Initially, I was overwhelmed by the warm softness of it all. Even through two gloves, I was keenly aware of just how squishy everything felt. Blindly moving my fingers through the warmth and the squish, I felt lost. Everything was so dark.
I was in past to my wrist in my first bovine rectal exam, a landmark for my veterinary career and my eyes were tightly shut.
“OPEN YOUR EYES, DUMB-DUMB!” screamed the logical voice of my cerebrum.
I blinked and stared in disbelief. I was doing it! My full hand past my wrist was inside the rectum of a black and white Holstein Frieisan dairy cow. I started moving my cupped hand as we had been instructed to clear out the rectum. The softness, sight and smell of it all was initially overwhelming. I began to fixate on the exact point where my hand disappeared and the textures and the odors and….and I retched.
Always vigilant, my cerebrum chimed in again, “You are NOT allowed to vomit during a rectal exam. Ever.”
Panic stricken about the “dry heave heard ’round the world,” I looked to my left and my right at my classmates who appeared to be finding success inside their cows, or at least having more success clearing out their cows. Then, almost as if she could tell I was losing my focus, my cow began to push me out. She was gentle, but very firm in this endeavor and I started to lose control.
I whispered to Jersey Fresh, trying to hide my hysteria as more warmth and squish crept up along the underside of my arm, “Ummm I think she needs to, you know, poo? I can feel her pushing me out. Should I just take my hand out and let her go, you know to clear everything out?” Jersey said no, she told me to keep my hand in, that I was just stimulating the cow. But it was too late, all the pushing and motion got the best of me. I pulled my hand out and waited for my cow to clear her own rectum. Which didn’t happen. Actually, the only thing that happened was I immediately got fussed at for pulling my hand out. Terrible form on my part as I would be introducing more air into the cow when I put my hand back in. I nodded solemnly and told the instructor I wouldn’t remove my hand again….ever.
Pulling myself together, I re-entered with conviction and false confidence, my eyes wide open, my teeth gritted and my mouth closed tightly (just in case she attempted that rectal emptying tactic again…).
Deciding the rectum was clear enough, I shifted my focus to feeling around for anatomical landmarks rather than wasting any more time playing with poo.
I couldn’t believe just how much room there was for movement! It was easy to get lost in the cavernous space that was a cow and hard to keep focused on the details like, you’re standing right next to a 700 kg cow, watch out she doesn’t step on you! And, for the love of all that is clean and fresh in the world, keep a tight hold on that swinging dung-mat of a tail!
For the first few minutes, I was a bit too enthusiastic and looking for things elbow deep that were actually located within the first few inches of the pelvic cavity, but after a short eternity (for both the cow and me), internal organs started to fall into place. I was very pleased with myself when I found the left kidney, and humbled when the instructor informed me that I was actually palpating a uterine horn folded over on itself. Eh, kidney, uterus, pish posh. They are basically in the same place.
Still, anatomical transgressions aside, peeling the elbow-length gloves down my arm afterwards, I felt like a champion. Too bad I can’t say the same for the cow. She probably felt like she should have kicked me when she had the chance and my eyes were closed.
Before leaving, I scrubbed my hands like a surgeon going into an operation, but as I boarded the bus home, it was clear that a distinct potent odor lingered around me, possibly in my hair. I stood near the doorway and didn’t make eye contact with anyone until the bus approached my stop. Not going to be meeting Prince Charming on the bus today….
Fortunately, I came home to a beagle who is absolutely mad about my new perfume and won’t stop nuzzling my arm.