I read your book in one sitting, I had fun with it, and I thought to myself that the most important thing that a veterinarian must know is how to use a stun gun or a blow gun? She played a vital role in many stories in the book…
Yes, it is a great necessity in the field and in animal zoos. So when I was thinking about how to expand the common practice, I went to make a gunsmith — I’m an extremist, if that’s the case. And I wanted a rifle that could shoot something, not some five-meter flak. I bought a powerful rifle.
But we blow into it a lot in the zoo with a blowtorch. We suggest which distance is better for the animal, a rifle or a blowgun. If you don’t estimate the pressure, it will put a pretty big hole in the animal, so you have to think about how far you’re going to shoot.
The book also describes the darker sides of medicine, I enjoyed the Moroccan school of life, for example. What was the Moroccan vet school like?
Morocco is a landscape full of contrasts, you see a rich palace and the streets of poor people. And it looks the same with animals. Every day you meet donkeys, mules emaciated to the bone, and then a thoroughbred Arabian comes along. Or there is a stable of sport horses of rich people who race them. In Morocco, I learned to admire the strength of animals even more, because what an animal can survive is unbelievable…
In Morocco, I learned to admire the power of animals even more. What an animal can survive is unbelievable
I went there thinking I was an up-and-coming vet with an ego to the ceiling, but there I lost a comb that fell on me. One finds that the theoretical skill from school is different from the practical one, and that we underestimate people. For example, the local veterinary technician would pocket half of our doctors, and he didn’t even have a high school diploma. I tried to explain to him that he was doing this and that wrong, but gradually I realized that he was right in most cases. Even without a university degree, he beat me with knowledge, diligence and experience. It’s always about the people.
Do they study psychology at the veterinary school?
Unfortunately not, but I would definitely include it in the curriculum, because it is more than necessary. Firstly, to learn how to work with people. You can treat the animal as well as you want, you can do the first and the last, but it always costs and falls on the owner. When you do everything and the owner doesn’t follow your instructions, it doesn’t go anywhere. So a veterinarian must learn to work with people in order to help an animal.
And the other thing that psychology would be needed for is that when you have empathy for animals, it’s hard to stay away because the fates of animals affect you. You can tell yourself how you have it worked out, but every time a case comes along that hits you and takes you apart.
We know that there are simulants among cats and dogs, but among large animals?
It’s not that common, but they are. For one thing, they are simulants who don’t want to bother. I know one horse that we treated for lameness. I came, we pulled out the horse, he was terribly lame on his right leg. Then he ran, limped on his left leg, then looked at us, started limping on his right leg. So I thought he had a problem in both, but I didn’t have an x-ray with me. I agreed that next time we would do a complete diagnosis, we let him into the corral – and wow, the horse didn’t limp. As he saw that nothing would happen, he was miraculously cured.
But then I went there to diagnose him again, I found nothing, and the same scenario repeated itself. The owner then called me a month later that she could stand it – when she came and mounted him and he carried his leg in the air that he couldn’t, she didn’t get down and take him back to the stable, but made him walk a few steps. And he worked perfectly fine. It doesn’t happen as often as it does with smaller animals, but I know simulant horses as well.
What does large animal veterinary medicine entail? And what did Lýdia Suková experience as a veterinarian in Morocco? Listen to the full interview.