Oh Such Trials and Tribulations

Being a vet student isn’t easy.

Pretty much my home life revolves around this corner of my flat, except, of course, when I decide to play it “fast and loose” and bring my studies to the sofa or….even the bedroom! Ooo la la!

2015-02-12 18.46.37School is going well, but let’s just say there is a reason you haven’t heard much from me lately….there is a lot to learn, but I won’t bore you with a recap of our lectures this year (especially since I’m likely to stand corrected by one of my colleagues who probably has a better head for remembering all these nitty gritty details anyway).

No, this blog post is brought to you by a different type of vet student tribulation, the kind of tribulation that really makes you question if you are in the right place, doing the right thing. The type of tribulation that makes you pause and reconsider your future career plans.

*Tribulation – you keep using that word and I don’t think it means what you think it means…

Dear internet, I’m about to get completely, soul-baring, emotionally gross and unfiltered. I’m going to be honest with you.

I recently called into question my life choices. I recently began to wonder if I am made of the stuff of prolapsed vaginas and abscessed teeth and bloody projectile diarrhoea. I recently had a moment where I doubted. I wondered if I should have pursued that Masters degree in Public Relations after all. I wondered if I was Jimmy Choos and a corner office rather than wellies and mud and blood and amniotic fluids.

All of these doubts and questions rushed into my mind with a vengeance the day the engineer British Gas sent out to repair my boiler looked me in the eyes and said,

“It appears you have a dead mouse behind your fridge.”

My jaw dropped to the floor. Of course, I quickly picked my jaw up off the floor knowing that my kitchen floor was contaminated with decaying rotting dead mouse miasmas.

The engineer flashed his light behind the fridge and sure enough, there it was:2015-02-09 18.13.11Can you see it? Here, I’ll zoom in and make it a bit easier for you:

2015-02-09 18.13.11I thanked the engineer and apologised for having a decaying rodent in my place of food preparation! So humiliating! As if he would call the appropriate authorities and have me shut down for baking all those cookies in a dead-rodent infested venue! Le ugh.

I had just scrubbed out the cat litter box and washed the sheets on the sofa. I hadn’t noticed the smell of death permeating my kitchen per se, but I had blamed Huck for worse than normal flatulence and bleached every inch of my bathroom to make sure that there wasn’t any stinky mould growing in it, so maybe I had smelled it and not realised it?

The engineer gave me a non-judgy nod, packed up his things and said he would be back in 3 days with some replacement hoses for the boiler.

Great. I had 3 days to get rid of the decaying vermin. That gave me a deadline. If the mouse was still there in 3 days the engineer would know that I am truly, incurably gross.

I immediately told my friends about my situation, secretly hoping someone would just come over and take care of it for me. No one really jumped at the opportunity.

The rest of the day passed with me fully denying I had a problem. I ordered take out Indian food and poured myself a glass of wine.

Day 1 brought more anxiety and some judgement from the friends who now knew I was avoiding cleaning up a dead rodent. You seriously haven’t cleaned that up yet?

Day 2, my last day before the engineer returned. I debated slipping him a tenner and asking him just to go a little above and beyond the call of duty in the name of chivalry.

No. I had to do it. I had to put on my big girl panties, rubber gloves, some Chanel perfume, a silk French scarf and clean up this mess. I called my old uni roommate for emotional support and to be a witness if my worst fears came true and the dead mouse reanimated into a zombie mouse that bit me and made me into a brain-eating-zombie too.

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Coming up with a game plan wasn’t easy. I had a plastic bag, paper towels and latex gloves at the ready. I considered trying to scoop the mouse out with a wooden spoon, but I didn’t want to have to throw my wooden spoon away. I pulled out a set of disposable chopsticks and considered grabbing him like a little sushi roll, but Rachel wisely reminded me that upon even the most gentle touch with a chop stick, the dead mouse might just dissolve into a puddle of decay. Then, looking again at the chopsticks, she asked me if I’d considered skewering it.

I paused.

No. Absolutely not.

By the time we had discussed all of the options for rodent clean up and removal, the problem had grown 10 fold in size and Rach nearly gagged at the site of the “rat” behind my fridge.

I made several attempts to touch it; losing my nerve each time. Rachel cheered for me and egged me on….errr encouraged me.

Finally, I took a deep breath and told myself it was now or never. I took some paper towel and covered the mouse. Then, with my gloved hand inside the plastic bag, I reached over, scooped around the tiny fury body and pulled. I didn’t get him. He was lodged very securely in place. But, he didn’t dissolve into mouse mush at my touch! The mouse was actually a bit stiff and cold. I reached again, this time tugging harder, with the zen confidence of a yogi, and in one swift motion had him in the garbage can!

He didn’t turn to mouse mush! He wasn’t that decayed! I figured, especially with my boiler not firing on all cylinders this winter, it just wasn’t warm enough in my flat for the mouse to decompose. He was probably frozen-mummifying like the 9,300 year old bison mummy they found in Siberia.

I was euphoric spraying disinfectant all over my kitchen. Honestly, I probably got a little high off the stuff since I flooded that whole corner with it.

