Charlie and Betty, The Fish Pond

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Over the next few years, Charlie would call for a post-breeding infusion on every mare on her second breeding. I don’t think we had a 100% conception rate, but it was close enough for Charlie and his clients to be pleased. On one of these visits, Charlie asked me if I wanted to look at his fish pond. He had dammed up the creek that ran through the back of his property, dumped in a couple of truckloads of fine pea gravel to provide for breeding, and planted it with trout. This pond covered nearly a half-acre, and the water was deep. The creek had year-round flow. These fish were sort of his pets.

 “I let my brother Lee, the pharmacist, bring his kids up to catch a fish once in a while,” Charlie said as he retrieved a coffee can full of pelleted fish food from the little shack beside the pond.

 Charlie threw the pellets into the water in front of us. The water was instantly alive with trout. These were no little trout one might expect to see at a fish hatchery, these were large fish. They looked like they were all 20 inches or more. I stood there amazed, probably had my mouth open.

    “I think they have pretty good reproduction with all that gravel I dumped in up there where the creek comes into the lake. I have not planted any fish for a couple of years, and the numbers don’t seem to go down any. I think there must be some freshwater shrimp in there because they all have pink meat. That or they eat their fill of all the goldfish that you see along the edges,” Charlie said, pointing to a group of 20 to 30 six-inch goldfish hiding in the willows.

 “If you want to bring your kids up, they can catch a fish,” Charlie said.

 “Will my son, Derek, and our youngest daughter, Dee, would love to catch one of these fish. I am not too sure about the other two. I wouldn’t want to catch more than we could eat anyway,” I said.

    “You bring them up tomorrow evening, I will honk when I go by your place on my way home.”

    The next evening Dee and Derek clambered into my truck with their fishing poles. I had set the stage, and they were excited.

    When we got to Charlie’s, he was waiting at the pond. He had a jar of old salmon eggs in his hand. He looked at the poles the kids were carrying. “I don’t know if these will work,” Charlie says as he examines the hooks and four-pound test leaders. “These are pretty big fish, but let’s give it a try.”

    Charlie places a small glob of salmon eggs on Dee’s hook. “Just cast it out there a little way, not too far,” he says.

    The eggs hit the water and begin to sink below the surface. Bam! A large trout rolls as it grabs the eggs. There is a sharp pull on the line, then nothing. When Dee reels it in, everything is gone, hook, line, and sinker.

    Charlie says, “I better get my pole,” as he heads for the shack.

 Charlie’s pole is an old rusted steel pole with about 12 – 15 feet of line tied to end. The line is heavy, it looks like a 50-pound test line. Tied to the tip of the pole with a half dozen granny knots. And with a large double hook at the other end of the line, probably a #4 hook size. The knot securing the hook to the heavy line is the same series of knots that tie the line to the tip of the pole.

    “Now this ain’t no fancy pole, but it catches these fish. We just put a big glob of eggs on this hook like this,” Charlie says as he baits the hook.

    He walks to the water’s edge with the baited hook. “Now I am going to throw this into the water, you need to stand here beside me,” he says to Dee.

 When you hook the fish, and it will happen as soon as this bait sinks, you just hold the pole and back up toward the shack there,” Charle explains. “I will get the fish when you pull him out of the water.”

    Charlie throws the baited hook into the water. About the time it disappears under the water, there is a tremendous tug on the line. Dee almost loses her grip but recovers quickly. 

 “Now, just back up,” Charlie reminds her.

 Dee backs up, struggling to hold the pole with the fish fighting on the other end of the line. A few more steps and this large trout is floundering on the bank. Charlie scoops him up and pulls a little club from his back pocket and wallops him on the head a couple of times. He holds up the fish, probably 23 inches long and close to 8 inches deep.

 We repeat the process with Derek. He is 3 years younger than Dee and has a little more of a struggle with the fish, but it doesn’t take long, and second fish is on the bank. This fish is slightly smaller but still an impressive fish well over 20 inches.

 “Any time you get hungry for a fish, just give me a call,” Charlie says as I load the fish and the kids into the truck.

 “Thanks a lot, Charlie, I will try not to take all your fish,” I say as we head the truck down the driveway.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

Charlie and Betty Land, Foster

D. E. Larsen, DVM

 Charlie’s horses were pretty well managed, and after the breeding season, there was not a lot to do around the farm. Betty managed to keep their account pretty active.

    “What brings you in today?” I asked Betty when she eased through the front door. Betty was a slightly built lady with black shoulder-length hair. She seemed a little shy most of the time when Charlie was around, but I suspect that she could hold her own in most situations.

    “This darn cat of mine is peeing everywhere,” she said with some concern in her voice.

