Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Rising Of The Light

Author's note: I actually did write this on the Solstice, but Blogger had a fight with my browser and they weren't speaking to each other. Fortunately they've made up now. Happy Solstice, everyone, and happy birthday, Dad. Stay warm out there as the year turns back toward the light.

Solstice again.

It's been a weird winter. October was warm - almost fall-like, with mild temperatures and minimal snow. November was ghastly cold - more like January than November. We had snow - plenty of it - but it remained so cold that it never packed down. It was loose and dry, squeaking under my boots, fluffing at a kick.

December has been like March. It's been up and down temperatures - snowing one day, raining the next - and three Sundays in a row it has spiked up warm and poured down rain and snow both - sometimes both together, snowflakes and raindrops rattling together against my windshield and my windows. We've had thaws galore; the upside - if it thaws enough - is that if there's only a little ice on your driveway, it will soon be either so rutted that your traction is excellent, or it will be gone entirely. The down side is that if you have thick ice, or a few inches of snow, the rain and warmth will melt it into something so slick you're risking life and limb to walk or drive on it.

Oh, well. It  is Alaska, after all. But this is very weird weather for December.
Last night - -well, or this morning, really - I was called in around 1 a.m. I told the client I could be  at the clinic in about twenty to thirty minutes. As it turned out, this was wildly optimistic.

It was snowing when I went outside: Wet, dense, heavy flakes. I had about 3 or 4 fresh inches down. No big, I thought as my Border collie went gamboling out into the yard. It's coming down pretty hard, but fresh, damp snow should provide me reasonable traction going down my hill, and it's the wee hours so there won't be much traffic once I hit the road.

I was right about both of those - but it wasn't much help. I hardly made it onto the main drag when I cruised in to an area where the snow was falling much more heavily than at my house.

Driving into heavy snowfall like that makes me feel like I'm in the Millenium Falcon and I'm making the jump to hyperspeed. The snow comes at you in long streaks, like you're driving into a meteor shower. I was on the tailing edge of a migraine, with the attendant visual weirdness, and I found this distracting and vertiginous. In a further 50 yards this was not my biggest problem. By then the more pressing concern was that I was driving into a whiteout. The road was completely hidden in churned snow and the only indicator of whether or not I was in my designated lane was the rumble of the buzz strips bracketing the lane. The problem being, of course, that it was difficult - if not impossible - to tell which buzz strip I was driving on.

I slowed down, of course; pretty soon I was going around 20 mph, peering into the dense white of the falling snow, guessing at the lane, grateful there is no one else on the road. Behind me a pair of headlights has appeared, drawing closer; at this point I was considering getting out of my truck and walking out in front of it in the hope that I might see where the lane was. But the headlights have come near, and it's a semi. I decide instead to keep going, slowly, slowly. I have a client coming in who needs me; if she is braving the roads, I have to do the same.

At long last, after miles of whiteout, the snowfall diminishes to something a little more driveable. I speed up to 35 and make it in to the clinic in one piece. The client is waiting for me. I test, diagnose and treat her little colitis dog, who is wiggling happily (despite her extremely bloody diarrhea) and who spends 30% of her time trying to kiss me. (The dog, I miean, not the owner).The rest of her time is divided evenly between cuddling with her owner and trying to escape the exam room so she can explore the hospital. I release them with medication and warnings to drive carefully.

Hm. Speaking of that... Now it's 2:30 and the snow is now coming down hard in town, as hard as it was on the road headed in. Maybe I'll just crash here for a bit and drive home when I've had some sleep.

As it turns out, sleep isn't on the agenda either. I get a call at 3:30, a dog with a proptosed eye. it's a Boston - a short-faced breed with shallow eye sockets. It's not hard to knock the eye out of such a shallow open socket, but it still needs attention  - and anesthesia, and a procedure - to put it back. The dog already has previously-existing damage to the NON-proptosed eye. I advise the owner that we're now risking the vision on the good eye. They take some time to think it over, but don't call back to bring the dog in.

Around 4 a.m. I fall asleep and doze fitfully til 5:30, at which time I hear my staff coming in. I get up, shower and go upstairs to the main floor of the clinic. Ah, here we go: a Boston with a proptosed eye has come in. I have a look. It's very red and swollen, and the cornea is dull and gummy. The other eye has a cataract. I decide that maybe waiting to reduce the proptosis is a bad idea. My tech (the Divine Miss Em) is willing, so we sedate the Boston and put her on anesthesia.

