One Bite Deserves Another

D. E. Larsen, DVM

“Doc, I know it’s late, but Rex is hurt pretty bad,” Reese said into the phone.

“What’s going on with him, Reese?” I asked.

Reese was an old rancher. He still worked a few cows, but his son did most of the hard work now. Reese was a big man, big all over. And his features were rough. He shaved about once a week, and wrinkles seemed to soften a once stern face.

“I was working a few cows tonight,” Reese said. “Old Rex, if they don’t do what he wants, he gets sort of mean. Rex grabbed this old black cow by her heel, and she kicked at him pretty hard. Old Rex, he ain’t smart enough to let go. She broke his mouth up pretty good.”

“Okay, Reese,” I said. “I can meet you at the clinic in a few minutes.”

I could see that Rex had a significant injury to his mouth when they came through the door. His mouth hung open, and the right side of his muzzle drooped lower than it should.

Rex was one of my working dogs. He was mostly Australian Shepherd but darker in color than was typical for that breed. He also was a little more aggressive with the cows that most dogs.

“He really did it to himself this time,” Reese said.

I lifted Rex onto the exam table. I always marveled at the bodies of these working dogs. Some would be considered heavy if you just looked at their weight. But these dogs were solid muscle. And tough as nails. Rex did not act like his injury was bothering him at all.

I lifted his right lip, what a mess. He had a fracture of his maxilla, his upper jaw bone. He must have had a hold on the cow’s foot when she kicked. His canine tooth acted like a lever, and it produced a flap of bone that contained his canine tooth, two incisor teeth, and two premolars. The fracture line ran down the right-center on the roof of his mouth. 

“This is a mess,” I said. “But it is probably good that you brought Rex in tonight. I think I can fix it with a couple of pins and several wires. He is going to be uncomfortable for a couple of months.”

“Do you think he is going to lose any teeth?” Reese asked.

“All these teeth are still set in bone,” I said. “It is the bone that is broken. We might need a little luck here. But I think this will repair okay. The problem is I am going to have a couple of wires running across the roof of his mouth, and that is going to bother him.”

“How long will he have those wire?” Reese asked.

“Probably six to eight weeks,” I said. “Now that I think about it, I will probably wire between a couple of sets of teeth also. Sometimes when we do that, we will lose a tooth or two. But that won’t bother him.”

“He doesn’t have to smile for any pictures,” Reese said. “He won’t care as long as he can get back to work.”

“I think it is a good thing that you brought him in tonight,” I said. “With this wound open on the roof of his mouth, it would be a mess by morning.”

“Are you planning to fix it tonight, Doc?” Reese asked.

“I think that it is something I can do by myself,” I said. “And he will be far better off if it is repaired tonight. I would guess he will be ready to go home in the morning.”

With that, I showed Reese out the door after I had him hold Rex while I placed an IV catheter and started a bag of fluids on a slow drip. I got things set up in surgery and then gave Rex a dose of Pentathol via the IV.

The repair went pretty well. The slab of bone with the 5 teeth fit snuggly into place. I secured it with a couple of pins that ran through to the other side of the mouth and then placed tension band wires that ran across the roof of the mouth to hold the slab of bone securely in place.

That was all I needed. I did wire the teeth on each end of the slab to their neighboring teeth. And then, I covered all the sharp ends of the pins and wires with dental acrylic. Hopefully, the acrylic will last for the full eight weeks.

Rex went home the following morning, looking none the worse for wear. I checked him every couple of weeks. The repair held up well, and at eight weeks, his x-rays showed good healing. 

We sedated Rex and pulled the pins and wires. There were a couple of minor abrasions in his mouth, but nothing that would not heal well.

“I think you can probably start treating Rex like a dog again,” I said when Reese was in to pick up Rex.

“I think that he can’t wait to get back to work,” Reese said. “I bet he is thinking he is going to get back at that old black cow.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe we should put a muzzle on him for a couple of weeks. I’m not sure this repair will hold up to another bite like the last one.”

“We ain’t going to make no sissy out of Rex,” Reese said.

It was a long week later that Reese had Rex back in the clinic. He had landed a bite on the heel of that same old black cow, and sure enough, the same slab of maxillary bone was hanging loose.

“Looks like we need to do the same thing again,” I said. “But this time, we are going to extract both of those upper canine teeth. That way, when he bites, he won’t be able to hang on, and there won’t be a big lever to brake that jaw.”

“That sounds good, Doc,” Reese said. “Because we ain’t going to slow old Rex down.”

Rex healed well, once again, and didn’t seem to notice his missing canine teeth.

Photo by Ivan Vershinin from Pexels

Just Don’t Eat the Apple Pie

D. E. Larsen, DVM

There were a bunch of guys milling around outside of the barracks waiting for the Company Clerk to call the company to the formation. This was G Company of the Second Battalion at Fort Devens, US Army Security Agency Training School. I had been at Fort Devens for over eight months now. Three of those months had been waiting for school. Now I was in school, but I was in night school because of the significant buildup of troops for Vietnam. That allowed them to double their output.