Truly, when I write my memoirs, this will be a turning point in my career. It wasn’t the fact that the mouse was dead – just that it had been dead – that grossed me out. Still, if I couldn’t handle 15 grams of dead  mouse in my kitchen, how could I expect myself to do some of the duties vets are called upon to do (words like dairy cow with a retained placenta suddenly leap into my head…)

School is going great. Sorry I’m so bad at sharing these scenes from my hum drum life. I’ll do better. I have big plans on the horizon. I’m going to pursue greatness and grossness. And I’ll bring you with me. I promise.






Posted in Academia, Animals, Apartment Living, Edinburgh, Vet School | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Cat-mas…

There are +4 cats in my life this Christmas and 0 Men.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to analyze the cats to men ratio and draw conclusions here. Even just reading that sentence again is enough to make me break out into a cold sweat….baby, it’s cold outside

Oh please, oh please, oh please don’t let this be the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

I spent this week cat sitting for friends and splitting my time between two flats (couldn’t take 4 cats in my micro-flat!) Huckleberry was in heaven having so many cat butts to sniff and cat poops to sneak out of the litterbox. He’s actually eaten so much cat poo that he gained a pound or two. Oh, bring him a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer!

And, while the cats are all lovely, I don’t see myself being a multiple cat owner just now. Mostly because I’m not ready to take that giant leap towards official “cat lady status.” Plus, cats play cat games that involve stampeding around the flat like a herd of elephants at 2am. Mama needs her silent night beauty sleep.

But back to the topic of spinsterhood…

It’s looking like a viable option for me right now. I mean, the last three dates I’ve gone on have fallen flatter than an unwanted fruitcake:

Mystery Date 1. Criticized my dog (scoff!), criticized my lack of knowledge about Shakespeare (double scoff!), and generally did his best to make me feel like an idiot. Which really isn’t tough to do, he could have just handed me our Pathology SPOT exam if he wanted to make me feel like a giggling moron. I don’t know why he had to use music to insult my intelligence. I mean, I like music. I listen to music. But, apparently, I don’t know music. Fa la la la la la la.

Mystery Date 2. Didn’t speak English very well. Never really called. Eh, no hard feelings there, Feliz Navidad number 2!

Mystery Date 3. Had a lovely flirty fun time with someone who could only be described as “Erin bait” – 35 yo cute police officer who saves puppies and volunteers in the Coast Guard. Obviously, I was interested! Played it about as cool as I play things and was rather coy in response to his drunken affectionate overtures. Still, was hoping for a call and a follow up date from this one. Until, a few days later when I found out he’d spread some gossip around my local pub, painting the situation in a different light, one that didn’t flatter me at all. Feelings about him turned Ice Queen Cold. And the worst part about it? He’d never actually contacted me, so he didn’t know that I hated him with the fire of 1,000 suns and was not speaking to him!

That is, until our paths crossed last week.

I made it pretty clear I wasn’t interested in talking to 3 by not talking to him (I’m a keep things simple kinda girl). I also shot him a death-ray glare that actually seemed to frighten him. He’s just lucky I’d had a week to simmer and cool down or I might have talked to him and I can’t imagine that being very pretty.

Still, hostility isn’t a cloak I don often or for long. It’s uncomfortable.

I saw 3 on my street again this afternoon. I walked past without saying a word. Then, overcome by Christmas Spirit and feeling goodwill toward men, I turned around, walked back to him and wished him a Happy Christmas. He took the opportunity to (sorta) apologize (can’t remember if the words “I’m sorry” actually came out of his mouth?) and give me a thinly veiled cover story in which he was actually the victim of slander. He’s charming alright, but somehow, call me crazy, I don’t believe a word he says. Still, it’s Christmastime! I let him talk, gave him an All-American smile and said, “Yeah, whatever, I really just didn’t want to be a dick on Christmas. So take care and Happy Christmas.” Then, I a-wassailed away among the leaves so green, joyful and triumphant.

Right back to the cats. Who never act like 19 year old frat boys.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?

And let’s face it, cats or no cats, there’s really only one reason why I’m single: I just haven’t met anyone as interesting as I am. And you shouldn’t date down, not when it comes to a person’s level of intrigue. I’m sure any day now I’ll bump into a tall, dark handsome world-traveling, PhD-holding, kitten-saving, mountain man-lumberjack-environmentalist who can write poetry, drive tractors and wash dishes. 2015 is coming, adventure looms on the horizon and love lies lurking behind almost every corner….



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Merde to All the Exams!

‘Tis the season:

I’ve been wearing the same sweats for going on 10 days now.

My nails are bitten down to the quick and there is an enormous spot on my chin that I can’t stop picking at.

I’ve cried twice this week; once because Huckleberry was taking too long to find a suitable place to drop a deuce on his evening walk, and once when I couldn’t pronounce the word Nitroimidazoles at the end of a 6-hour group study session and decided I “just don’t know anything.”

Diagnosis: Acute case of Examitis

My baby sister Mugs is also suffering examitis over in Oregon. Today, she confessed to eating her oatmeal with a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon because she hasn’t done dishes in over a week. Then, she sent me a picture that would make our mother proud:


Ha! Joke’s on you, Mugface! Mom reads my blog!

As any big sister would do, I replied with a picture of my clean kitchen to shame her.

2014-12-09 16.15.56

Of course, while my dishes may be washed and drying, I also informed her that I had likely failed a test in which I simply had to correctly put on gloves and I’d eaten a packet of instant miso soup for breakfast this morning with a reheated cup of coffee I’d brewed the day before yesterday. So, I’m pretty much failing everything but dishes and counter tops.

