I graduated from Madras Veterinary College in 1973, and worked at the Madras Race Course for two years before taking up my government posting. I was a government vet until I retired in 2000 to spend time at my private clinic in Puthur.
Our family has a long association with this area of Tiruchi – my great grandfather is thought to have settled here in 1893. I was always fond of animals, and we had two or three cattle and some 15 country birds at home that I’d be devoted to. This is why I decided to study veterinary medicine after graduating from Bishop Heber College. My father and grandfather worked in the Railways.
My government service has taken me to the most remote parts of the state. My first posting was at the small village of K. Pudupatti. A former colleague asked me to take it easy as most of the villagers trusted native medicine to treat their animals. But a fortnight after I joined, a farmer called Vellaisamy turned up with a 10-month-old Kangayam bull that was showing some unusual symptoms. On a hunch, I sent a blood sample to my former professor in Chennai, and the test result showed that it was the first case of East Coast fever (theileriosis) in a native Indian breed. I was asked to collect some tics in a matchbox and send it for further analysis, but Vellaisamy had sold his bull by then without being able to cure it. Luckily we met the buyer on the road, and he also decided to return the animal to Vellaisamy. I bought the medicine that cured the bull (it cost a princely Rs. 22 then) and thus my practice took off.
People get very emotionally attached to their animals, and I saw this personally when a middle-aged woman from Adavathur came to me with a four-year-old cow that had been unable to conceive. The cow became pregnant after a three-day course of artificial insemination; but it was the owner’s reaction that moved me most. The woman swooned at first, and then when she came to, cried tears of joy, saying ‘this cow was given by my parents as dowry, and my in-laws often curse it for being the barren animal of a barren woman. Now I will go back and proudly announce my cow’s pregnancy.’
A serious road accident in 2007 hurt my left shoulder, for which I had to undergo surgery. I’ve now learned how to do everything with my right hand, including handling animals.
It matters little to the animal whether the owner is rich or poor; the affection and bond between them is unique. Very often it’s the children who bring the young ones of animals for the first trip to the clinic. After a little grumbling, it is usually the mothers who become most attached to the family pet, because of the companionship that they get throughout the day.
Right now, among dogs, Labradors, pugs (called Hutch dogs after the TV commercial), boxers and Rottweilers are popular. It’s a pity that years of in-breeding have diluted the typical characteristics of many dogs; the diseases have been passed on too. Tic infection, canine distemper, parvo, hepatitis and rat fever are common here.
Also, pet owners love to use regular soap to clean their pets – this damages their skin and fur in the long run. It’s better to go for gentle non-acidic soap washes once a week.
My day usually starts at 6 a.m. where around 6-10 farm animals will be waiting for artificial insemination. I have a small space at the back of the clinic for this. Then I take a tour of my private clients in the suburbs from Kallanai to Payanur. I’ve been cutting down on my assignments to manage my workload better.
I had a pet dog, but it died shortly before I met with the accident; I haven’t gone for another pet since then.
(A fortnightly column on men and women who make Tiruchi what it is)