The joys of hands on veterinary lab work

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The joys of hands on veterinary lab work

Life can sometimes get a little too real in veterinary school.
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Feb 01, 2014


(ILLUSTRATION BY MATT COLLINS; PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/DRBIMAGES)
Labs—the scheduled classes in veterinary school where they taught us to do the real-life stuff. We all liked labs because it got us out of the classroom for a while and reminded us of why we came to vet school in the first place.

We had all kinds of labs. We learned how to float teeth on horses, how to put intravenous catheters in dogs, how to palpate cows and on one particular day ... I had a lab I'll never forget.

I entered the basement of the vet school with my lab partner and best friend John Horn. For some reason this day we were a bit late. We always read our lab the prior day to be ready for it, but for some reason we had not done that this day either.

When I rounded the corner and entered the room, I could not believe my eyes. At first I was dumbfounded. Then I began to giggle. And, finally, I was mortified. This was a lab for collecting semen from a male dog. I had done this in bulls and stallions, but never even thought about it in a dog.

So at first I was dumbfounded. I had known the people in my class for two and half years. There were 128 of us, and after spending up to 50 hours a week together for that long, you knew everything about everyone. You may wonder why dumbfounded would be my initial reaction? Well, it seems that the only way to get semen out of a dog is the old-fashioned way, which is to say ... by hand. Here I was, entering a room with my buddy John, only to find a table full of girls from my class who I had known for two and a half years, doing that to a dog.

That led to my second emotional reaction: I began to giggle. To see the very prim and proper vet students doing that to a dog just hit me funny. I felt my face turning red just at the sight of our fellow students trying to get a 25-pound mutt to give them a semen sample so they could evaluate it under the microscope setup.

Now I realize that we are in professional school and things like this shouldn't be funny. And I didn't want to laugh too loud, so I was suppressing my laughter, which led to an occasional small outburst of giggles.

But the fun wasn't over. My glance moved to the next table, past the door, only to find four redneck-type fellas engaged in the same thing.

There was definitely a different look on these faces. One guy was taking the lead and the other three stood red-faced and disgusted. They were wearing rubber gloves and palpation sleeves and had their sunglasses on as if no one would recognize them. My pal Horn was laughing out loud now, and this opened the door for me to let go and laugh with him. And the dog these guys were working on? He was smiling like no tomorrow.

Remember I told you there were three emotions? Well I suddenly found myself mortified when I realized that I was going to have to do that very same thing. Horn quit laughing about the same time I did.

Snoopy's surprise

A lady entered the lab with an older beagle and handed the leash to me. She informed me that we would be sorry we were late because we got the last dog, Snoopy, a 15-year-old beagle that had been through this lab about 30 times. He had two responsibilities in this world: one was to donate blood, and the other was to participate in this lab. She went on to say that Snoopy liked this responsibility much more than being an occasional blood donor.

As I continued to look around the room for an empty table I noticed that some of my fellow students were already through and reviewing the collected samples. Their dogs were gone, and they were about done and ready to go home. Our dog, on the other hand, looked like he was no adolescent rookie. He was giving John a romantic look and sort of pacing as we walked toward the table.

By now, even though everyone else was through, they weren't leaving. No—they had seen me laugh at them and now it was their turn to get me back. Not only that, but I also have the Romeo of the dog world who knows how to make it last.

I went to work, but this dog was a master. He would almost deliver and then relax over so I would have to start all over again. Everyone in the general area was laughing hysterically, and I was about as embarrassed as I had ever been in my life. I couldn't help but think that if we were anywhere but in veterinary school, we would go to jail for doing this to a dog.

That lab finally came to an end, and I decided that if a client ever needed a semen evaluation on their dog, they were just gonna have to do that themselves—because I was absolutely never going to do that again.

Dr. Bo Brock owns Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.