Ellen and I are finding our experience growing up on a farm being used to advantage here. This farm is isolated, without phone or power, and vet services are few and far between here. When an animal is sick, they treat it as best they can, and if that isn’t sufficient, the animal will have to suffer until it recovers. When Ingo hears that Ellen has veterinary experience, even if she doesn’t have the education yet to complement her enthusiasm and volunteer work, he immediately begins a laundry list of animals that he’d like her to look at. The cow just had a calf three days ago, and has mastitis in one quarter. He lost a goat to mastitis a couple of years ago, and he’s still heartbroken about it, so he’d like Ellen to pay special attention to treating the cow. Also, one of the llamas has a hole in his cheek, and one of the goats is limping badly, so Ingo would like the two of us to check them out and tell him what Ellen can do for them. Consequently, Ellen and I get almost all the animal chores in the morning, assisted by Ingo’s stepdaughter Emily who wants to watch.

First, we let the goats out to graze, checking on one of the does, Erica, who is the one with an injured back leg. Ellen’s brought a knife to trim her hooves, which we hope will help, but finds an abcess high up in the foot. She lances it and will return later with iodine and gauze to clean it out. In the meantime, she treats the doe’s other injuries – a cut teat gets a disinfectant spray applied to it, and an open wound that looks like a scratch or bug bite gone bad gets the same treatment. The goat is heavily pregnant, due any day now, and Ingo wants Ellen to give her stitches to close the wound on the teat before the kids are born and re-injure it by nursing, but it’s been too long since the injury happened to sew it closed properly. Instead, we decide Ellen will use medical-grade crazy glue to keep the cut sealed. Before we move on to treat the cow, we check the doe for signs of giving birth in the next 24 hours. Ellen determines she’s close, but not quite ready yet.

Ellen shows another volunteer, Tomomi, how to milk the cow

Ellen shows another volunteer, Tomomi, how to milk the cow

We move on to the cow and calf. The first challenge is to catch the cow. We both fiddle with our rope until we manage to tie a passable knot to go around her horns. We try to approach her gently without startling her, but she’s protective of her newborn calf, and leads us on a chase around the field. Finally, we get her cornered and she lets us get close enough to slip the rope around her horns. I lead her toward a tree and tie her there so Ellen can begin to treat her. Ina, the cow, has mastitis in one quarter, so we milk out that part of the udder and put medication into the teat to treat the infection. She also has a wound on her belly, so we spray that as well. Finally, we can untie her and let her back to her calf, who was completely unconcerned by the brief separation, unlike the mother.

The calf, not too bothered by being separated from Mommy while she's being milked and treated.

The calf, not too bothered by being separated from Mommy while she’s being milked and treated.

The llama is left for another day, and two other volunteers come with Ellen to wrestle the llama to the ground and hold him down while Ellen performs surgery on his cheek. She originally thought the injury was a thorn that had pierced the cheek and caused an abcess, but when she got out a scalpel and cut into it, she decided it was more likely an abcessed tooth. She removes most of the infection and disinfects the wound, but the llama won’t let her come near him again, so she can’t give him anything for the pain. He’ll have to live with it.

Ellen is absolutely enjoying the feeling of being helpful, and having her skills appreciated. Ingo mentioned that he has a neighbour who wishes he could tell if his cows are pregnant, so Ellen will likely be asked to travel around and do minor veterinary tasks for a handful of neighbours as well. Since that’s the kind of thing she’d like to do as a career after vet school, this is a perfect place to be.

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