Publisher’s note: Instead of answering questions from readers, our Edmonds Vet will be sharing stories from his years in practice. If you have a question, you can still submit it in the comment section below and he will address it.
Dr. Schultz was a good mentor for me. He was willing to offer help and advice but only if I asked for it. He and I were sitting in the office chatting when the phone rang. Dick Mathes, our technician and office manager, answered it.
“Sidney Animal Hospital… What? … Well, cook it. … Oh, OK, I’ll ask one of the doctors.”
“What do you do for a chicken with a broken leg?”
“Make chicken soup,” I responded.
It’s a pet rooster.”
Dr. Schultz turned to me. “You’re the small-animal expert. I don’t want any part of this deal.
“Well,” I told Dick, “tell her I can set the leg and it should heal but it will cost the same as for a cat or dog. After I set the leg I’ll have to take radiographs to make certain it is properly aligned. It will probably cost her at least $25.” (That was a lot of money in 1960.)
“That ought to bring her to her senses,” Dick muttered, returning to the reception desk.
“Doc says he can fix it but it will cost you $25. … Yeah, well OK, he’s here now.”
Janice Freeman was not the person I was expecting. She was tall with a luxuriant mass of light brown, curly hair springing in multiple directions from her head. Her eyes were widespread, child-like, pale blue. Her fingers were long, the nails painted bright red. Her handshake was as firm but her hand was soft, feminine. She was dressed in very tight jeans, pressed, with sharp creases front and back. The white oxford blouse tucked into her jeans emphasized her attributes.
“Dr. Gross, thank you for agreeing to take care of Banty. He’s my baby.”
The Bantam rooster tucked under her left arm was pressing into her bosom. Considering the obviously fractured left tibia, he was quiet seemingly content to be held, at least in that position.
“I’m always happy for a new experience,” I said, “and treating a chicken with a broken leg will be an entirely new experience for me. Let’s take him into the treatment room and see what can be done. How did this happen?”
“I haven’t a clue,” she said. “He was out in the back yard. I have a chicken-wire protected area with a converted doghouse for shelter for him. The pen is strong enough to keep out hawks as well as ground predators. When I went out to feed him this morning the pen was intact but I found him like this.”
“Is he always this calm?” I asked.
“When I hold him he is,” she said.
“Well, that’s good. The biggest problem I thought we would have is anesthetizing him so I can set the leg. If he remains as calm as he is now we might be able to do what we need to do without anesthesia.”
I constructed and fit a Thomas splint. Banty didn’t respond to the manipulation of his broken leg. Once I had the splint constructed, I taped his foot to the end of it, easily manipulated the fracture to align the ends, taped the leg in place and took radiographs.
“Would it be possible for me to have a copy of those X-rays?” she asked.
When I arrived at the hospital the next morning the Sidney Herald was on my desk. On the front page was a photo of Banty, walking on his splint and another photo of his radiographs. The headline proclaimed: “New Vet Does His Thing”.
Dr. David Gross of Edmonds graduated from Colorado State University’s veterinary school in 1960 and was in private practice for 10 years. He retired in 2006 as Professor and Head of Veterinary Biosciences, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Gross is the author of “Animals Don’t Blush,” which describes the unique patients and even more unique clients of a veterinary practice in Sidney, Montana in the early 1960s. The book is available at the Edmonds Bookshop.