We both agreed that finals week can be rough. No matter what, you always seem to come up a bit short: short on time, short on groceries, short on patience, short on cash…

Speaking of short on cash, I’ve gotten some criticism from the peanut gallery for being cheap with the central heating:

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That look kinda says it all, doesn’t it? I told him that, until he went and found a job, he should be happy with his hot water bottle and that lots of beagles live outside in the elements without blankets and hot water bottles!

The cat is always a bit more discrete with his fears of death by hypothermia:

2014-12-03 21.51.23

Overall, they are good study partners. When the cat isn’t sitting on my notes purring and the dog isn’t asking to go for a walk just as I’m hitting my stride with pharmacology, anyway.

Well, I should get back to my revision. Our exam tomorrow is pretty much over every single disease process that can happen in every single system within the body. This means there’s always something new and exciting to learn when I look at my notes! Like, male rats, mice and horses don’t have nipples, or how the pathological implications of bacteria in the pregnant uterus should most definitely not be considered appropriate reading material while eating. Retained placenta and Ramen don’t mix.

To all my fellow students, ma Poulette used to never let me wish her luck before exams, as (she told me) in France, you just wish people merde!

So Merde to all of you this week! Merde to exams! Merde to students and “real grown ups” alike! And if you are in vet school, I’m going to wish you a very special Merde for our exam tomorrow, I wish you Cyanthostomosis (page 116 of our notes). You’re welcome.

(PS if you don’t have a strong stomach, I wouldn’t suggest you googling that….)


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Whoa There, Cupid!

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with the blog! Promise to try harder!

Currently, I’m in a state of slight crisis (is this surprising to anyone?). Basically, here’s the storm of struggles in my life:

1. Spelling.
I am trying to switch over to British spelling instead of American spelling (when in Rome, you know). Sorry readers, you’re going to be getting the worst of both worlds as I transition.

2. Academic pursuits above and beyond spelling.
School is fantastic and interesting and has me projecting hypochondria on my own animals. The other week, I rushed Huck to the vet because he was vomiting and running around the flat licking the baseboards. Obviously, I assumed he’d ingested some toxin that crossed the Blood Brain Barrier and affected his Central Nervous System. The next day, Huck came home having made a full recovery from his very expensive “tummy ache.”

3. I’m a Workin’ Girl!
Luckily, I was able to pay the vet bills without breaking too much of a sweat because I now have a delightful after school job!  It entails smiling and talking to people for hours on end about non-vet school related things. It’s exhausting and exhilarating and surprisingly refreshing to engage in casual discussions that don’t revolve around diarrhoea, vomit or cancer.

4. Identity Issues.
I’ve been toying with veganism. Don’t talk to me about protein. Nothing crazy has happened yet.

5. My Love Life.
Obviously, since I’m so busy with school, work, learning to spell, not killing my animals, and in ethical crisis about my choices regarding eating chicken embryos for breakfast, I decided it’s the perfect time in my life to start dating again! Weeeeee…..

I was walking Huck home through the meadows one night when destiny (more commonly known as “Meadows Matt”) approached and stopped for a chat. He is tall, handsome, employed, and a dog lover. His “half Polish half French” accent is charming and he is really funny! We had a great chat about our favourite childhood cartoons (yes, from the 80’s, he’s age-appropriate!) as his Jack Russell was humping Huck’s face and parted after exchanging numbers. It was a perfect, organic, effortless meeting, the stuff of late 90’s RomComs.

The next week, Meadows Matt asked me to join him for a walk with our dogs. My ideal first date! I ran over to meet him right after class, excited to see what he looked like in the daytime. We hit it off right away: we were both wearing Converse All-Stars, mine were purple and his were black. The dogs were running around having a great time and the conversation flowed easily. Matt was funny and charming and just the right amount of flirty.

About 20 minutes into our walk, he brought up how difficult it is to meet people in a new city (we’ve both been in Edinburgh just over a year). I nodded and agreed, “We’re not a bunch of kids in the school yard anymore, making friends is hard.”Actually, it wasn’t particularly easy back then, either, if I remember right…

But, it was Matt’s next sentence that told me he was not talking about making friends, he was talking about finding love:

“Yeah, I meet up with all these dudes on Grindr, and all they want is sex.”

If you don’t know what Grindr is, here’s the link to a description of it on wikipedia.

At that point, I was glad the sun was setting, masking all the blood rushing to my face. I was on my first real date in a very long time and it was with a gay man. I recovered quickly, however, happy I hadn’t bothered to shave my legs or run back home to get my favourite lip gloss.

In the end, even without a kiss goodnight, it was one of the best dates I’ve ever been on. Matt and I really have a lot in common – we actually have very similar taste in men – and it’s kicked off a wonderful friendship. One of these days, we’ll be good enough friends for me to tell him I didn’t actually know he was gay when I first met him…not yet though…not yet.

And I did have so much fun on the date, I decided to put up an OK Cupid profile. I’m not taking it terribly seriously like I did when dating was my job. Honestly, this is the picture attached to my profile:

I feel like it invites admirers to compliment my ass.

I have a date this week with a  man who is holding pigeons in his picture. I don’t know too much about him, but he falls into the “men looking for women” category, so I figure at least I have that going for me this time.

