Something you will hear in vet school is that human doctors work on one species, while vets get every other species. While studying at Colorado State, I have been able to see a wide range of animals, more so than I will ever be likely to see in most private practices.
During my senior year, I have given eye medication and carrots to zebras, held a lion’s head for radiographs, and seen several bears, a leopard, wallaroo, monkey, camel, and lots of lizards and birds as they pass through the hospital. While a few people were keeping exotic species for pets, some animals were coming in from rehab or rescue facilities.
Before vet school, I was interested in exotic and wildlife medicine. I volunteered for a facility that rehabilitated eagles, hawks, owls, vultures, and other raptors. These birds needed care at least twice a day, and many needed additional physical therapy or medications.
To restrain an eagle for medication, I would throw a blanket over him, and crawl into his cage. I approached the eagle from his back, wrapping my arms around his wings and grabbing a leg in each hand. This would effectively nullify two of an eagle’s most powerful weapons: the talons and mighty wings. With a thick blanket over the eagle’s head preventing him from biting, it was usually a safe and less stressful method of restraint for both the handler and the eagle.
One day, I was going through this procedure to bring a giant bald eagle out for an injection. Everything went well until the blanket slipped off the eagle’s head. The eagle went from pacifying darkness to finding a strange thing right behind it; in retrospect, it must have been quite startling. He latched onto my scalp, and it was quite possibly the most painful thing I have ever experienced. Eagles grind their beaks a little when they bite, so I had two mild puncture wounds through the skin, but under the skin felt like hamburger. I got the blanket back over his head, and he got his injection–but that look in his eye when he turned around and saw a human behind him was something I’ll never forget.
So bring on the cows and horses, cats and dogs, but never again do I want to get bit by an eagle.