Reducing the proptosis is as slick and satisfying as it always is. I place some stents and suture the lids together to protect the swollen globe. I try to talk owner into vaccinating the dog - five months old and never immunized, on the grounds that it was too small. The owner - who was apparently a tech a few years ago in another state - was told that a dog could not be vaccinated if it was below six pounds.

Hm. Six pounds, you say? Why six? Why not five or ten - surely rounder numbers? If we're just being arbitrary, why don't we pick one of those? Unless we're picking 6 in an attempt to appear NOT to be arbitrary. I rack my brain for the possible sounrce of this bizarre advice.

Ah, yes. I have it: This is advice from the Secret Breeder Handbook - a book of fallacious "knowledge" that seems to circulate amongst a certain segment of the dog-breeding &/or dog-owning population. The information in the Secret Breeder Handbook is incorrect, but it bears such a weight of authority in the minds of those who swear by it that all my education and experience are for naught: I and my best advice - no matter how assiduously supported by objective testing, logic and evidence -will be ignored in favor of the dogma [so to speak] contained in the hallowed pages of the Secret Breeder Handbook.

Sigh. I'm really too tired for this this morning. I need more coffee if I'm going to take this on.

I spend a few minutes explaining the biology of vaccines and the AAHA and AVMA recommendations (and the reasoning thereof) for puppy vaccines. I do not mention that unless the owner was a tech in another Universe, not just another state, the mysterious 6-pound cutoff is something entierly made-up and unsupported by any biological reality. Luckily the owner is willing to be educated and we do in fact vaccinate her puppy - which I hope sincerely we've done soon enough that I don't see her back next week with her cataract, her sutured-shut eyelid AND a raging case of parvo.

So now I am updating the blog while I wait for rush hour (and possibly the worst of the snowstorm) to be over. I can handle tired and I can handle rush hour and I can handle snow; I'd just rather not handle them all at the same time. I intend to go home, snuggle in with some dogs, and sleep. Maybe for a long time. A week, even. By then the light will be rising a little - not much, but maybe enough that I'll feel restless and wakey - instead of that drowsy, deep-winter hibernatory feeling I have right now.

So how did you spend your Solstice?


MaskedMan said...

Ah, yes... the 'secret breeder knowledge.'

There're reasons that one of my two favorite breeds requires a multiple-years-long supervised internship and successfully-completed course of study before you're allowed to breed on your own recognizance; rooting out 'secret knowledge' is one of the more important reasons.

Your drive in reminds me of some of my trips down I-5 in the Florida panhandle; rain coming so hard you can't see the road surface even if you were to open the door and look down. The end of the hood of your car? That's a distant memory. And yet, tractor-trailers are barreling down the road as if it were a clear and sunny day.
:: shudder ::

Glad you chose the better part of valor.

Holly said...

welcome back!

6 pounds huh? Nice round arbitrary number.

so that means Min Pins don't get vax as puppies? Or Yorkies? Or any of the other toy breeds that are hardly larger than that at maturity?

*closes eyes and shakes head*

love those who make me look smarter.

Dragon43 said...

I spent it wondering why it is not more noticeable, mean more to me and why, sitting in comfort on my front porch with my neighbor gabbing that I'm thinking of it at all.

I love that kind of snow if I have a rope into the trees to follow and no where I need to go.

I would not be that patient with a client ( human ) that got me up & out at that time in those conditions......

Other than that, how was the play?

Corrie said...

I spent mine at work, then walking along the Eagle River in the dark with a good friend and our four dogs. It was fabulous and way less exciting than yours. I hope things have been mellower for you since!

Dragon43 said...

Did I not post one earlier?
Well, I like this one.

Can'tSpell, DVM said...

BTW I sent you some blog publicity...

Queen Holly the Magnificent said...

Hey, um, I nominated/gave you a Liebster blog award! Yes it's a real thing. No, I am not a spam bot. I have internal organs and everything. I (kinda) explain everything here: Basically it's a pass-it-along award.

Jenn said...

The dog is five months old and already has a cataract? Ouch.