D. E. Larsen, DVM
Dr. and Mrs. Robert W. Davis Veterinary Anatomy Scholarship (1983)
“For almost four decades, Dr. Robert W. Davis served Colorado State University and the veterinary profession as a professor in the Department of Anatomy. A 1935 graduate of the Colorado A&M’s (now Colorado State University) Division of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Davis had a distinguished career and his contributions to the College, University and veterinary profession were truly remarkable. He was recognized as an outstanding teacher whose enthusiasm and integrity positively affected the lives of many graduates. During its early history, Dr. Davis helped to place the College at the forefront of veterinary medical education. Dr. Davis was inducted into the Glover Gallery of distinguished faculty and alumni in 1990. The Dr. and Mrs. Robert W. Davis Veterinary Anatomy Scholarship was established by faculty and alumni in their honor.”
The snow on the ground from last week’s storm was almost gone, and we had bright sunshine. Everyone’s spirits were improved with this hint of spring in the air.
I found myself spending more time looking out the window than concentrating on the dissection of the horse’s leg on the table in front of us. Ben and Chuck, my anatomy lab partners, were busy tracing the digital nerves running down the cannon bone.
Doctor Barr sort of jolted me back to the present when he came up beside me.
“Larsen, Doctor Davis is out in the horse barn and would like to spend some time with you,” Doctor Barr said. “He will be waiting for you at the outside stalls, and you can enjoy the sunshine.”
Doctor Davis was small in stature, but the muscles in his forearms showed his strength. The vessels on the back of his hands stood out as he extended his hand to shake.
“Dave, I noticed you looked a little bored in the lab,” Dr. Davis said. “I thought I would give you a change of pace today.”
I was surprised that Doctor Davis had singled me out. We had a class of eighty-four students, and the lab was a beehive of activity.
“It is an old habit,” I said. “I just learn at a different pace than a lot of guys. Looking out the window just gives me a little contact with my world.”
“Let’s look at a real leg on a living horse,” Doctor Davis said. “We will try to instill some clinical significance to all this anatomy stuff.”
Doctor Davis had been a veterinarian in the Army during World War II. He served with General Frank Merrill on his march across the jungles of Burma. He had been the veterinarian who cared for the mules used by Merrill’s Marauders. If for no other reason, I had great respect for this man.
“Are you used to working with horses?” Doctor Davis asked.
“I have been around them most of my life,” I said. “But, other than riding, I haven’t really worked on any.”
“So there are few things we need to go over about working on a horse,” Doctor Davis said. “The horse is a powerful animal, and it can cause serious injury to the careless handler. The only way to avoid injury from a horse is to be in the right place at the right time, and the only way you can be sure that will happen is to be at the right all the time.”
“That makes sense,” I said.
“The horse strikes with his front feet,” Doctor Davis said. “He strikes straight forward. If you are in front of him, you are at risk. Work from his shoulder if you can. The same thing can be said about the other end. The horse seldom cow-kicks. He kicks straight back, so work from his hip if you can. We put a horse in stocks at the hospital while working with them. That protects both the horse and the doctor. But you will be in situations where you will be working with an unrestrained horse. You just have to learn to protect yourself.”
We got down to the project at hand after that brief instruction. During the next hour, Doctor Davis showed me a roadmap of the horse’s leg. His calloused fingertips followed the path of nerves, vessels, tendons, and ligaments. I learned more in that hour than in the preceding weeks of dissection.
“With practice, you will learn to see with your fingertips,” Doctor Davis said. “In this profession, where you will be without an x-ray in many cases, seeing with your fingertips becomes vital to your success.”
We led the horse out to the paddock and let him run when we were done.
“I would guess you were in the service,” Doctor Davis said.
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“You’re older, and you conduct yourself with a bit of military bearing,” Doctor Davis said.
“I was in the Army Security Agency,” I said. “I was at a couple of listening posts on a couple of borders, no major action. I was in South Korea and West Germany. Interesting times and it allowed me to grow up. Nothing like what you went through.”
“That was a long time ago,” Doctor Davis said. “You will do well in this profession. It was fun spending some time with you today.”
“Yes, I learned more about the horse’s leg today than I learned in the lab over the last two weeks,” I said. “Thanks a lot for your time.”
“The freshman year is the hardest,” Doctor Davis said. “There is just so much to learn. It will get better when you get over to the hospital and start working on live animals.”
Photo by Barbara Olsen of Pexels.