Posted in Animals, Dating or Something Like it, Edinburgh, Good Places to Meet Guys, Not Falling In Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ultra Sound? More Like Ultra Fun!

I received a crash course in ultrasonography today.

It pretty much went like this:

“Here, take the probe. See that nobby-bit? Well, that aligns with the ‘M’ marker on the screen. So, you just move towards or away from the nobby-bit to move closer or further from the M mark. Give it a go. And try to find the bladder.”

I eventually found the dog’s bladder and centered on the questionable mass inside of it. Of course, to me, the whole picture just looked like the sonographs dominating my Facebook Newsfeed: shades of grey, black and white with a grainy amorphous blob in the middle. To my untrained eye, ultrasounds announcing the upcoming birth of a baby look almost identical to the inside of a dog’s bladder, especially if that bladder contains something like a polyp.

Just kidding, friends. Babies are way cuter than polyps.

I’m coming to the end of my second week of clinical EMS. I’ve really enjoyed being back in a clinic and Huckleberry has really enjoyed how interesting I smell when I get home. The days are long though, and I’m falling behind on life in general, so it will be nice to have a week off before school starts later this month. I have dishes to scrub, a growing pile of laundry to wash, and I desperately need to go grocery shopping. I had to get takeout tonight because I ate the entire contents of my refrigerator last night:

A plate of raw cabbage, hummus, olives, an avocado and two slices of cheddar cheese.

I have a mango, museli and some whisky left, but I’m saving those for an emergency. Or, perhaps, breakfast tomorrow.

Seriously. How did I ever work full time and take care of myself? I’m starting to feel like I need a mom to feed me and clean up after me and pack my lunch in the morning. It’s like I’ve completely forgotten how to be a grownup.

Still, it’s been a great experience seeing practice at the clinic. Aside from playing around with the ultrasound equipment, I’ve sat in on quite a few spays, neuters, a biopsy and a foreign body removal surgery. I’ve listened to mummers, arrhythmias and the bowels of rabbits.  I’ve learned how to provide nebulized antibiotics to a parakeet, give a chameleon an injection of vitamin B12, examine a snake, and euthanize a hamster.

But, so far, there is one patient who stands out as the highlight of my experience working in this clinic:

A little brown and white Guinea Pig. He was brought into the clinic with his brother Guinea Pig after they had gotten into a fight. The brown and white pig had a nasty bite wound on his stomach and his brother had a torn ear. While the torn ear wasn’t serious, the pig with the abdominal wound needed stitches.

Watching the vet suture this little Guinea Pig, I was so touched that the owners were taking such good care of him. It was nice to see this little guy hold so much intrinsic value, especially considering you can usually buy two Guinea Pigs for about 15 quid.

Handing him back after he’d recovered from the anesthesia, I looked at them cradling their little Guinea Pig and knew I was a witness to love. True love.

Thank you, Scotland. You beautiful country of pet lovers. Thank you for that.



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Crime Investigation Report: Missing Butter

28 August 2014 1036:

I walked in the door and said hi to Huckleberry. He was napping on the sofa and was gracious enough to sit up and thump his tale in greeting. I hung up my purse and entered the kitchen to wash my hands. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something seemed off.

Looking around around, I noticed a piece of blue foil on the ground. I’m no Sherlock, but it seemed obvious what had happened.

2014-08-28 11.23.38

Huckleberry had jumped up, grabbed the butter I left softening on the counter and ate it. There wasn’t another scrap of foil. I figured he must have eaten that too!

Huuuuuuck. You are such a fatty!

I looked at him, shaking my head, visions of his next few bowel movements sliding right out of his exceptionally well-greased GI tract flashing before my eyes.

Ugh. The one day I forget to close the kitchen door…Oh well, can’t cry over the dog’s consumption of a stick of partially-softened butter.

Turning my attention back to the kitchen, I threw away the foil scrap and walked over to the fridge to get an apple. I eat apples for snacks, not globs of butter. Obviously, I’m more concerned about arteriosclerosis than the beagle is. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a kitchen towel on the floor. Strange, I didn’t remember putting it there, nothing was leaking, and it’s not like me to leave any kind of wet towel on the floor. So gross.

2014-08-28 11.23.50

I picked up the towel to return it to it’s rightful home hanging from to the right of the fridge and underneath, I found:

2014-08-28 11.23.57


He’d hadn’t eaten much of it, but pushed the whole block it as far under the fridge as he could. Then, he’d pulled the towel off the hanger and covered the evidence of his crime. He must have been hoping I wouldn’t notice and he could come back to his hidden treasure later.

I interrogated him, asking if this dastardly plan was, in fact, true.

2014-08-28 11.25.02Verdict: Guilty as charged.

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In his defense, being a vet student’s dog is stressful. I’m constantly poking him, prodding him and smelling his ears. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve raised his cephalic vein or extruded his third eyelid. He gets at least two dozen unofficial physical exams a year. And then, there’s his anal gland problem.

Huck can’t express his own anal glands. Every 6 weeks I have to give him a hand (er, um an index finger, technically). It’s a messy job, but someone’s gotta do it and I work cheaper than the professionals.

Just the other day, Huck scooted on the pavement in front of Tesco. The homeless man who is always out front yelled at me, “THAT DOG HAS WORMS!” People walking by stopped and looked, as if to make a mental note to avoid my wormy dog and judge me for being a neglectful owner.

