The wiring on the cage was very small, similar to chicken wire but stronger. I could not fit a fist through the small holes. I could fit only one finger through. I poked one finger out of the cage over the top of the clip that locked the door, and a finger from the other hand out of the cage under the bottom of the clip. I tried desperately to use one finger to hold the body of the leash clip steady and the other to pull the trigger back.
Dr. Lloyd inquired as to what took me so long. I told him the story. He nodded with just a small smile, and says, "Was it Karen?" When I confirmed his suspicions, only then did he laugh outwardly.
"Has she done this before?" I asked slightly annoyed yet still in good humor.
"All the time." he stated.
I could not help but wonder why they would assign the job of teaching the preceptors to someone who locks the students in the cages. Perhaps locking them up was a good way for the usual staff to get a brief break from the constant barrage of questions? Perhaps having new students around was like having a new puppy that barks constantly throughout the night? Perhaps it was a right of passage or some humorous version of a hazing ritual? "Let's see how long it takes this student to find a way out!" I guess I failed if that was the case! At least I know that my fellow inmates were no smarter than I was!
If it was a form of hazing, (which I know it was not) I thought I had earned my entry into the zoo clan my first day there!
On my first day as a preceptor at Roger Williams Park Zoo, there were six Black and White Ruffed Lemurs in a quarantine room with a double door entry. This six pack of lemurs had successfully passed their mandatory quarantine period of 90 days to prove their health, but their new exhibit was not quite ready for them. So they continued to reside in the hospital wing, awaiting their new home to be completed. My job was to provide them with fresh food and water and to clean their cage. It required using a spray hose to clean the floors and walls. I put on my overalls, and rubber boots to keep my clothes from getting too wet or dirty.
I was a bit nervous going into the cage for the first time. They assured me that the lemurs would just hop up to the top of the cage and wait for my retreat. So I hobble into the cage with my big boots, dragging the hose behind me. I scoop up the food and water dishes and place them by the door. I start spraying down the floor and walls of the cage, keeping my eyes on the inhabitants using my keen peripheral vision. As I had been assured, the lemurs stayed on the top branch in the cage, far from where I was. They seemed completely uninterested in making closer contact. This wasn't so bad, and really it was kind of cool! How often does anyone get the opportunity to get this close to this type of exotic animal!
As I continued spraying and feeling more confident about the situation, I also started to feel wetness on the back of my neck. I reach my hand to back of my neck, and it is wet! I life the nozzle of the hose, and look at the area where it is screwed onto the hose to see if there is a leak, but there is none. I slowly move my eyes along the hose, turning the pressure on and off, to see if there is a leak in the hose that could possibly be squirting up and hitting my neck. Nothing. Confused, I start to look around the cage when I notice him.
Behind me, perched on top of the door that I walked in, is a lemur. The door is slightly propped open to allow the hose into the cage and he is balanced on the top of that small ledge atop the door. He is still holding his winkie and urinating on me in intermittent streams! I start slapping the back of my neck and bouncing around in my boots, as though there was a bee caught in my collar! Eventually, he ran out of ammunition, and I half-heartedly finished cleaning up the cage with a moistened neck.
How that little guy developed such good aim is beyond me! And you guessed it! This happened first thing in the morning on my first day there. The urine had soaked through my coveralls and dribbled down my neck to christen my squeaky clean scrub top. I spent the rest of the day wearing a urine soaked scrub top, as I had neglected to bring a spare!
An important lesson learned for the field of veterinary medicine. ALWAYS have spare clothes available, just in case. But it will be on that one day that you do not have them, that you will need them.
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