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I USED to enjoy farm visits. Getting out of the practice and catching some rays of sunshine was one of the reasons I went to vet school. Who wants to be indoors all day? Who wants to work nine to five in the same room? Not me.
I pictured scenic drives through winding lanes to treat animals. Don't think me naive; I was expecting long hours, cold mornings and muck everywhere, but I wasn't ready for the danger of farm animal practice. The fear of getting hurt and the knowledge that there was little I could do to stop it. The knowledge that one accident could result in life-changing consequences or worse, career-changing consequences. But, for me, it wasn't the farm activities themselves that posed the most dangerous, but in fact the perilous journeys to them.
On one occasion, I was seeing practice with a vet who, I can only presume was training for the Dakar Rally. she flew round the bends and mistook speed bumps for launch ramps, while approaching blind bends with manic glee. I hadn't been trained as her rally co-driver, yet here she was trying to make an attempt on Sébastien Loeb's record.
The problem didn't just seem to be with speed, but with general ambition. she seemed to be sure that a lane wasn't a dead end; so sure in fact she refused to even contemplate turning around when the tarmac stopped and when the hedgerows began touching the car from either side, not even when a gate blocked our path. Tracks could be roughed out, vegetation could be pushed aside (with stomach-churning screeching as the thorns scratched the paintwork) and gates could be opened. It was only after three more gates and driving across a rough pasture that we returned to, what one might call a more conventional road. At least she thought she knew where she was going.
Another exciting visit began by driving past the stables we were supposed to be attending - twice as it turned out. On this occasion, the equine vet I was accompanying was new to the area and his map skills consisted of relying entirely on Google. It was only after 20 minutes of driving that he confided in me that there was a distinct chance we were lost. Luckily we came upon a pair of hikers who were very glad to offer their assistance, as they thought the vet seemed a bit stressed. Well, I suppose getting lost on an emergency call-out can do that to you. They pointed us in the right direction and also handed us a leaflet on meditation and spiritual guidance which would ‘help him find his way again'. ‘Spiritual guidance?', he queried, ‘Bit early to be drinking right now isn't it?'
Perhaps next time you're running a bit behind schedule, just relax. Most country lanes aren't designed for speed. Vets don't get sirens on their cars or use blue lights (as great as that would be). So remember, it's better to arrive a few minutes late than dead on time.
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