I started to say, “Not likely, I’ve just had a finger up his rectum. I think he’s trying to wipe off the lube,” before realizing that I can’t say things like that to the general public and changed my response to, “Not likely, I’ve just…had him treated.”

Sometimes Huck eats the butter and sometimes he hides it. Sometimes I say inappropriate things in public, and sometimes I catch myself, just in time.

Posted in Animals, Apartment Living, My Dog Loves Me, Vet School | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Surprise! There is no Bitch Spay

Jaunting across town last night, I merrily swung a bag of popcorn back and forth. After a day of solid rain, the meadows were quiet and I savored the peaceful atmosphere in the midst of the wild Fringe festival. I was on my way to a surgery watching party, the brain child of one of my classmates. My friends and I are starting our vet school clinical studies in less than a month, and we can’t even contain our excitement!

Admittedly, there are times when my enthusiasm for vet school is borderline creepy, like when I trace a fingernail down Huckleberry’s stomach and maliciously whisper, “Here’s your linea alba. That’s where I’ll make my incision for your foreign body removal surgery if you keep eating tampons, you idiot!”

Don’t worry folks, it’s still quite some time before anyone is going to put a scalpel in my hand and point me in the direction of a living animal.

Still, I could imagine no better way of spending a Saturday night than curled up on the sofa next to my friends with a bowl of popcorn and several DVD recordings of various surgeries. No. I am not kidding.

Since it had been raining all day, I didn’t bother changing out of my sweat pants or brushing my hair. I briefly considered putting on clean socks, but I don’t always regard clean socks as a priority when, wherever I’m going, diarrhea in all of its glory is bound be a topic of conversation.

I got to E&P’s flat at 8:07. Almost on time! It was so quiet in the flat, I was certain I was the first one there and puffed my chest out with pride. Timeliness. I’m working on it. Kicking off my shoes, I shoved the bag of popcorn in her arms and walked into the living room, which promptly exploded with, “SURPRISE!”

Streamers hung on the wall, Happy 30th Birthday! My jaw dropped to the floor. I’ve never had a surprise party before and didn’t know what to say. Somehow, I blurted out, “You guys! I’m wearing sweat pants!” Pro tip: When in doubt, state the obvious.

It wasn’t long before I had a glass of wine in my hand and a pink tartan sash with a handmade medallion boasting “Birthday Lassie.” Somehow, I no longer cared a wit about my Asda sweatpants fashion faux pas.

I looked around at the smiling faces of my friends and those of two strangers, who were visiting from Canada (obviously, in town for my surprise party) and asked, “So, are we not watching any surgery videos, then?” You could visibly see a grimace on the non-vet student faces. E assured me that we’d watch the surgery videos later in the week, as tonight was an Outlander-themed Scottish birthday party for me, complete with a game of “Pin the Kilt on Jamie Frasier.” Just a little something my creative-genius friends invented.


Jamie and his kilts. Le swoon!

I didn’t even come close to wining “pin the kilt on Jamie Fraser” but, that’s ok because next year, I challenge everyone to a round of “pull the kilt off Jamie Fraser!”

We snacked on a cheese dip fit for a Khaleesi, a French-American fusion quiche, and, quite possibly the Pièce de résistance, a layered chocolate pudding cake with a robot on it!

(NB. Apparently, the robot was actually a Scottie dog.)


And even though we didn’t watch bloody surgery videos, all the non-vet students were still subject to graphic (and possibly disturbing) conversation revolving around fecal matter and all the literal ins and outs of reproduction spanning the animal kingdom. Vet student parties are not for the faint-hearted (or those who lack an iron stomach) as, at any given moment, someone is likely to shout something about a giraffe penis or imitate an alpaca mating noise in a public forum.

True, vet students are a unique bunch. We can have a full on conversation about pus over a pint or two, we’ll compare pasta to various types of intestinal parasites as we eat it, and we’ve certainly gotten some dirty looks for forgetting that normal people don’t discuss mucus at mealtimes.

Still, looking around the room last night, I saw my people. People who are always comfortable talking to a bird, but may not be the best conversationalists with their fellow primates. People who are smart and funny, if at times gross and socially unacceptable.  People who will diligently bottle feed a litter of kittens or cradle a turkey as gently as a newborn baby, but are itching to castrate something…anything!

In the dissection room, we tap dance the fine line between extreme animal lover and potential psychopath as we hack our way around the animal body, and in the real world, we lose our mind over a cute, fluffy baby animal and fill our instagram feeds with pictures of pets…our pets, other people’s pets…it doesn’t matter.

We’re as loyal as dogs, independent as cats and awkward as baby goats. We may not be normal by the socially agreed upon definition of the word, but trust me, you want us on your side.

Cheers, you guys! Slàinte!

Posted in Academia, Animals, Vet School | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Short Notes on Turning 30

Before our first vet school exam, the teachers gave us some example questions to help direct our studies. One of the questions was, “Write short notes on the tongue.” I remember this exact question because I remember thinking, “Short notes? What the heck do they want from me?!” Unfortunately, that What the heck do they want from me… feeling has resurfaced during every exam this past year.

I expected turning 30 would be similar; as if the marking of a new decade would change the world’s expectations of me and my expectations of myself. I’m only a few days into my thirties, but from what I can tell, the only thing that’s changed is, I officially feel as if my opinion should matter more than it did when I was in my *scoff* twenties.

