Tuesday, April 8, 2014

All about necropsies

There are two dueling parts of me - the super-empathetic, bleeding heart part of me and the super-into science part of me.  Well, usually they aren't dueling, usually those two parts of me get along fine and even the "I love everything magical and spiritual" fits in quite well with hard science like biology and physics because both of those are extremely magical sciences that encourage you to use your imagination and stretch your concept of reality in order to continue to learn.

But they do clash when it comes to dissection.  Or necropsies.  The reason this topic came up is I was at a weekend class and I saw that they had some photos of a horse behind the big horse skeleton they recently put up (about six months ago I think).  It turns out it was one of their horses and I made the mistake of asking, "How did you get the skeleton out?"  (because I've heard from hunters how incredibly hard it is to butcher a deer or elk and how you have to be really strong ... plus, they aren't preserving the skeleton and are just taking off the meat).  The teachers both said they did a necropsy and seemed to think that would satisfy my curiosity (poor teachers!)  but of course it did not.  I had to ask how they got the skeleton out (the answer "very carefully") and what they did with the other organic material (there are a few options but the most practical is to burn ... or "cremate" it if you want to sound more delicate).  And I asked how the bones were cleaned and there are a couple options apparently - something I think they called a beetle pit where other creatures clean the bones or putting them underneath a lot of organic material like manure for several months and let the remaining organic material break down.  Then I can't remember what they said they did after they took them out after several months - I'm pretty sure they said there was another step - then they sand the remaining fatty tissue off ... I can't remember why they said it hardens.  They can't get the marrow out of the bones so on the skeleton there are sticky places around the joints that look like dried honey and that's the marrow slowly seeping out over time.  Oh, and of course since they're using it in a classroom setting they sterilize the bones with a bath of hydrogen peroxide or something like that for students touching them.  I had a ton of other questions but of course that was not what the class was about so I sadly let the subject drop.

Needless to say a couple months ago when I brought the dogs in as practice bodies for the canine massage class, the pitbull walked up to the skeleton and gently opened her mouth next to one of the legs as if to say, "Can I? Really? Can I?"  because to her it was the best treat in the world.

I wasn't sure what a necropsy was so I did a google search on it and found this page.  (warning - there are photos).  I had to say out loud to myself a couple times "Poor little guy is already dead.  He's not there anymore."  I'm getting better with that with animals.  There is no way I could watch a human autopsy though without fainting.  I'm pretty sure I will never be able to do that.  But I'm getting better with veterinary stuff.  I think the turning point was when Girlfriend had a bloody nose in the wash wrack with my vet and me and I was wearing my raincoat and she was wearing waterproof coveralls and we were both totally covered in blood and I had to take the drain cover off the drain because horse blood clots are too big to get through a drain cover.

What I can't deal with still is horses who are terrified or in pain and screaming and panicking.  I mean, I can deal with it but it breaks my heart and makes me feel terrible inside.  On Saturday Maiden left to go live in Montana with a friend of mine who is taking her with her to college this September to use her in some sort of natural horsemanship degree program at U of Montana in Dillon.  I know it's a great opportunity for Maiden and I'm so happy to be able to give my friend her own horse to use in the program (that's a requirement is to be able to bring your own horse) but it was hard to say good-bye to her and harder knowing how bonded she and Girlfriend are.  So, it's good that they left Saturday while I was in class or I would've been a complete emotional wreck and not been able to do anything to help Girlfriend and probably would've made her feel worse by my being so upset.  Yesterday once we were home and I went out to see her she was doing fine but her eyes were so sad!  They were very blank and sad and resigned and there was nothing I could do to make her feel better.   She has the mini and and another horse in the pasture right next door and we were going to put the mini in with her - but she just ignores him anyway and doesn't like him much.  So, that was heartbreaking.  But she'll adjust.  And I've got some ideas of finding a friend for her.  Sigh. 

This is where the bleeding heart part of me comes in and I can't just step back and say "She's a horse. What's the big deal?" because you can look in her eyes and see the depth of emotion she feels.  She may not be able to think about the future and plan like us or concoct schemes or take steps of logical reasoning and figure out logic puzzles, but she has the same depth of emotion and memory as we do and it's hard to see her so sad.


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