Mattawan Animal Hospital

Providing Quality Pet Care Since 1976

50588 CR 652

Mattawan, MI 49071


              Stories by Dr. Griffiths


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Dr. Griffiths often enjoys recounting the many interesting (and often times humorous) stories he has collected throughout his long career as a veterinarian.

We would like to share these stories with you, so please stop back often, and enjoy these real life accounts brought to you by Dr. Griffiths.

Identity Confusion

Extreme caution and care is always used in human medicine as in veterinary medicine to ensure the correct patient is not confused with another.   

My younger years always were interesting to me in regards to my identity in my family.  My fraternal twin brother, Dan, and I were occasionally confused by our teachers when in school.

I recall receiving a punishment, following a mischievous act in high school.  My teacher said I was to stay in the study room after class for a lengthy period.  I was to sit quietly and think about my punishment.  On that particular day I had to meet with a delivery man at a house we were constructing.  He was delivering a septic tank which was to be placed in a hole.  I hadn’t finished digging the hole, and had to have it done before he arrived to place it in the ground.  I didn’t have a way to contact him to cancel the delivery.  I pleaded with my teacher to take my punishment on another day to no avail.  I was to spend my time in detention and that was final.

My twin, Dan, had football practice after the end of the school session and offered to “do my time”.  He headed down the hall to receive my punishment and I rushed out of the building determined to finishing my excavating and meet the delivery man on schedule.  Dan sat in my seat in the study room, meditating on “what he had done wrong” until the teacher said, “OK Tom, you can leave now.  I hope you have learned your lesson and don’t misbehave again”.  Dan left the classroom and hurried to his football practice.  In the meantime I was just finishing my job before the arrival of the large septic tank.  Everything worked out well; Dan made it to practice; I completed my job; the delivery fellow wasn’t held up; and the teacher went home satisfied she had done her job.  I often question if this was a good way to handle my problem by a switch of identity.  I look back to that time with mixed feelings.  Possibly I would handle the situation different, if I had another shot at it.  I was always taught to be honest and truthful and question if I handled this “switch” in a good manner.

Following my graduation as a veterinarian I began my career in a rural area.  I had recently replaced a veterinarian named Dr. Bob Sharp.  He had the look of a veterinarian built for work in the world of large animal veterinary medicine.  He stood upright with broad shoulders.  He carried enough muscle mass that if a cow were to kick him I doubt that it would even slow him down.  He was a tall, large boned fellow in his early thirties. His voice was firm and loud as he looked a person directly in the eye and spoke to them.  Dr. Sharp enjoyed visiting farms and working with the large animals.

One fine sunny day a call came in by an anxious farmer, Bill Wright.  His Holstein cow was out in the pasture, down and attempting to have a calf.  He wanted a veterinarian there as soon as possible or sooner.  He lived about ten miles from the hospital on Wright Road.  Many farms in the area of the practice had been in the family for a century or more.  Several relatives with the same name often lived on the same road.  They had been there so long often the road was named after the family. 

A down cow, slow to deliver her calf could have milk fever.  This condition could be lethal to the animal if not treated in a short time.  Dr. Sharp quickly gathered his calf-puller and other necessary obstetric equipment jumped in the vehicle with his faithful helper, Frank Goens.  They were just a blur going down the highway toward the Bill Wright farm.  They turned onto the gravelly Wright road. The dust from the gravel road hung in the air on the still day as they raced toward their down patient.  Bill Wright had said the cow was in the pasture near the fence under the shade of a large oak tree on the left.  Frank and Dr. Sharp spotted the down cow near the fence. She apparently had thrashed around and had moved a short distance.  The large cow was now out in the hot sun away from the shade of the large oak tree, straining to deliver her precious offspring.

They parked the vehicle on the shoulder of the vacated road.  They gathered the necessary instruments climbed the fence and haltered the cow.  Frank tied her to a fencepost.  The obstetrical chains were attached to the calf’s feet.  Sweat poured off Dr. Sharp as he manipulated the calf for proper delivery into the world of bright sunlight.  Frank and Dr. Sharp pulled the calf as it slithered into the less secure world with a gush of fluid from the uterus.  The calf and cow were fine.  The obstetrician and his help climbed into the vehicle and returned to the hospital.  They continued their busy day following the delivery.

At the beginning of the month a statement was sent for services to Bill Wright on Wright road.  Shortly after he received his statement Mr. Wright telephoned the veterinary hospital.  Following some discussion he said his cow had her calf on the morning of his previous telephone call with no assistance.  He said Dr. Sharp had never come to his farm.  It was determined the pasture that Dr. Sharp had delivered the calf in was just before the Bill Wright pasture on the same Wright road.  The cow that Frank and Dr. Sharp had worked on belonged to Bill Wright’s cousin.  His name was also Wright.  Apparently the cow of Bill Wright’s cousin had begun her labor and was assisted in the delivery process by the well intentioned Dr. Sharp.  Bill Wright was advised to telephone if his cow had her calf before Dr. Sharp arrived.  He never telephoned.  All turned out well, although a lesson could be learnt from this experience to use extreme precautions so as to prevent any identity confusion.            


By:  Tom Griffiths

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