And so, I share with you my very opinionated (and illustrated!) short notes on some of those lessons I learned over the past ten years…maybe take notes. I’m old and wise now, remember? Some of these are pure gold.

My Short Notes:

1. Not caring what other people think gives you a rare and true freedom many will never understand. This freedom is be best kept relatively quiet, however, as most people don’t appreciate being told just how little their opinion matters…especially if they are your boss.


2. Just because someone loves you, doesn’t mean they know what’s best for you. Your friends and family can give good advice from a place of deep love for you, but they can sometimes give really crap advice. Friends are great for telling you if a certain ruffled taffeta skirt isn’t flattering your derriere or if there’s a bit of salad left in your teeth. But if you’re really struggling and looking for guidance, it may be best to check with a professional.


3. Anything worth doing is worth doing right (and with panache!) If you’re going to wake up early and make pancakes at the soup kitchen, best make really fantastic Frisbee-sized pancakes. If you’re not ready to be amazing, hit the snooze button again and roll over. The world deserves your best, and so do you. (NB: I am heartbroken that I no longer have that amazing Rainbow Brite hoodie!)


4. Pack light. Wear layers. Travel Far.


5. If you’re trying really, really hard to forge a romance with a potential partner, but things just are not happening, it is time to step away and redirect your energy to finding the right person, instead of trying to force a connection with the wrong person. This is difficult advice to follow because the world is full of so many charming, good looking wrong people.


6. Try not to yell at your mom. She loves you so much, she can’t help driving you a little bit crazy. Besides, she was patient enough to teach you how to use a spoon and a toilet. You can be patient when she still feels it necessary to remind you to file your taxes on time and brush your teeth before you go to bed….even when you’re 30….


7. Sleep when you can. Even if you are angry! That “never go to bed angry” advice is horse shit! I can’t tell you how many times I wish I had just gone to bed angry and woken up the next day a little less cranky with a little more perspective instead of spouting off a hot-headed remark in the heat of the moment.


8. Fads don’t last. Thank goodness! So don’t take them too seriously. A small front braid with beads on the end?! Someone call 2005 and tell it just to stop.


9. Wear sunscreen. Always wear sunscreen. UV rays break down the elastic fibers in your skin, giving you wrinkles. Plus, you should never get burned enough to appear lobster red under water. That’s just idiotic.


10. Siblings are annoying. Undoubtedly. They’ll try to ruin your life. They steal your stuff, eat your candy (no matter how well you hide it), invade your privacy, and humiliate you in front of your friends. They tease, hit, and bite. Still, there is absolutely no substitute for siblings. Plus, you’ll never be rid of them, so best to strike a truce. Or, if you have more than one, form alliances against the others. And Emily, you still owe me a basket of Easter candy. I remember the Chocolate Egg Scandal of 94!


11. Just because you’re smart, doesn’t mean you’re always right. You’re bound to make an ass out of yourself now and then. It’s inevitable. Learn to apologize with grace. Practice kindness and humility. And most importantly, keep a sense of humor about it. No one’s perfect.


12. There are few moments in life when expectation matches reality. Have the camera ready.


13. Take advantage of awesome opportunities. You don’t know how many times in life you’ll get to fly around in a helicopter. Relish unique experiences! And always wear a helmet.


14. Read. Constantly. Books make you smarter. But don’t believe everything you read makes you any smarter than everyone else. That’s just tacky.


15. Enjoy your hair. Cut it. Dye it. Express yourself. It will grow back and you can always change the colour. Even so, always think twice before getting bangs.


16. Pay attention to your surroundings, especially if you are surrounded by animals with horns. No one wants to be an unfortunate statistic.1271128_554554137516_1379493186_o

17.  Technology changes fast (I’m still not exactly sure what a “tablet” is). Don’t let it scare you away though, especially if you are thinking of going back to school. You can teach an old dog new tricks. It just takes patience.


18.Don’t be afraid to strike out on your own. You’d be surprised at how resilient your spirit is and how resourceful you can be if there isn’t anyone around to lean on.


19. There is so much world to see and so little time we are given to see it. Walkabout.


20. The concept of family extends far and wide It’s a quick hop-skip-jump from strangers to friends to finding an adopted family. It’s a special and a beautiful thing when people with whom you share no blood ties welcome you into their homes. Be grateful.  But most importantly, be a considerate house guest. Mind your P’s and Q’s; make your bed, clear your plate, and don’t leave wet towels on the bathroom floor.


I had a fantastic time in my twenties. I quit school, moved to Mexico and worked with orphans. Then, I returned to school, graduated and was commissioned as an Ensign in the Coast Guard. I fell in love and fell out of love. I got a beagle puppy. I authored a dating column. I went to Japan and climbed (most of) Mt. Fuji. I went to Thailand to support an Asian elephant rescue. I shared an apartment with my best friend of 16 years, settling back into my life at home in Colorado. Then, I suddenly uprooted that life to move to Scotland, seizing the opportunity to make my dream of becoming a veterinarian come true. I made incredible friends, found valuable mentors and did a lot of yoga. I leave my twenties feeling very satisfied, but truly ready for the adventure of my thirties.

I still have a lot to learn. I’m still taking notes. But I think I’m on the right path.

Thanks for checking in.



