Yesterday morning, apparently, a very large cow attempted to jump a fence and ripped a hole in her side about a foot long. It was a very clean tear, sort of like a rip in your jeans. However, no one saw what happened so we don’t actually know.
So, out in the bush, you don’t call the vet every time an animal gets hurt or sick because it’s much too expensive. You learn quickly how to do stuff on your own. Jay is an amateur veterinarian if there ever was one, but even he had never before sewn up a cow.
As the sun was setting, the two of us walked out there, trailed by Sniffel of course, with a knife, disinfectant water and syringe to clean the wound, and a leather sewing needle and thread to sew it up.
First, we needed to get the cow in the chute. She was in pain and did not want to move. Through a lot of yelling and arm-waving we got her in. Sniffel had run alongside and now pranced around proudly expecting praise for his job well done. With a little more effort we got her head in the clamper. It is a metal contraption that closes on their neck so they cannot move forward or back and is probably not called a clamper. It doesn’t hurt, it’s not tight, unless they flail about. Luckily, she was a rather well-mannered cow.
The wound was dripping blood. It had a chunk of innardskin hanging out which Jay began to slice off. “Can’t you just stick it back in there?”, I asked, grimacing in pain for the cow. “No”, and the chunk came off and the cow swung her head toward the sky, eyes very big.
After squirting many gushes of disinfectant water into the wound, which she didn’t like much either, we had to start stitching. With the first stitch, we realized how very thick a cow’s skin is. It hurt Jay’s hand too much to simply push it in, so I offered my shoe. The needle went through my shoe instead of the skin. So he used a rock. Then once in the skin, he could not pull it out. He had to run back to the house for pliers.
So there sat the cow and I. Her side was dripping bloody water and I did not know how to comfort her. So I scratched her head. Time passed, Jay was not returning, so I scratched behind her ears and told her a story about when I got stitches. About the time she was getting antsy, Jay returned with the pliers.
They did a good job until three stitches in and the needle broke. We had only closed about half of the foot-long hole. So I ran back to the house, grabbed all the needles we had and some dental floss. Jay thought the floss might move through the skin easier. It did but was not as strong. So we switched back to the string.
After another broken needle, seven stitches in total and a lot of kicking from the cow, she was closed. She never did vocalize her pain. Then she squeezed her big belly out of the chute and stiffly sauntered away like she had just dropped a load in her pants.
Later that night, she was still standing there, calmly chewing her cud. She was a tough cookie. If it had been a person, they would’ve been lounging in a hospital bed, doped up on drugs, slurping down blobs of green jello.