Meter Reader Mishap

D. E. Larsen, DVM

“Dale is waiting on the phone for you,” Judy said. “He is the manager of PP&L.”

I knew Dale from the Rotary Club, but I wasn’t aware that he had any animals. I put the little pup back in the kennel. Dale was lucky. Another few minutes, and we would have had the puppy sedated, and he would have had to call back.

I picked up the phone, “Dale, what can I do for you today,” I said?

“Doc, one of my meter readers, ran over a duck this morning,” Dale said. “The owner says it has a broken leg. I was hoping you could get a look at it for me. We will be paying the bill.”

“Dale, if it is a duck with a broken leg, you should maybe be talking with them about buying the duck.”

“I tried that, Doc,” Dale said. “This is some sort of special duck. She called it a Khaki Campbell. Does that mean anything to you?”

“I am not much of a bird person, Dale,” I said. “I do see farm birds once in a while. Chickens mostly, but I have treated a few geese and a duck or two. I would have to look up the breed.”

“We are between the old rock and a hard place,” Dale said. “Our truck ran over the duck in their driveway. We are obligated to fix it. And this old gal is so mad she is spitting nails.”

“Send her in, and I will see if there is anything I can do for the bird,” I said. “Do you want to approve any estimate on repair cost?”

“It is only a duck, Doc,” Dale said. “I would hope the cost would be in line with the value of the bird.”

“Dale, I would be broke if I based my fees on the value of the animal,” I said. “You will be paying for my time and expenses. You should understand that.”

“I know, and judging from what this gal says, the duck is worth a bundle,” Dale said. “When I told her to put it out of its misery, and we would send her a check for a hundred dollars, you should have heard the explosion.”

“Send her in, and we will do what we can,” I said.

Leah was visiting the clinic that day on a sixth grade career day visitation. She was full of information on the Khaki Campbell domestic duck. Apparently, it was a breed developed in England, and it was famous for its egg-laying and raising ducklings.

When Grace came in with the duck, she was still red in the face from her conversation with Dale.

“This is the best duck I have ever owned,” Grace started. “And he wanted me to wring her neck or something.”

“Let’s get her in the exam room and let the doctor get a look at her,” Judy said as she ushered her into the exam room.

“This is Waddles,” Grace said as soon as I came into the exam room. “She is the best duck I have ever had. She is a Khaki Campbell. Do you know anything about that breed?”

“I have been learning a lot about it in the last hour,” I said. “Our visiting student, Leah, is very knowledgeable about the breed. They a quite the egg layers, I am told.”

“I am impressed, Doctor,” Grace said. “If the power company had been the least bit concerned, you would have thought they would have at least tried to look her up.”

“Let’s look at this leg,” I said as I rolled Waddles over.

Waddles had a fractured tibia on her left leg. It felt like a pretty clean fracture without a lot of bone fragments.

“We might get lucky here,” I said. “I think I can pin this fracture without even opening the fracture site. We will need to get a set of x-rays, and I think we can get this done and send Waddles home this evening.”

“I don’t want you to leave a stone unturned,” Grace said. “I want this to be the biggest bill you can make. I want that guy at PP&L to spit out his coffee when he hears the fee.”

“I think Dale has come to understand your attachment to Waddles,” I said. “He said, “I am prepared to pay the bill”. But, my guess is he will choke a little when he gets it.”

The tibia in a duck is the bone we call the drumstick in a chicken or turkey. X-rays showed a simple fracture, and the surgery went very well. I was able to thread a steel pin down the bone from the stifle joint and get an excellent reduction of the fracture.

“This will heal really well,” I told Leah when I had finished.

“Do you leave the pin in the bone,” Leah asked?

“No, we will take it out in 6 weeks. Maybe we could bring your entire class down to watch that surgery.”

“Yeah, they would like that,” Leah said.

Waddles woke up from anesthesia and walked on the leg with no problem. We called Grace so she could pick her up.

“I want you to make sure she stays out of the water until this is healed,” I said. “It would probably be best to keep her in a cage until we take this pin out.”

“When is going to happen,” Grace asked?

“We will make an appointment to take sutures out and recheck her in 2 weeks. Then we will take that pin out in 6 weeks.”

When Waddles came in for her pin removal, you could see a slight limp when she walked.

“That will clear up as soon as we get this pin out of there,” I assured Grace.

We had Leah’s entire class in the clinic to watch the surgery. We lined them up against the wall in the surgery room where everyone could see. As was typical in these events, several kids tried to stay and watch, but as we got closer to the actual surgery, they had to go out front.

I don’t think any of the kids really knew what to expect. Pin removal is not much of a surgery, just a small incision over the pin’s head, grasp the pin with forceps, and pull it out of the bone. 

The real surprise comes when I pull the three-inch steel pin out of the tiny incision. It is sort of like the magician pulling the rabbit out of the hat. There were several gasps.

Waddles was happy after she woke up. And she enjoyed all the attention from the kids gathered around her kennel.

Dale was very quiet on the phone as I gave him the bill’s information for Waddles’ fracture repair.

“If she was a goose, I would expect her to be laying golden eggs,” Dale said.

Photo by Magdalena Smolnkcka on Unsplash

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.

6 thoughts on “Meter Reader Mishap

  1. I enjoy these stories where the kids get to watch and learn. It is too bad the book title “All Creatures Great and Small” has already been used. You’ve worked on a variety of species of different sizes and needs. You would have made a good wildlife vet, too. I suppose the training is a little different.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I belonged toto the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians while in school and for probably 10 years after graduation. We made the choice to return to small town Oregon rather than to pursue a career in a zoo which would be located in an urban area.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh, the stories we would have gotten then – an elephant with diarrhea, a platipus with a blocked egg channel, a lion grumpy from a broken tooth, eagle mother attacking the vet for putting rings on the chickens’ feet ..

        Liked by 1 person

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