 This darn cat was named Foster; he was an old guy. He was approaching the golden year for male cats in the 1970s. I seldom saw a male cat over 15, and if I remembered correctly, Foster was going to be 15 this summer. Betty had found him as a kitten under the dumpster at Glen’s Market in Foster. He pretty much had the run of the place now.

    “Peeing all over the place, small puddles or large puddles?” I asked.

    “Oh, they are large puddles when they are on the floor. He peed on the bed this morning. That is why I am here, it woke up Charlie, and he was none too happy,” Betty explained.

    “Well, let’s get him in an exam room and look at him and see if I can get some urine out of him.”

  Pulling him out of the carrier, I noticed that he was much thinner than he was in the past. There was urine in the kennel.

    “Oh my,” Betty exclaimed, “how could there be so much urine already?”

    “We will get a quick look at this urine first, then I will do an exam,” I said as I drew up some urine from the kennel.

    This urine would do fine for a dip stix, but we would need a better collection if we were going to have to do additional testing. I handed the syringe to Dixie and returned my attention to Foster. He was quite thin, ribs were showing through his hair coat. His eyes had early cataracts, sometimes these old guys just have trouble finding their way to the litter box. He was dehydrated also. My guess was either advanced kidney failure, the most common cause of death in an old cat, or possibly diabetes. I seldom saw diabetes in the cat, but it was definitely on the list.

 Dixie popped into the exam room and laid the results of the dip stix on the counter. A four-plus urine glucose and normal specific gravity just about confirmed a diabetes diagnosis.

   “Betty, Foster probably has diabetes. We need to do some blood tests to make sure and to check his liver and kidney function. Then we need to give him some fluids and get him on a stable insulin dose. He is probably going to have to stay with us a day or two.”

    “Doc, I can leave him for the day, but I don’t want to leave him overnight. If he is going to die, I want him to die at home,” Betty said in a stern voice. I had not heard that voice from her before.

    “We can probably work with that, but I will need to see him every morning for a week or so. We will start off with a pretty low dose of insulin and work it up slowly,” I explained.

 “The other thing we need to discuss is what we can expect with his treatment. He is almost 15, and I don’t see very many male cats older than 15. Diabetes is a difficult disease to live with for people. For people to manage the disease in pets is even more difficult. Top that off and cats are also difficult to treat when they have diabetes. A high percentage of pets with diabetes are euthanized within 6 months of diagnosis, just because of the difficulty of living with the disease.”

 “We will do whatever we need to do to keep Foster alive,” Betty said. “I know he is old, and I know he won’t last forever, but we won’t be the ones to give up on him.”

 With that, we kept Foster for the day. His blood glucose was well over 400, and other blood tests were normal. We gave him 300 ml of Ringers Lactate by SQ injection and started him on a low dose of insulin.

 Betty was waiting at the door every morning with Foster. My guess was the barn chores would wait until his treatment was done. Testing at the time was cumbersome. The first few days, we did both a blood test and urine glucose. Foster was obviously feeling much better, looking brighter, and Betty reported him to be much more active and peeing less. My goal was to get his glucose to somewhere around 200, just to a level he could live with and not have much in the way of a hypoglycemia risk.

 By the third day, we were there. “I think this is the dose we use for a couple of weeks,” I explained to Betty. We had been showing her how to do the injections all week. I want to see him still for a couple of days, just to check his urine glucose and give the dose in the morning, Then we will turn you loose at home.”

 Thursday morning, expecting a quick check, Foster’s urine showed no glucose. Great, so much for a simple case. We drew a little blood. Blood Glucose was 50, pretty low.

    “No insulin for Foster today,” I explained to Betty. “Sometimes, in the cat, we will see a remission or sometimes a fluctuation in insulin requirement. So no insulin today, and we will check him in the morning.”

 Friday morning, and there was still no glucose in his urine. We decided to go the weekend without insulin and recheck on Monday. This might prove to be a complicated case to manage.

 On Monday, Foster’s urine showed a 4+ glucose, and his blood glucose was over 300. So we started over where we left off.

    “That would be great if you could check his urine every morning, but I am not sure that you could get urine out him,” I said. “We will have you check his glucose every morning, give insulin if it is positive, and don’t give insulin if he doesn’t have glucose in his urine. That is not perfect, but we will see how that works. You just call in the mornings and let Dixie know how things are going so she can keep his record up to date.”

    So that was the program, Betty was happy, Foster was delighted, I was hopeful that we would not have a wreck. I could not believe that Betty could get urine every day.

 Two weeks later, when Betty was in for a recheck, I noticed that the daily record was complete. There was a two-day stretch where she did not give insulin. Foster had gained almost 2 pounds and starting to look like his old self.

 “Things look like they are going well,” I said. “But it looks like you are going have to check his urine every day, his insulin demands are just going to fluctuate enough that we have to have a daily check. My concern is, how are you going to get urine out of him every day?”

