BEWARE – this is a cautionary tale for all vets, dog owners and dog lovers.
I have a very good friend who lived in Krakow for many years. Let’s call her Anna. She loves animals and used to look after our previous dog, Floppy, whenever we went away on holiday.
Now please believe me when I say that Floppy was NOT an easy animal. Floppy was a bit mad, to be truthful – a rescue dog who must have been traumatised early in life, because we never quite got the hang of curtailing her snarling death-threats at random passersby. She once nipped the little finger of our six-year-old daughter’s friend, as well as the inner thigh of a large male cousin visiting from Ireland. Needless to say, I always put a muzzle on Floppy when out on doggie walks because I didn’t trust her as far as I could throw her – not that I ever attempted to do such a thing. But despite all this, Floppy adored Anna, and Anna adored Floppy.
So, having this special bond with animals, Anna decided to train as a vet. It had become her life’s calling. She spent a good five and a half years working her socks off until finally, one proud day, she received the well-earned qualification. She got a job in England working firstly as an assistant vet, and eventually as the real thing. A few years rolled past. It was a difficult job – demanding, at times risky, but ultimately rewarding.
And then, one day …
It was a day Anna will never forget as long as she lives. A nightmare day. The kind of scenario you desperately want to wake up from. ‘Oh thank GOD, it was only a dream!’ you want to cry out in relief. But in Anna’s case, it wasn’t only a dream. It was a horror story that had cruelly materialised in the real world; that had crash-landed on earth with a devastating explosion, and was now here to stay. With Anna. Forever and ever after.
So, on this unpropitious day some three years ago, Anna went to work as usual. It was a quiet morning – she was on her own in the veterinary practice, without an assistant. A woman came into the surgery accompanied by her gorgeous Collie. Anna did various check-ups on the hairy animal, including examining inside its colossal, wide-open mouth – surely one of the most perilous tasks for any vet to undertake. But in this case, the mouth-and-fangs examination went smoothly. The doggie was good as gold.
Anna picked up her stethoscope and placed it on the dog’s muscular flank. A harmless procedure. But at that precise moment, something snapped inside the incomprehensible mind of this particular Collie.
Suddenly it swung its head round to Anna, who was leaning in close, listening to its heartbeat. Without warning, the animal bared its huge fangs and plunged them into her face, slicing off her nose in one clean, vicious bite.
All Anna can remember of the next few seconds is the gargantuan shock; then the deluge of blood, as though an angry God had opened up the heavens and confused rain with gore; and the owner’s terrified voice crying out: Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God …
Anna clutched at the raw, gaping wound on her face where once her nose had dwelt. Within seconds an intense onslaught of pain racked her entire head, growing in magnitude by the second, until she was at last administered sedatives and analgesics by the ambulance paramedics. After this, she doesn’t remember much else about that horrific day: the day that kidnapped her joy in life; that held her nose to ransom.
What followed was a gruelling journey in time – about eighteen months – of operation after operation after operation. Twenty in total. And in the meantime, having to wear a prosthetic nose that had a habit of falling off at inopportune moments. When the final operation was completed, and Anna’s nose restructured as well as it could be, life gradually returned to normal, not that ‘normal’ is a word that could ever apply to anyone who has undergone such a barbaric experience.
And the worst of it? Anna has not received a penny in compensation. Instead, she was given what I sincerely believe to be bad legal advice – i.e. that she should sue the owner rather than the veterinary practice. But the dog owner claims that her beloved Collie is not aggressive, and therefore she refuses to pay anything. Anna has now been informed by her lawyer that her chances of winning the case are slim.
So what’s the conclusion, then? That for all her years of training, all her love of animals, all her dedication, my friend simply has to wash her hands off the entire grisly event and get on with the rest of her life as best she can? Okay, so the operations were paid for by the National Health, but what about the psychological trauma she suffered, not to mention physical? What about the depression? What about the time off work, most of which was not paid for? What about the owner’s responsibility? Whatever happened to justice?
And here’s the heroic thing. Anna didn’t even demand that the dog be put down, as was her right to do. She left it up to the owner to decide. The owner herself sounds like a mean, callous bitch, by the way – perhaps she’s the one who should be put down – but I don’t want to go off the point.
My point is, if anyone out there has any advice – legal or otherwise – of where Anna should go from here, it would be greatly appreciated.
One thing’s for certain. Whenever I take my own dog to the vet’s now, I insist they put a muzzle on him, regardless of the fact that he loves humans. So did that gorgeous Collie, apparently. Or maybe it was just the taste of human noses that it loved.