Charlie

 D. E. Larsen, DVM

  It was a bright sunny afternoon in early June when I pulled up to the gate of the McCubbins’ farm. Frank had a llama with a vaginal prolapse, and she was close to her delivery date. When I got out to open the gate, I noticed a feral momma cat with a litter of 4 kittens. The kittens looked to be about 5 – 6 weeks old. The remarkable thing about the litter was there was one Siamese cross kitten with long hair. My kids would love that kitten, but the whole group scattered when I tried to approach them.

  I continued on to the barn after closing the gate. Frank and his grandson were waiting for me at the barn. I casually mentioned the litter of kittens as I was collecting my things to deal with this llama. Vaginal prolapses are simple to deal with when they occur following delivery but are always tricky before delivery. One has to replace the prolapse and secure it in place without obstructing the birth canal. Careful monitoring is one option if the vulva is sutured closed. That is always unreliable, and if the vulva is sutured closed, the baby will die in a short time if it is stuck in the birth canal.

  Today I was going to try a trick not taught in my schooling but relayed to me over dinner at a local veterinary association meeting by on old veterinarian over twice my age. After carefully washing the prolapsed tissue, I lubricated the mass and carefully pushed it back in place. She did some straining, and it was evident that she would push things out again. 

  Now for the trick. I washed a wine bottle one last time and rinsed it with betadine and lubricated it with KY jelly. I carefully inserted the bottle into the vagina, blunt end first. It would serve as a pessary, preventing the vagina from prolapsing again. When the cervix dilated, and the baby entered the birth canal, the bottle would be easily pushed out and followed by the baby. This was a trick from the 1930s, or maybe before. The results were expected to be far better than any of the modern methods.

  Frank and I were talking while I was cleaning up and putting things away. He was intrigued by the story of how professional information was passed from one generation to the other. Often information from older generations never made it to the textbooks but still prove to be very functional. 

While we are standing there, Frank’s grandson approaches with the Siamese cross kitten in his hand. I asked what he was going to do with him as I carefully checked him over. The kitten was covered with ringworm.  

  “I’m going to keep him.” he replied.

  I told them that was fine but to be careful of the ringworm. I told Frank I would be happy to take the kitten if the ringworm became a problem.

  It was probably 2 weeks later when Frank called the office.

  “Are you still interested in taking that kitten?” he asked. “I have a grandson who is covered with ringworm.”

  Frank was happy to deliver the kitten to the clinic. We started with an anti-fungal bath and topical treatment. Naming him Charlie, he was an irresistible kitten. Even with careful treatment and stern warnings, our kids also developed a few ringworm lesions before Charlie’s skin was clear.

  Charlie proved to be a super cat. He grew large, measuring nearly 3 feet from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. He was a ferocious hunter. There was nothing safe in the back of our property. We had many molehills when Charlie arrived; by the beginning of Charlie’s second summer, he had eliminated the entire mole population.

  I would leave the bedroom window open and unscreened during the night, and Charlie would come and go as he desired. It was common for him to bring his trophies and leave them at the foot of our bed. Mice and bats were standard fares. One night I heard him come through the window, and he jumped up on the bed. This was something he did not do on any regular basis. Next thing I knew, he dropped a mouse on my neck. Thankfully it was dead.

  During Charlie’s 5th year, he went hunting one evening and never returned. There was nothing, Charlie just didn’t come home. Probably caught by a coyote. Or maybe by the great horned owl who hung out on the creek side of the hill.

  Charlie was missed by the whole family. But the return of the molehills was most disturbing.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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