After work and whenever I am on call, I absolutely dread being called out to a property when it is pitch dark and mostly if is freezing cold.I got home one night and the afterhours phone rang a couple of hours later. I held my breath, crossed my fingers and then took the call.
This poor owner had just gotten home to a very horrific sight. She kept saying: ‘My pet goose is badly injured and I don’t know long it has been like this’. I did not seem to grasp the word goose so I kept saying: ‘I am sorry what animal, did you say horse or goat or is it a dog’.
I guess my brain did not register GOOSE because you rarely if ever get called out about a pet goose.
When it finally clicked in my brain that it was a goose, I had to try to determine what the exact problem was. The owner started to explain that the tongue is just hanging out of its beak. I immediately got worried that it may have fractured its beak and that would indicate a very grave prognosis. However, the owner was fairly certain the beak was intact.
Unfortunately at that stage, I had to bring up the big elephant in the room and say: ‘Ofcourse I can examine your pet goose but there will be an afterhours call out fee that has to be paid in full tonight including any other treatments done.’ I often find it quite challenging to have to bring up the whole money issue with clients afterhours but it has to be done. Why? We have a few clients that tend to think our work is pro bono and they can call us at any ungodly hour and just expect us to service them at no cost! That is a whole different topic for discussion at some other stage. Honestly, there is usually a 50% chance that owners decide that seeing their pet is no longer an emergency at that stage of the conversation. They simply can not afford it or suddenly realise that it is in fact not an emergency and can wait until the next morning.
This owner, however, actually really touched me with her reply.
She said that she is happy to pay and was so sorry to have to drag me out for a goose, it may seem silly to me but it is her pet goose. I smiled and told her I have a few clients that bring me their pet chooks whenever they have concerns so she doesn’t have to worry about that.On my way to the clinic, I kept thinking, how on earth was its tongue hanging out. I usually like to be mentally prepared for any emergency case but in this situation I simply had to wait and see.
The owner walked in with her goose wrapped in a towel and looked very sheepishly at me. She still seemed quite embarrassed to have dragged me out for a goose. It was fairly tame compared to the average goose that hisses and flaps its angry wings at you. My quick examination showed that her tongue had really prolapsed from under her beak. There was a split in the bottom beak and it felt like a soft tissue injury. I thought to myself, I could not have done as good a job at describing this injury over the phone as the owner had. I looked into the owners eyes and said: ‘You did the right thing, you could not have left this poor goose like this overnight!’ She was so relieved to hear that.
Then she took a step back and said: ‘Can you fix it?’
I did not want to give her too much hope because I was unable to thoroughly examine the wound whilst the goose was conscious. I explained that we don’t routinely put geese under anaesthetic and discussed all the risks, costs and the real possibility of being unable to repair the damage.
The owner was fully aware of all the risks involved and that euthanasia may be recommended by me if I can not fix the damage. She decided to have a heart to heart conversation with me. She explained how much she hoped I could save this goose because she had her goose mate waiting for her at home. She had not really named either of them but commonly referred to this one as goosey! They were both hand raised and so the owners had grown quite attached to them.
She simply wanted me to know how much she valued her pet goose.
I advised her that I may do the surgery tonight but it is possible I may postpone it until tomorrow morning.
I put goosey in a cage and observed her from a distance. She started trying to groom her feathers. I simply could not tolerate watching her tongue hanging out whilst she ineffectively groomed herself. She would have been unable to eat or drink and was simply damaging her tongue in the grooming process. I called Alana (my vet colleague) and cheerfully said: ‘Are you interested in being my anaesthetist in a goose surgery?’ I just knew she would love to help, observe and be part of this rare opportunity.
And so we proceeded with a full anaesthetic. I got to intubate a goose for the first time which was very exciting. We replaced the tongue in its correct position and sutured the soft tissue gap in two stages. I first had to suture the wound in her frenulum (see the first picture below). Then I sutured together the gap in her actual beak (see the second picture below).
It was a bit fidley but managed to do the job!
I couldn’t have done it without Alana. She did an excellent job at monitoring goosey’s anaesthetic.
Goosey recovered fast and really well from the anaesthetic.
We were super happy with the outcome. I did not pass the chance to take video footage of this unique experience. Unfortunately it was only taken at the end of the surgery because we were too focused during the procedure! Please check out the video below. Alana is a bit camera-shy so please don’t hold that against her!