one of many regular, habitual visits), I was reminded by the tip jar on the counter of something that happened to me one spring. On this particular call, I assisted during an extremely tough goat delivery. The medical term for this obstetric problem is fetal-dam disparity, which simply means that the kid was too big and the doe was too small.
Although the front feet were coming out normally, the kid’s head was back and twisted to the side such that when I pulled on the legs, the nose would slide under the pelvis instead of through it. I worked for almost an hour trying to rotate the kid and get the head lined up with the front legs through the pelvic canal, to no avail. Finally I was able to slide some baling twine around the head, and with gentle but firm traction, kept the head and legs in alignment and pulled the kid out.
Given the amount of time it took to deliver the kid, chances were low that it was still alive, but as I laid it on the ground, I felt a weak heartbeat. However, the baby wasn’t breathing. Having worked way too hard to deliver this kid, I wasn’t about to let it die in my arms. So, after rubbing it vigorously, swinging it upside-down to encourage fluid to drain from its lungs, sticking straw in its nose to stimulate sneezing, administering doxapram (a respiratory stimulant sometimes used in neonates), and still getting no response, with dull, hazy eyes staring back at me, I performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Slowly, after some breaths through its wet and slimy nose and short, quick pumps on its thin and narrow chest, the kid took some labored, open-mouthed gulps for air. After a few more minutes of stimulation, the kid was taking more regular breaths and as I was putting things back in my truck, I could hear the kid vocalizing for its mother; it was going to live.
After the owner paid his bill and I was starting to pull down his driveway to head to my next appointment, he handed me a twenty-dollar bill. Confused, since he had just paid his bill in full, I pushed it back at him, but he insisted it was for me.
“Oh, I can’t accept this, sir,” I said, trying to hand him back the money. The owner was persistent, reaching his arm into the driver’s side window.
“No, take it,” he said. “You’re the first person I’ve ever seen do mouth-to-mouth on an animal.”
Every once in a while an owner has attempted to tip me, but until this point I had been able to politely decline. I mean, this is my job. This is what I do. I am touched by an owner’s gratitude, but I always try to decline. However, given that I sometimes receive jars of pickled fish as a thank you, perhaps cold, hard cash is the more desirable of the potential benefits.
Dr. Anna O'Brien
Image: Lee O'Dell / Shutterstock