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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ur ine Luck!

My daughter comes running from the side of the house.  "Mom, you hafta see this!"  She disappears and comes back with an Eastern American Toad perched in her 6 year old hands.  As I snap the photo of the little princess and her toad, her hands get wet.

"It's spitting on me!" she giggles.

I correct her, "It's not spitting on you. It's peeing on you." 

Before I can explain the term "defense mechanism", the little girl who showed no fear or disgust about a creature that many people will not touch, is suddenly "grossed out" and drops the toad.  She runs to the side of the driveway and wipes her hands on the grass.  I make her come back to move the fortunately uninjured toad out of the driveway so Daddy does not run over it when he brings his truck into the garage.  She hesitantly picks him up and gently places him in the grass.  He then keeps following her out into the driveway, so she repeatedly returns him to the grass.  Finally, he discontinues his efforts, and we stand alone on the pavement.  She looks at me with her hands held out, as if to say, "What do I do now?"

"Go wash your hands inside." I advise, and she does so as I laugh at the situation. 

The fear of urine seems to disappear when your goal is joining the veterinary profession. I have so many urine tales, I cannot address all of them in one blog entry.  But I will start with one of the most memorable.

I was enrolled in a preceptorship at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, RI in October of 1994 during my fourth year of veterinary school.  There were many animals within the hospital that were either in quarantine because they were new to the zoo, or because there were health concerns. 

One day, I was taken out to a building to assist in a research project.  I wish I had been writing a blog at that time, because I cannot remember the type of small primates these were, but going on appearance I would guess they were a marmoset of some type.  Here is a photo of a Pygmy Marmoset from the San Francisco Zoo in California.  The set up was very similar to what I experienced. 

Inside the big building is a large wire cage.  The zoo keeper, Karen, leads me into the enclosure.  As you walk into the wire enclosure, you have to unclasp a small metal leash clip to open the door.  This serves to lock the door so no animals escape. 

Once inside the enclosure, another leash clip inside the door must be fastened so the door remains shut inhibiting the escape of any of the cage's inhabitants.

Inside the cage, I see a dozen or so of these little guys and gals looking at me, face to face.  They are perched on branches of all sizes.  There are several feeding and watering stations within the enclosure.  I had viewed many zoo animals like these from behind glass or wire, but never this close and intimate!  I was both excited and nervous, and of course without camera!

Karen gave me a quick lesson in urine collecting on these small primates.  Every time they eat a grape, they release urine.  My job was to feed each adorable little monkey a grape and catch urine samples from them as they ate.  Once Karen was certain I was capable of the task at hand, she left to allow me to do my business and the monkeys to do their business.

I continued to collect the samples without realizing that when Karen left the cage AND THE BUILDING that she locked the cage door from the outside!

When the grapes were gone, and the urine was in each specimen jar, I collected my items and proceeded to the door.  That is when I realized, I was locked in the cage. 

To be continued...

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