We were billeted in the old WWII portion of the base. The barracks had been pulled out of mothballs and made livable. There were a lot of us living in the second battalion. Con 4 was a large central mess hall that fed everyone in the battalion. Probably close to 1500 troops. Tonight would be my first and only shift of KP at Con 4. We were a night school group, so we got the KP night shift. 

The clerk climbed up on his elevated platform and blew his whistle. G company was made up of about 200 men in five platoons. Very similar to the makeup of the basic training companies. With all the platoons formed up, the clerk called the company to attention and read off the day’s orders. Then we were dismissed and fell into our class groups to march to school. 

We marched nearly a mile to school in these smaller formations made up of our respective class groups. Today, I and almost 40 other guys, marched in a different direction, to Con 4.

The night shift was actually the best. We had to clean up after dinner, but it was just cooking and getting ready to cook for the next day after that clean up was done. Bags and bags of potatoes needed to be peeled. The kitchen needed to be set up for cooking breakfast. 

The better part of the early evening, the entire crew cleaned the dining room and set it up for breakfast. Then we took our assignments for the middle part of the night. Peeling potatoes seemed to me to be the best gig. You were out back of the kitchen, almost outside on a warm summer night. And nobody to bother you. 

Potatoes were dumped in a tumbler that removed the majority of the peelings. We just had to dig out the eyes and anything that was missed by the tumbler. There were 4 of us sitting around, going through one bag after another. How many potatoes do 1500 guys eat in a day? I don’t know, but we worked at it for several hours.

When the potatoes were all peeled, we went back into the kitchen to see what the next chore would be. 

“Apple pie,” the cook said. “You guys always like the apple pie your mothers made. But your mother never made apple pie for 1500 guys.”

“This might be fun to watch,” I said to Fred. Fred was one of the guys who peeled potatoes with me. I had never seen him before tonight, and I figured I would never see him again after tonight.

“A couple of you guy go get that wok and bring it over to the table with all the apples,” the cook said.

“I don’t know what a wok is,” I said to Fred.

“He pointed over to the far corner,” Fred said. “Let’s go grab it.”

My first exposure to a wok was interesting. This wok was about six feet across and nearly three feet deep. It rested on a metal cart with four small wheels. We got behind it and pushed it and the cart over to where the cook was waiting.

The apple filling was in gallon cans. We started opening the cans and dumping them in the wok. I can’t say how many gallons were used, but the wok was filled to six inches from the top. 

The cook sprinkled several cans of spices over the top of the apples, and a couple of guys started to mix the spices into the mass of apples with large wooden paddles. This was somewhat of a fun event with a dozen guys involved. Most of the crew had been working on the pie crusts while we had been peeling potatoes.

“Okay,” the cook said. “Let’s wheel this over to the pie crust.”

The pie crusts were in large flat pans, laid out on several tables over in the next room. About four guys grabbed the wok and started pushing it toward the tables with the pans of crust. Once they got it moving, the speed increased.

As the cart came to the doorway, it hit the ribbing on the floor, connecting the tiles between the rooms. The little wheels of the cart carrying the wok stopped when they hit this rib. The wok did not stop.

The wok continued, and the cart stopped. The wok made it halfway out of the cart, rested a brief moment at the midpoint of the rounded bottom, then flipped over. All of the apples hit the floor, and the wok landed upside down on the pile.

My first thought was that I was glad I had not been pushing the cart. I thought the cook was going to explode. He took a deep breath like he was going to let someone have it. Then he relaxed and took command of the situation. 

He looked around the room and looked at the mess on the floor and the empty pie crusts. Then his focus came to rest on a shovel near the rear door.

“Larsen,” he said. “You go wash that shovel. We will clean up this wok.”

I couldn’t believe it. The cook was going to shovel that stuff back into the wok. I took the shovel to the big sink and started scrubbing. After a couple of scrubbings with a large brush, I started scrubbing with a steel wool pad. Finally, I thought I could probably use it to fry an egg on if I had to.

“Larsen, you don’t have to be able to eat off the thing,” the cook said. “We are ready for it.”

Then that is what was done. The crew shoveled the apple filling off the floor back into the wok. Then they moved the wok over to the pie crust and continued to make the pie.

The evening went along fine after that. The floor in the kitchen looked cleaner than it had in months. And there was no trace of apple pie filling on the floor.

The morning crew arrived, and we were discharged to return to our barracks. I got back to the barracks about the time that my classmates were returning from school. There was a little chatter in the barracks as everyone settled into their bunks.

“How was KP, Larsen,” Mac asked. 

“It was okay,” I said. “Just don’t eat the apple pie.”

Photo by Spencer Davis from Pexels

Another Note to my Readers

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Those of you who have come accustomed to reading a post on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I will slow down a little and be back to posting new stories on Monday and Friday only.

Hopefully, that will allow me to start compiling a group of these stories into a book format.

Thanks for reading, and I always welcome any feedback or suggestions.

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