Posted in Adventure, Advice of the Solicited and Un Kind, Edinburgh, Hope Chest, Vet School | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

From a Pig Sty to a Castle: Le Road Trip Francais

“And could we get a SAT NAV, please?”
“Sorrrrrry. Only available if you upgrade to a vehicle with a SAT NAV. You can go buy your own at a big Tesco.”
“Oh, well, do you have any maps?”
“No. Sorrrrry.”
“OK. We’ll figure it out.”

And thus began our own little Tour de France, you know, without bicycles and involving quite a bit more junk food.

Although Susan and I didn’t have the easiest time prying the car keys from the hands of the frigid anti-American rental agency, once we got on the road, we were happily rolling through the lovely English countryside, southbound to Dover.


We arrived eight hours later and were somehow both surprised that Dover really did have the white cliffs Vera Lynn sang about in the 1940’s:


After almost two hours on the ferry, we arrived in France, refreshed and excited! We drove three hours into Paris, where we parked our car in the smallest space of an underground dungeon-converted-parking garage and toasted to our successful driving on the right side of the car and effortlessly switching from driving on the left to driving on the right side of the road with a glass of vin rogue. Cheers to epic adaptability!

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The next morning, we met up with one of Susan’s friends, an ex-pat with a habit of finding and helping struggling American students in Parisian public transit hubs. We walked along the canal, ate delicious food and stopped in at a bakery for coffee and dessert.


With bellies full of Parisian delights, we got in our car (again) and were off to GroinGroin, a sanctuary for pigs, just outside of Le Mans, France. We stayed at Groin Groin for the week, learning about pig husbandry by day and enjoying delicious (and cheap) French wine by night.

Groin Groin is home to 20 Vietnamese Pot-bellied pigs, 2 Kunekune pigs and 3 Large White pigs in addition to 1 goat, 1 donkey, 3 chickens, 1 turkey, 10 horses, 2 dogs, and 4 cats.  I loved them all.

Every morning, we fed the pigs and let the chickens and turkey out of their “château.” Not speaking any French, aside from the few words I’ve heard via various pop culture outlets, I didn’t know how to say “chicken roost,” so I called it “Château du Poulette” and the name stuck.


We learned how to trim teeth and feet and give injections and oral medications. Trimming tusks is not a job for the faint of heart! One person holds the pig on it’s back with all of their strength and tries really hard not to drip sweat on the person who is sawing off the pig’s tusks with a wire. These pigs are strong! There may have been a moment in which the pig (on his back) lifted me ever so slightly off the ground and I screamed (just a little scream) as I felt myself plunging toward the one unsawed off tusk (images of the hogs attacking Old Yeller came to mind). Luckily for me and the two other people clustered around, I regained my composure and maintained positive control of the pig, who was squealing as loud as a fire engine about 20 inches away from my ear.

After my experience sawing off pig teeth, let’s just say, I find the “fire and brimstone” image of hell somewhat lacking. Holding down an angry hog in a hot confined space while he is squealing as loud as he can in your face – now, we’re talking!

This face may look cute, but it’s really saying, “Do NOT underestimate me!”


Our last night at the sanctuary, we got to feed the pigs day old baguettes and croissants that were donated from a local bakery. True confession: I may have eaten one of the pains au chocolat myself, and day old or not, it was fantastic!


just a bite

Our time at the pig sanctuary was wonderful! It really must be home to the happiest little pigs on earth!

Julia2 Julia rosie kune kune

Susan and I joked about trying to take some of the animals back with us. We were wondering if we could get away with hiding a pig and some cats in the trunk and just claim “nothing to declare” when we went through customs. We abandoned this plan when I insisted that if we bring anyone back, it’s going to be my pal, the donkey!

me and donkey

At the end of the week, we bid our little piggies au revoir and drove to Vendée, France to stay the night with family friends who live in a castle there. After staying at Château Clemenceau, I understood with a new appreciation the hilarity behind my choice of words for “Château du Poulette.castle castle2

me and castle

The castle was lovely! We walked in the gardens and ate fresh figs. The two youngest Clemenceau children gave us an in-depth tour of grounds, from their grand tree house to the enormous cedar tree marking the end of the estate. tree house

cedar treeWe chatted with more ex-pats, happily living in France. We drank more great wine and ate more delicious food and slept under the roof of a building that has been standing in its current state since the 16th century, but can be traced back to the days of the Roman Empire.

The next day, we started our trip back to Scotland. Six hours of driving to the ferry, two hours on the ferry and eight hours back to Edinburgh. We intended to detour to Stonehenge and see the stones under the light of the Super Moon, but apparently you have to book tickets in advance and they don’t let people wander around famous ancient pagan monuments at night. So, we drove through the night and pulled off to take a nap after Susan saw an alligator on the side of the road and I saw an Indian War Chief standing by a road sign sometime after 3 am. You just shouldn’t be driving if you’re hallucinating non-native peoples and animals.

We made it home safe and sound, where I was enthusiastically greeted by a beagle who was either very happy to see me, or very happy that I still smelled vaguely of pigs. This was my last extra mural studies placement for my first year of vet school and I can’t think of a better way for the year to have come to a close!

road trip

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WARNING: Calves in Pictures are Larger than they Appear

This post is dedicated to my fellow vet students, or anyone who has ever had their butt kicked by a baby animal….

