Won't You Be My Neighbor?
The last place my husband and I lived was a quiet residential community that was sometimes not so quiet, thanks to me. Although the veterinary office where I worked at the time was north of where we lived, we were an ambulatory practice, meaning we traveled to the clients. On occasion they showed up at my doorstep at home. Luckily, I had understanding (and curious) neighbors.
One particular Friday evening in the summer comes to mind as I relate this neighborhood situation. I was backlogged with emergencies and the phone rang twice more: two very sick and weak crias needed to be seen as soon as possible.
Crias are baby alpacas. Delicate at birth, they can deteriorate rapidly if sick and not given urgent care. To expedite matters, I arranged for both owners to meet at my house while I returned from my other emergencies.
When I arrived home, the first owner was already parked in my driveway with a large white van. Setting up our garage like a makeshift MASH unit, I commenced an exam of the listless cria while the owner walked the mother alpaca up and down our driveway, attracting the attention of the neighborhood kids out playing basketball and riding their bikes. “Is that a camel?” “What’s its name?” “What’s wrong with it?” I could hear in the background, as I worked on the cria.
With the first crisis soon averted (some fluids, some bloodwork, some antibiotics), the second alpaca client pulled in. The neighborhood crowd grew slightly larger but kept their distance, with parents now accompanying kids. Stabilizing the second cria, these clients then left and I had a bit of hasty explaining to do for the local residents as I swept straw out of my garage.
About a year after that incident, a midnight phone call resulted in an obstetrical emergency and subsequent delivery of a goat in my garage. With this experience I learned it’s difficult to deliver a goat in any sort of clandestine fashion. This is due to most goats’ very vocal nature. Every time an attempt was made that night to manipulate the fetus for delivery, a BLAHHHHHH!!!! resulted from the doe which reverberated off the walls of my garage, acting as the quintessential echo chamber, spilling into the otherwise peaceful night. The fifteen minutes that followed went something like this:
Me: Shhhh, please be quiet!
Me: SHHHHHH! PLEASE! Someone’s going to call the cops!
Goat: BLAHHH! BLAHHHHHHH!
Finally, a kid was delivered, although sadly already dead. The mother, however, was exhausted but doing well, and was at last quiet. As the owners drove off with the goat in the back seat, I looked around. No sirens were making their way toward my home in response to calls of a domestic disturbance but I did see a bedroom light on with the blinds slightly askew, as if someone was just recently peaking out to see what all the fuss was about. I don’t blame them in the slightest.
Dr. Anna O'Brien
Image: Deft Photography / Shutterstock