Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Political Parrot Story

Continuing about my wise-cracking nature...this anecdote was back in the days when I was a new graduate veterinarian fresh out of the University of Illinois. I had been an student intern at Niles already for three years, starting in May of 1980 and upon graduation became a staff veterinarian in May of 1983. Dr. TJ Lafeber, the noted avian veterinarian, was my mentor and I was his protege who he was grooming to eventually take over the practice. This story relates to a time I was seeing one of Dr. Lafeber's rechecks.

I was seeing appointments one afternoon at Niles Animal Hospital and my next case was a recheck of an Amazon parrot that had previously seen Dr. Lafeber. As I checked the record I saw that the bird had been diagnosed with an intestinal tract infection and was been treated with oral antibiotics at home.

I walked into the exam room and introduced myself to the owner. The bird was a big, strong yellow naped Amazon parrot who was giving me a malevolent stare. As I looked more closely at the owner I noticed he had multiple gashes on his fingers and forearms which looked relatively fresh. I asked the owner what happened to him where he got all those wounds. He mentioned they came from the bird as he was trying to medicate him.

Those of you who have worked with (or have) parrots know how aggressive some of them can be or difficult to treat, especially the strong-willed ones. Sadly, this client's parrot was one of those dominating Amazons which made catching and medicating the bird difficult.

He then continued to tell me that the biggest problem was trying to treat the bird in the fashion Dr. Lafeber recommended. I will digress to relate what Dr. Lafeber used to advocate. He was concerned that birds would become fearful when an owner tried to capture them and administer oral medications. So what he would tell people to do was to disguise themselves in some fashion so the bird would not be fearful of the owner, rather the medicator. He told people to wear a hat, glasses or something just to throw the bird's perception off enough so when the disguise was removed the bird would not recognize the owner as the one who had done the capture and treatment.

As I was speaking to this particular owner he said the treatment was difficult because the only disguise he could find was a rubber Jimmy Carter mask. He said when he put the mask on he had trouble seeing what he was doing so it was especially difficult to capture the bird and accomplish treatment. All the while as he was visually encumbered, the enraged Amazon was biting the Hell out of him.

Needless to say, I had a bemused smile as I visualized the poor parrot being tormented by a grinning Jimmy Carter approaching him with a towel.That was enough to traumatize man and beast.

I then came up with one of my notable wisecracks. After hearing his tale of woe I had an inspiration. I told the client that I knew what his problem was and how he could solve it. He expectantly looked at me waiting for pearls of wisdom to fall from my lips to aid him in his twice daily battles trying to medicate the bird. I then said that the problem is pretty obvious. I remarked that the bird freaks out when it sees the Jimmy Carter mask because the bird is a Republican and he needed to get a Ronald Reagan mask when he was medicating the bird. The owner shook his head and the technician who was helping me just groaned.

Fortunately, the bird's fecal recheck was normal and  no further medicating was needed so my theory was never put to the test.

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