I really should have posted this two days ago, I know this, and I am sorry. Please forgive me, but there was Olympic dressage and dinner with third years. I was thoroughly distracted, and didn’t get to bed until after midnight. So I present you with Friday’s activities a bit late.
It started out pretty terribly. I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a heard of wild trash compactors that spat in my mouth and then added an extra kick to my lungs for good measure. I was hacking and coughing with a sore throat and really just wanted to go back to bed. The thought of having to catch the bus later so that I could make it to lab got me up though. I actually made it to my 8am lecture and survived through the 9am lecture (though I did start shivering near the end, a hot cup of tea fixed me right up).
During the break I got an email from the immigration people asking for another background check (even though the one I turned in last time should still be good for another year), so I ran to the International Student Support Office and asked what I was supposed to do. They only gave me two weeks to get my new background turned in, and I didn’t have a 10 card just lying around with all of the relevant forms filled out. I can’t get that kind of turn around from inside the states. They want me to get the 10 card, mail it (even though the post off ice was closed) and have it back in two weeks. Not. Happening. The nice woman at the ISSO told me that the best that I could do was document that I had mailed the relevant documents, and was awaiting their return, and email the immigration office telling them that I can’t work faster than the post and the FBI and asking for their patience (dang that was a terrible sentence). So I wandered back to the vet tower and settled in to my lunch.
Around 2pm my group assembled in the vet foyer and made our various ways to the Veterinary Large Animal Teaching Unit (or VLATU for short). One of my group members drove me and two others in her car, but we left super early so had lots of time to kill while we waited. We decided to explore and watched demonstrators move some cattle around, then found some horses and decided to stop and pet them. While we were standing around chatting and petting the sweet little gelding, one of the demonstrators came up to us and asked if we were in the horse group. We said that we were in fact in the sheep group, but really like horses so were hanging out with them. She then handed us some lead ropes and told us to catch two of the horses in another pen (very easy, they didn’t move much) and tie them up. Then she handed us brushes and we got to groom the muddy hairy beasts. The horse I had was named Grace and was about 16 years old. The other horse in the pen was named Toy and was 30 years old, she was sway backed but in good weight and covered in a nice thick coat. They were filthy (because there is a perpetual mud problem in the Manawatu in winter) but stood still very well. As we were finishing up the grooming session, we noticed that our group was gathering on the other side of the barn so we walked over to them and sat for the introduction.
Kevin Stafford, the professor who teaches the animal handling class at 8:00 most mornings, taught us all about sheep. It was very fitting as he is in fact Irish (yes, he DOES love potatoes). In his Irish accent he asked if anyone had any experience on a sheep farm. One of the guys grew up on a sheep farm, so he was volunteered to move the sheep into the pens. 16 sheep per side, 4 sheep per pen. He got it mostly right but had to toss a couple sheep over the low fences to even out the numbers. Kevin was rougher with the sheep than my classmate, dropping the little hoggets (young female sheep) from about a foot off the ground. My classmate placed them down gently and let them get their feet before letting go.
Once all of the sheep were in the right place we were shown how to manipulate them for various tasks. The first molestation technique we learned was how to set them on their bums. We pushed them into a corner, grabbed them by the nose, turned their nose to their ribs and pushed down. Once they were on the ground we grabbed the bottom leg and pulled them up onto their backsides and leaned them against our legs. From this position we could check teeth and genitals and do all manner of terrible things (according to sheep) like shear them if we wanted to. I was able to do this pretty easily and caught on relatively quickly, my partner wasn’t so adept at it, she will likely not go into sheep.
The second thing we learned was how to tie them up while they were sitting on their bums. We got them into the bum-sitting position and then used a bit of twine that was tied in a loop. We put it around their back legs (behind the hocks) and then looped it up over their heads (with their front legs on the outside of the twine). We then laid them on their sides to make sure they couldn’t get up, then popped them up on their brisket so that they could belch (which sheep do every minute or so). As it turns out, getting the little buggers OUT of that rig is harder than getting them into it. Again, I picked up on it very quickly while my partner struggled. I love sheep.
The next bit of harassment for the poor sheep was learning how to drench them (squirt liquids into their mouths). We were given drenching guns (filled with water to practice) and shown how to use them. I’m still not certain that I did it correctly, but as a vet I probably won’t be doing much drenching. Its something that the farmers get their sons to do once they are big enough to straddle a sheep. We did however learn things that can go wrong with drenching, and I am of the belief that all knowledge is worth having, so I’m not complaining.
Lastly, we were shown how to draw blood from a sheep. We split up in pairs again (this time I had a different partner) and had to wait on one of the two demonstrators to make sure we weren’t doing it wrong. Each of us was required to get two samples. I managed to miss on my first pass, but got the vein without having to switch needles and scored my first sample. Then I stood up and held a different sheep for my partner. He was not so adept. He had trouble finding the jugular, and when he tried to get the vein, he missed and then pulled the needle out too far and lost the vacuum. He was taking a while so the demonstrators split us up with people who had finished both of their samples. On my second try, I managed to hit the vein on my second pass again, but pulled out too soon because Kevin was talking to me and distracting me. My sample was too small so he made me do another. The next one I got the vein on my first shot and filled the vile. I showed Kevin my triumphant sample and then signed myself off on the sheet. We were free to go do whatever it is first years do in their free time.
I caught the bus home, an earlier bus than I had expected, and walked into an empty house. During lunch, my friend from Hawaii invited me to dinner at her place for chili dogs. Since I smelled distinctly of sheep and was going to be spending the evening with other people, I decided to shower. After my shower my flatmate was not home yet so I grabbed my loom and started weaving. Its pretty terrible, not gonna lie, but I’ve improved since my first fumbling attempt so there is about five inches of wobbly, puffy, inconsistent stuff and then about three inches of almost looking like I know what I’m doing. All of the improvement is thanks to my friends back home who have been patiently answering my questions as I bumble along.
When my flatmate did finally show up, we packed up her dog and went over to Hawaii’s place. The chili dogs were fantastic and the company was entertaining. There was red wine with dinner and chocolate chip bread pudding for dessert. After eating we sat on the new couches (futons) and watched some of the Olympics. Then my flatmate and her friend and I went to said friend’s house and watched the Dressage. I made delicious lemon ginger tea out of fresh lemons and ginger with just enough honey to sooth the throat. We stayed up until nearly midnight and then my flatmate drove us home.
The highlights were the Brittish guy whose horse looked wonderfully relaxed the whole time, and the Sweedish woman whose horse was actually missing an eye. Thats right, no eye. He spooked a couple of times which took them out of the running for any medals, but he was gorgeous and floaty and amazing to watch. We honestly didn’t even notice the eye until they showed him leaving the arena at the end.
Saturday I did laundry, and went shopping, and did absolutely no study. So today I made up for it and studied a little. I also cooked amazing Chicken and Dumplings. That’s right, it was so good it deserves capital letters. Now I need to go to bed so that I can start the week over again. I really should stop writing these so close to bed time.