D. E. Larsen, DVM
I stepped out of the garage to greet the station wagon that had just pulled into our driveway. We were trying to run a practice in the garage and with house calls and farm calls. The clinic was scheduled to be completed in August of 1976, but now it was looking more like December.
The back doors flew open as soon as the car came to a stop. Kids were pouring out of both sides, and then out jumped a large Rough Collie. Henry finally got out on the driver’s side.
“Hi, I’m Doctor Larsen,” I said as I extended my hand. “What are we looking at today?”
“Henry here, I was hoping you could get a look at Lassie,” Henry said.
“I wonder where you came up with that name?” I said.
“One of the girls insisted on it, I sure,” Henry said. “I couldn’t tell you which one.”
“What’s going on with Lassie?” I asked as I watched her, and the four little girls make a full circle in the yard. “She is acting fine.”
“I don’t know what is wrong, but she has a bad smell about her,” Henry said.
“Let’s just bring her into the garage, and I will get a look at her,” I said.
The August days were warm but not blistering like they had been in July. But we kept the garage door open. It was sort of an open-air clinic.
As I lifted Lassie onto the exam table, I got a whiff of a putrid odor from somewhere.
“Wow! I smelled something,” I said as I ran my hands over Lassie, trying to feel some abnormality. I was suspecting some necrotic tumor or wound under all this long hair.
Feeling nothing, it was time for the old nose to go to work. I ran my nose along her side while taking in a deep breath. Starting at her rump, it took me a couple of breathes to reach her head. Bam! There it was in the middle of her neck. A very rotten tissue smell.
I carefully parted the thick hair coat, looking for a wound. Finally, right in the middle of her neck was a wound, most scabbed over, but open in a couple of spots. It looked like there were small areas where the wound had healed. I traced the wound as it ran up and down the right side of the neck. Then it ran under the neck and started up the other side. I finally realized that this wound was entirely around her neck.
“Do you have her tied up or something?” I asked.
“No, she doesn’t even own a collar,” Henry said.
“This wound doesn’t seem to bother her,” I said. “I am going to clip some of this hair away so we can get a good look at this wound.”
I started clipping the hair away from the wound. There were areas where the skin had healed. This wound would have to be 2 or 3 weeks old. It did not seem to bother Lassie at all as I continued to clip the hair away. Finally, at the very top of the neck, I could see the bottom of the wound. And there it was, in the bottom of the wound, at the top of the neck, a rubber band. I snagged the rubber band with a forceps and clipped it with scissors. It snapped away from the spot, and the rubber band’s ends were buried in the granulation tissue.
“There has been a rubber band around her neck for probably 3 weeks,” I said. “I am going to have to get her under anesthesia and cut away all this dead and infected tissue and then suture this neck back together. I would guess that she is going to have some tubes sticking out of this wound for a few days.”
“One of the girls must of put it there and forgot about it,” Henry said.
“Things happen with little kids,” I said. “Hopefully, this is going to be okay. I think this rubber band is buried deep enough that it is very close to damaging the jugular vein. Another week and you probably would have woke up to a dead dog in a pool of blood.”
“Are you going to need her overnight?” Henry asked.
“It is early enough in the day that I think we can do this and send her home this evening,” I said. “We are not set up very well for overnight patients. The clinic is just getting off the ground, and we were supposed to be in it by now.”
With a handshake, the deal was made. The state requires written authorization these days. I handshake to me has always been more binding than any piece of paper. It has maybe lost some understanding with the younger generations, but my handshake is my word, my honor. I would make almost any concession to make that deal correct.
I moved Lassie onto the surgery table and induced anesthesia with Pentathol. We hooked her up to the gas machine, with Metaphane gas. I clipped the entire neck to make sure there wasn’t another rubber band hidden in her hair.
After a surgical scrub, I started cutting away the dead and infected tissues. When I was done, I had a trench all the way around her neck. This wound was almost an inch deep in some areas. The rubber band was in contact with the jugular veins on both sides of the neck. Another day or two and one of them would have ruptured.
I placed Penrose drains around the wound. The ends of the drains stuck out at the top and bottom of the neck and at both sides. Then I sutured the wound.
When we were done, it looked like Lassie had her head cut off and sewn back on. After an antibiotic injection, we woke her up. Recovery was smooth, and she acted like nothing was wrong.
Henry was back, by himself, at 5:00. Lassie was happy to see him and bounced out of the garage and into the car. Henry was impressed with the appearance of the wound.
“I had a long discussion with the girls about their responsibilities when playing with Lassie,” Henry said.
“Don’t be too harsh them,” I said. “We got lucky this time. That allows them to learn a lesson without scarring them for life.”
After 4 days, we removed the drains from Lassie. The stitches were removed at 2 weeks. Her hair was growing so fast that I had trouble finding the sutures.
“In another 2 or 3 weeks, you won’t be able to tell there was anything wrong with her,” I said as I handed the leash back to Henry and the girls.
“The girls are already impressed at how well she has healed up,” Henry said. “I don’t think it is going to happen again.”
Photo Credit: https://www.pexels.com/@anna-guerrero-788383