There is a special kind of wound to your pride when you are kicked around, bruised and battered by an animal whose umbilical cord is still hanging off it’s navel. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s go ahead and check, “get beat up by infant cow” off my bucket list.

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Here’s the thing about newborn calves: they are like really big, super awkward lambs. If you remember, I worked with lambs for the first time in April. Even though I proved to be positively no help around a farm at lambing time and I killed half a dozen of them, I gained a real appreciation for the art of sheep farming.

My appreciation for cattle husbandry also grew over my time on the dairy farm, but came at the cost of numerous bruises, nettle burns, and a rash of light scratches on the delicate skin inside my forearms. Calves have heavily keratinized filiform papillae covering their tongue (or in human speak, “rough, stabby thingys”) which can really do some damage to those of us with sensitive skin…apparently.

These bovine babies and I got along…eventually…after a clearing up a few misunderstandings.

My first day, I worked with The Calf Whisperer in the morning, learning which calves to feed what, and was left to my own devices for the afternoon shift. Overall, it went well. Until, that is, it was time to feed the “calves in the field.” These calves are pretty much micro-cows. They are fully weaned. They don’t come up to you to suck your fingers or nuzzle you. And when you are nose to nose with one, you realize they are seriously big.

When I jumped off the quad bike with a bag of feed in hand, the field of calves rushed me like a pack of rugby players going after a post-game pint.

As a general rule, calves are not scarey. They don’t even have that many teeth. Still, I was aware that being knocked off my feet could result in some painful trampling, and tensed up slightly.


I wanted to sound stern. It worked. Even though I was wearing pink wellies, I commanded respect!

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I emptied two of the three bags into the troughs. As I was emptying the third bag, the calves were in a South African Shark Style feeding frenzy.

I turned around in time to see a young bullock trotting right at me. In my desire to alter his course to something that was less threatening to my MCL, I tried my stern “BACK OFF,”  but this time, I punctuated my words with a flap of the empty feed bag.

The bullock turned to face me directly and lowered his head. It really is quite a threatening posture…for a cow.

I waved the bag again, and it dawned on me; I was waving a white and orange feed bag in the same style matadors wave their red capes. I wondered if I was, in fact, challenging and enraging my young 200 kg friend.

Thoughts of awkward explanations filled my mind. How would I tell everyone that I was kicked out of vet school for being beat up by a juvenile dairy cow?! I stuffed the bag behind me and  making eye contact, growled at him, “BACK! AWAY! MY! FRIEND!” as I made my way back to the quad with as much dignity as I could muster under the circumstances.

Later in the week, I had mastered feeding all of the baby animals without fearing for my life and was presented with a new challenge: castration.

Young male calves are castrated by the application of a small rubber ring. There are two important aspects to castrating bullocks:

1. Both testicles need to be in the scrotum below the ring for it to work (this should be obvious)

2. Well, see point 1. That was really the whole idea of it.

I don’t care how awkward your job is. I can guarantee it is not massage a baby bull’s testicles to keep them from being sucked up and out of the scrotum awkward. And just as I felt the need to maintain a constant dialogue with mama ewe when I had my hand in her vagina, I couldn’t feel up a bull’s ball sack without saying something:

“Hey buddy, you got 2 of them in there? That’s a good boy. Ok hold still, don’t suck them up…don’t….awwwww c’mon man, you can’t keep one, I need both balls here, let’s make this quick, trust me, you’ll want it over as soon as possible.”

At one point, with a particularly difficult calf, I paused, my hand still gently holding his testicles, flipped my hair out of my eyes, and said to my instructor, “I think he might actually be enjoying this. He’s keeping a ball up on purpose!”

Yes. I realize that scenario is highly unlikely, neither the calf nor I were enjoying ourselves at that particular manure and milk covered moment.

I cupped his scrotum again, this time feeling both balls. This was it! In one swift movement, I opened the ring applicator, shoved it up between his legs and released *BAM*

D asked me if I got him.

Um no….actually, I just castrated my thumb….

Sure enough, there was a rubber ring around my thumb.

I’m sorry, I don’t know how I did that.

Good one, young bullock. Good one.

All and all, I wasn’t a total failure for the week, I actually have a knack for getting new calves to drink their milk. Spike was my tough little dairy bull. His first day, he was absolutely terrified of the bottle and didn’t drink much, which left me all the more motivated to feed him the next morning.

Since the heifers born on the same day as Spike were happily drinking from their milk bucketss on the second day, I hung one over his door too. Big mistake. Spike was afraid of the milk bucket. I reached over and tried to get him to suck my fingers. Big mistake. Spike was afraid of my hand reaching over the door. I opened the door and sat down with the bottle. Spike was afraid of the bottle.

I scratched the side of his face and talked to him. Eventually, Spike stopped being so afraid. I got him to suck my fingers and then tricked him into drinking from the bottle. He was still scared, but not paralyzed with fear. 2014-06-25 08.11.45By dinner, I was able to get him to drink from his feeder, as long as the door was open and I was standing with him….and we went through the whole touching/desensitizing process again.

The next day at breakfast, Spike still needed me to open his door and lead him to his feeder, but he drank all of his milk!

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Climbing the steep learning curve of working with dairy cows wasn’t easy, but castration faux pas and feed stampede aside, I wouldn’t say I’m totally hopeless. I might end up being a country vet after all…

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