Mr. Stiles and “Finding Dr. H.”

Everyone has a William Forrester in their life – the grouchy and intimidating old man Sean Connery plays in “Finding Forrester.” The plot goes: cantankerous older person crosses paths with younger impressionable person; the two find a common interest; older person is supposed to impart wisdom on younger person, but also ends up learning from the younger character; the two find mutual respect and admiration for one another; the end. I’m sure you can think of a million more movie characters and movie titles that fit that plot, but the point is, I’ve found the intimidating old man in my life that I’ve grown to love – his name is Mr. Stiles.

Mr. Stiles is Doc’s best friend and his approval of you is required to work for Doc. So while Mr. Stiles doesn’t quite fit the cantankerous part of the Hollywood character sketch above, he is every bit the intimidating part.

Mr. Stiles is north of 70, and has been ranching for about as long. His uniform consists of overalls and a baseball cap. Every. Single. Day.

Doc has been Mr. Stiles’ veterinarian for years and almost exclusively serviced by Doc, which was more than okay by me. But my initiation would come soon enough.

Given my short time as a practicing veterinarian, the large variety of animals we treat, and the numerous processes and procedures for treating those animals, its safe to say, I’m still learning. Add that to the intimidation factor aforementioned and you can imagine my face when I saw that I was scheduled to do a foot trim for one of Mr. Stiles’ cows.

At our clinic, Doc does a lot of foot trims on cattle. This is like giving a cow a pedicure J. Doc is pretty much the main man when it comes to foot trims. I, myself, not exactly.

So yeah, I’m just a little intimidated.

I assume in an effort to calm my nerves, the vet tech tells me, “Oh, its just a little foot rot.”

Foot rot is very common in cattle. It’s caused by an anaerobic bacteria, meaning the bacteria can grow in the absence of oxygen. It is very contagious and can cause them to be very lame. Most importantly, I’m better practiced at treating it.

Mr. Stiles arrives with his patient.

Me: What’s going on with your cow today?

Mr. Stiles: I don’t know, you’re the doctor.

Right. Getting off to a great start here, Dr. H.

I move the cow into the chute and begin to examine her feet prepared to find foot rot and the cause of her lameness. Unfortunately, that’s not what I saw.

It was, instead, a more complicated case of foot trim. You know the old saying “fake it until you make it”? Yep, that was me.

Hiding my panic, I calmly and confidently begin to trim all of her feet. She had a few little cracks in several of her hooves (cow’s foot), which had also aggravated the situation. I smoothed all the hooves up just a little bit and explained to Mr. Stiles what I found.

He looked at me and grunted. Appointment over.

Doc came in the next day and said, “Heard you did a really good job on that foot trim yesterday.”

What? Really? I about fell out of my chair! What a relief!

The next time I saw Mr. Stiles he gave me a little shoulder squeeze. So … we are basically best friends now. The 70-some-odd-year-old rancher even made it official on Facebook!

I have now serviced Mr. Stiles’ animals multiple times and have learned so much from him. Our story definitely has a Hollywood movie ending. I really do love the guy!

A couple things I learned with Mr. Stiles:

If you are a new veterinarian: You are not always going to know what is going on. This is okay. Not everyone knows everything. Be honest. Trust your skills and knowledge when performing an exam, and explain to your clients what you do know. DON’T be intimidated by clients like Mr. Stiles. Respect the cattlemen/horsemen like him who have MANY more years of experience and take advantage of the opportunity to continue learning.

To clients: Everyone needs encouragement including new veterinarians. Every animal’s case is different and sometimes it takes a little investigating to solve an ailment. When we ask what’s going on, it isn’t because we want you to diagnose your animal, we need to know their history. This helps get to a diagnosis.

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