 “That is no problem, I just have him pee in a coffee cup,” Betty said with no expression, just like that was something everybody would do. 

 Betty was able to manage Foster for another 3 years with this simple program of monitoring. Consistently during those years, Foster would have several days each month where he would have no need for insulin. We could have managed him closer and done away with those days, but I am not sure that his quality of life and the quality of life for Charlie and Betty would have been improved.

Photo by Ave Calvar on Unsplash

Charlie and Betty, At the Track

D. E. Larsen, DVM

 “I have a hot tip on a horse running in the third race at the State Fair Friday night,” Charlie said into the phone. “I would like to take you and Sandy up there with Betty and me if you can get free. This is a solid tip, we can make some money. Sort of like insider trading.”

 “I think we can get a baby sitter, we would be happy to go with you, thanks for the invite,” I replied.

    Charlie and Betty were right on time to pick us up Friday night. Charlie seemed excited to be on the way to the horse races, almost jovial.

    “This is a solid tip I have on this horse,” He said as we sped through Sweet Home. “You probably knew that betting the horses is filled with pitfalls. You have to have good information from the trainers to make any money at it. Occasionally, a race comes along where the trainers stick a horse in the race to get track experience. Rarely, one of these races ends up with one good horse, and all the others are just there for the experience. This race is a sure bet, I hope you brought enough money to make a good bet.”

     “I brought some money,” I said, “but I probably have a different experience at the track than you have Charlie. My experience has been based on luck, and I have suffered from overconfidence at times.”

    “I’m telling you, and you can take this to the bank, this is not overconfidence, this is the closest thing to a sure thing at the track you will ever see,” Charlie said in a stern voice, seeming to be irritated that I might question this tip.

   Friday night and the State Fairgrounds were packed. We did find a parking spot. Charlie walked at a fast pace, I think he was excited. I could keep up with him, but Sandy and Betty lagged far behind. They did not catch up with us until we were standing in line to buy admission tickets to the races.

    “This is a good thing,” Charlie said. “A large crowd means a bigger payout.”

    We picked up hot dogs and a beer at the concession stands and found our way to set of seats about a third of the way up the grandstands. The good thing was it was close to the breezeway to the betting windows. After downing the hot dogs, Sandy and I set about picking a horse for the first race.

   “I’m telling you Doc, don’t waste your money on two-dollar bets. You need to take all your money and put it on the #6 horse in the 3rd race,” Charlie said in a hushed voice, not wanting to give away any information to somebody who might overhear the conversation.

    “I’m pretty conservative at betting, I try to pick the best horse and bet him to show,” I explained.

   “You won’t win enough to pay for the gas getting here,” Charlie snorted.

   Sandy and I went along with Charlie and watched the first 2 races. As the third race was announced, Charlie sprang to his seat.

     “Give me your money, and I will buy the tickets, I don’t want any mistakes of this one,” Charlie said with his hand outstretched.

   I handed him a $10.00 bill, and shuddered a little, remembering the horserace in Boston where I was overconfident and lost $10.00 on a horse which I bet to win.

    Charlie must have been first in line because it was not long, and he was back. He handed me our ticket, and we stood to watch the race, not really looking at the ticket. Charlie was all smiles and a little agitated. I was guessing that he was starting to question his tip.

  Horse races don’t take long to run. They spend a lot of time getting the horses out on the track and parade up and back to allow adequate time for the betting to take place. Once in the starting gate, they are off in short order. The #6 horse had a good start and was in the lead by a full length at the first corner. There was never any question after that point, and he won with a solid lead. Charlie almost threw Betty in the air. We were happy also. This horse had pretty favorable odds, something like 6 to 1. Charlie and I headed to pay windows. I started to get in line for the $10.00 window, and Charlie grabbed my arm and pulled me over to the high stakes window. Now I looked at my ticket, it was a ticket for #6 horse to win in the 3rd race, but it was a $100.00 ticket.

    “You must have got your tickets mixed up,” I said to Charlie.

    “No, that is your ticket, I assumed the risk, you can pay me back out of the winnings,” He said, handing me my $10.00 bill back.

    I collected the $600.00 and handed Charlie his $100.00. I am not sure how much Charlie had bet on the race, but he had a lot of money in his hands.

    “Now we have enough money to bet a few Quinellas or Trifectas. I will teach you how to win a little money at the track. But remember, you have to have an in with the trainers, and you have to trust their tips. If you don’t know Randy, I will introduce you one of these days.”

    Sandy and Betty were awaiting our return, Sandy was feeling pretty frisky thinking we had won $50.00 or $60.00. She was a little surprised when I handed her a couple hundred dollar bills. 

“Charlie insured our bet at a little higher value than my $10.00,” I told her.

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

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