Brooke Beaumont-Gordon wasn’t a bit impressed with me.
A few possible responses went through my head, but tactfully I kept quiet, wondering what Brooke wanted. She was not one of my clients.
Brooke continued. “I’m taking my horses to a big show and they tell me I need a health certificate, so I just need you to write up the papers. What is it, like $15 for that? I can pick the papers up this afternoon.”
I laughed. “It’s much more than $15, and I can’t issue a health certificate unless I’ve personally examined the horses. And they have to have current Coggins tests.”
“No, they don’t! I checked online and the show only requires the health papers!”
I took a deep breath. “The Coggins tests are required by the USDA before the health papers can be issued.”
There was a long annoyed pause.
“Well, if I draw the blood and bring it to you, can you get it back in time?”
“Only an accredited vet can draw the blood,” I explained.
“Well, you’ve got quite a racket going, I must say! This is absolutely ridiculous and I’m calling Dr. Yesman. He’s never made me go through all of this!”
The phone banged down and I rubbed my forehead wearily. It was always a challenge for me not to take it personally when someone behaved so irrationally, and despite my years of dealing with the public, it still left me feeling awful inside.
I was taking deep, cleansing breaths and trying a meditation exercise when the phone rang again.
“I’ll bring you the horses,” said Brooke. “Then you can draw the blood and write the health paper.”
I sighed. “I can’t write the health paper until the Coggins tests are returned from the lab.”
“And I suppose that’s another charge and another exam?”
“No. I’ll issue the papers when I receive the Coggins and you can pick them up.”
“Dr. Yesman never made me do this!”
I suggested hopefully that she could call Dr. Yesman and have him do the papers.
“I can’t. He’s out of town and his relief vet is an idiot.”
I took this to mean that the relief vet had told Brooke exactly same thing that I’d told her. Clearly I was now the lesser of two idiots.
“Look,” I finally said. “You can bring the horses to me at 1 p.m., and I’ll take care of it.”
A Surprise Reaction
Despite her grumbling, she was there at the appointed time. I was surprised by her brand new gooseneck trailer and fancy pickup truck. Her immaculate Arabian horses unloaded politely, their leather halters freshly oiled, and their coats shining in the midday sunshine. Brooke wore custom made cowboy boots and her professionally styled hair hung glamorously around her face as she tied the horses to the trailer.
When I got to the last horse, I stopped. Something was clearly wrong. His head hung dully, and he felt warm to the touch. His heart rate was elevated, and his temperature was 104.8. There was a huge swelling on his neck and he jerked away when I touched it. The engraved name on his halter read Sateek.
I called Brooke over and showed her the swelling on the neck. She rolled her eyes. “I vaccinated them all last week. Probably just a little reaction.”
After questioning her about the vaccines, it turned out that she’d injected a form of the strangles vaccine meant to be given intranasally (up the nose). A live vaccine, guaranteed to cause abscessing and infection if given in the muscle. When I pointed this out, she was indignant.
“But Sateek is terrible about getting it up his nose! I don’t even DO strangles usually, but the show required it and they told me it could be injected!”
I explained that there is a strangles vaccine approved for injection but that it was a different product. Sateek was going to need a lot of medical care and I’d need to visit him daily for a while. To make matters worse, the show also required a vet verification on the vaccines, and as I hadn’t done them, I was unable to sign her form. Presumably the absent Dr. Yesman had also provided this service for Brooke, and my stock dropped even further.
She grudgingly agreed to the treatment plan, and gave me directions to her ranch, and as the days passed, Sateek slowly improved, the infection finally shrinking to a small knot in the neck. He’d missed the horse show, but I was pleased with his progress and on the final day of his treatment, handed Brooke the bill.
I knew she wouldn’t be thrilled at the total, and she didn’t let me down. She scolded, fumed and fussed, bewailing the fact that Dr. Yesman was out of town, then stomped to the house to get her checkbook, leaving me standing in the barn like a naughty assistant groom. When she returned, a tiny Dachshund wearing a pink coat trailed her.
Brooke swept the Dachshund into her arms. “You’re not supposed to be out here!” she scolded. I smiled at the little dog, and Brooke’s scowl changed to an adoring expression.
“Sophia’s been a huge challenge! After we imported her from Germany, she had to be hospitalized for two weeks, and then she had complications from her spay, then had to have back surgery. Now she’s on three different medications, two supplements and sees a chiropractor monthly.” Brooke gave Sophia a loud smooch on her nose. “Thank goodness for her amazing doctors!”
COURTNEY S. DIEHL, DVM, has been an equine veterinarian since 2000. She resides in Steamboat Springs, Colo., where she is in private practice. Her first book, Horse Vet, Chronicles of a Mobile Veterinarian, was published in 2014. She is currently at work on her second book.
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!