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Over the years I've learned how to vaccinate cows, help deliver calves, treat the scours and even give a calf a pinkeye shot in the eyelid.
These are things a farmer has to do. It is impractical--and expensive--to call a veterinarian for every little problem.
I have also occasionally applied my medical expertise to dogs.
Once, as a teen, I took my grandmother's needle and thread and sewed a flap of loose skin back on an old hound dog that had been hit by a car. He got along just fine.
The most prominent doctoring incident of my medical career came when I noticed one day that there was something wrong with my old beagle, Rouser.
I really don't remember which Rouser this was--all my beagles have been named Rouser except when I had two dogs. Then the other was always named Rattler.
Well, that's not exactly true. Once I had a pair, brothers, I called Little Dog and Big Dog. As you might guess, one was bigger than the other.
But back to Old Rouser. I happened to look at his back one day and there was a hole in the skin. Now you don't expect to see a hole in your dog's skin, even if it is a perfectly round one like this hole.
The hole was about the size of a .22-caliber bullet so I thought that perhaps the dog had been shot. The odd part was that the hole was on the top of his back so the angle of the shooter would have had to have been almost straight down.
That didn't make sense unless somebody was shooting at a squirrel in a tree and missed. The bullet could have gone way up in the sky and then fallen back down, hitting Old Rouser in the back. That seemed the only logical explanation.
If that old dog did have
I knew I could do it. I had seen bullets extracted hundreds of times on Western movies. Why, several times I watched guys take bullets out of their own legs with nothing more than a pocket-knife. If they could do it, I could do it.
I got me a strong pair of eyebrow tweezers, dipped them in a bottle of alcohol, grabbed Old Rouser and began the operation.
As I said, I had watched old Doc Adams on "Gunsmoke" probe for bullets more than once so I figured I knew what I was doing.
The funny thing was that there was no wound past the well-healed hole in Old Rouser's skin. I was mystified. Stranger yet was the fact that the dog was holding fairly still for this operation. If there were a bullet down there, my probing would likely have caused him to go wild.
Then I hit something to the left of the hole. It was not hard like a piece of metal but it was firm nonetheless. I grabbed on and started pulling.
At first I thought I might have caught a piece of fat or a stray intestine but Rouser had no fat and intestines usually don't come out of a dog's back--even if there's a bullet hole.
As I pulled harder--Rouser was really squirming by this point--something started coming through the hole. It was dark and it was moving.
Then I realized what I had. It was one of those parasites known as "woolies" or "wolves." They are the larvae of the Bott fly and I had seen many of them under the skin of squirrels over the years.
The flies lay their eggs on the legs or feet of their hosts. Then, through licking, the eggs are ingested and travel through the animal's system and finally take up residence under the skin, usually on the back/neck region. Here they make a small hole in the skin--to breathe, I suppose.
I had never seen one on a dog before nor have I seen one on a pooch since.
After extracting the larva, the hole on Old Rouser's back closed and he was fine.
I thought about writing this column after a friend had a sty-like spot on her eye. It looked like she might have had an ingrown hair so, always trying to be helpful, I suggested getting my tweezers and performing the appropriate procedure.
"Don't worry. I've had experience in these matters," I said, relating the dog story.
Needless to say, that was the end of that conversation. My friend may not have been willing, but 20 years ago Old Rouser appreciated my medical expertise.