During my first week at my new job, I was called out to castrate a donkey. Not a big deal, although it would be my first solo castration. The events that followed can only be categorized as the most bizarre farm call of my life.
In late June I was called out to castrate a donkey. It was my first solo castration and I was a little nervous about the technical aspects, just the same way I’m nervous the first time I do anything.
I arrived at the client’s property and the client pulled up to greet me. He pointed to a donkey standing in the pasture and said, “There he is!” I looked at the donkey, standing loose in the middle of approximately 2 acre pasture. I turned to the client and asked if he had a rope.
“No ma’am,” was the response I got. I asked how he intended for us to catch the donkey. He asked, “Didn’t you bring one of those tranquilizer gun thingies?” I almost laughed in his face, but managed to hold it in while I informed him that I did not know of a single equine vet practicing high quality medicine who routinely carried a dart gun on their truck.
What I think I would look like with a dart gun
As I was talking with the client, several kittens ran into the pasture with the donkey. The donkey pinned his ears and took off, charging at the kittens. The kittens scattered like bowling pins. I asked, “Is he going to do that if I go in there with him?” The client said, “Well, I don’t know.” I was feeling really good about how this was going.
We decided to lure the donkey up to the fence with a bucket of oats, and I leaned over the fence to pinch the skin on the left side of his neck. I expected this “wild” donkey to spin around and run away, but he just stood there eating his oats. I went and drew up a dose of sedation from my truck, and walked back over to the fence. The donkey was still eating food where we had left him. I pinched the side of his neck again and slipped the needle into the folded skin. He wheeled and ran, but not before I injected the sedative. The client and I waited about 30 minutes for the sedation to take effect, by which point the donkey was having nothing to do with us. We offered him some more food, but he wasn’t fooled.
By now we were already $75 invested in the visit, and I wasn’t giving up without a fight. I drew up a more potent sedative and managed to sneak into the pen and inject the donkey again. He ran away, but this time the sedative was enough for him. Within 20 minutes his lips were on the ground, and he was pretty well out of it. I drew up the anesthetic, warning the owner that inducing the donkey might not go well. Since we were unable to capture the donkey with a halter or a lead rope, we were not going to be able to assist him in lying down. He was sleepy enough at this point that I was able to find a vein and inject the anesthetic, and we stood back and waited for him to fall. It actually went a lot smoother than I expected. The anesthetic began taking effect, and the donkey slowly sat down and then fell to the ground. We sprang into action, I had the client kneel on the donkey’s neck to hold him down. We tied a rope around his left hind foot and the client held it in the air while I got to work.
I scrubbed the donkey’s with a chlorhexidine solution I had mixed up in my bucket. Using a sterile scalpel blade, I cut the bottom of the donkey’s scrotum off. I found the first testicle and began stripping the fascia away. Once all of the fascia was removed, I placed emasculators around the cord and clamped down tight. The donkey twitched a little, but was deep enough under the anesthesia to not put up a fight. I had begun stripping the second testicle, when all of a sudden the kittens ran up out of the bushes. I looked down, where one testicle lay clamped off, to see the kittens trying to chew on the currently emasculated testicle. I guess they were getting their revenge.
I told the kittens that they would just have to wait until the testicle was completely off of the donkey before they ate them. I cut the first testicle off and threw it ahead of the donkey. An old wives’ tale says this will make the horse run faster. I cleaned the second testicle, clamped it, and waited ten minutes before cutting that one off as well. We gave the donkey a tetanus shot and released him.
He was still pretty sleepy so we let him lay on the ground for a while before trying to get him up. Due to donkeys’ propensity to bleed post-castration, I really wanted to see the donkey stand before I left the property. I told the owner that a few drips were okay, as long as they were slow enough to count. A stream of blood is a bad sign. We waited as the donkey rolled up to sternal. He just sat on the ground, breathing heavily and not attempting to rise. It had been long enough at this point, I was going to get that donkey up. With some help from the owners, we managed to get him standing. I checked for excessive bleeding (there was none) and then we let the donkey lay back down to sleep it off.
Until next time!