I leave too many stories incomplete. Lives are (hopefully) long and the final result of our efforts, or the answers to our questions, may be hidden on the distant horizon. This seems like a good time to tell “The Rest of the Story” (with respect to the late Paul Harvey).
Let’s go back to column #79, “An Unexpected Visitor.” After being alerted by a friend, my staff and I rescued a juvenile Red-tailed hawk from the side of the road and transferred him to the rehabilitation experts at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. Although our young friend had sustained a mild injury, his (?) real problem was that he was young and *stoopid* (AKA “inexperienced and failing to thrive”). After a relatively brief respite in rehab, he was ready to return to the wild. Wildlife Rescue allowed us to set him free, so we took him to a safe spot only a couple of hundred yards from where he was originally found. The hawk flew excitedly (the term “bat out of Hell” comes to mind) out of his transport carrier and settled in a nearby tree to get his bearings. There, he was immediately set upon by a pair of nesting Ravens, who screamed and dived at him relentlessly but seemed to have absolutely no effect on him. After a few minutes of this abuse, the hawk took wing and flew directly into the dense tree where it appeared the Ravens had their nest. The three birds were now completely invisible, but judging by the sounds, an immense ruckus was taking place in that tree. Barb and I were not particularly pleased with our hawk’s choice of perches that day. Since then, we have heard reports of a juvenile Red Tail hawk living in that area, but none of young Ravens.
Column #76, “It Don’t Matter to Me,” told the story of Eva, a very sick 14 year old lady dog whose dire need of emergency surgery required us to take some risks. Eva did great! She went home that day and returned to her vigorous senior self. She loved to sleep in the sun, surrounded by wildflowers in the dunes of Salmon Creek beach. Until, that is, she developed a severely malignant tumor of the spleen. Since the tumor had already spread to her liver, and she was well into her 15th year, it was elected to do only what was necessary to keep her comfortable. Eva was euthanized at home, surrounded by her dearest friends. She was calm and happy, and free of pain.
Daisy’s story (Column #81, “Something New Every Day”) ended with a mystery. Daisy died from the effects of a particularly nasty abdominal parasite that we could not identify. Samples of this terrible bug were sent to our pathology lab, and while it was concluded that she had been infected with some kind of flat-bodied worm (a fluke or tapeworm), the lab was unable to tell exactly what it might be. This question is especially important because knowing the species of parasite would tell us how Daisy became infected. Besides, some of these things can infect people: We needed to know. I consulted with several other veterinarians, but no one had ever seen anything quite like it. I contacted a Ph.D parasitologist at U.C.Davis, but no luck. Finally, I posted the pictures and lab report on a “Veterinarians to Veterinarians” Facebook page. Scores of veterinarians were appalled by the hideous disease and a few research papers were shared, but none matched the ugly thing that killed Daisy. Until, that is, one particularly savvy veterinarian (who just happens to be one of my classmates from UCD `82) matched the disease with a 2011 case report. Daisy had been infected with Sparagnum proliferum, a rare psuedophyllidean tapeworm that infects a variety of animals, including humans, and cycles between infected mammals and various aquatic animals including water snails, fish, and amphibians. Daisy was infected with the larval stage of this tapeworm after eating the uncooked flesh of some unknown aquatic carrier. Now we know. The good news: a once-in-a-career case.
Finally, Lollipop. the subject of three columns, #64, #65, and #68: She was the starving, stray kitty found at Lawson’s Landing. Weighing 1.85 pounds and infected with nearly every parasite imaginable, she was too weak to even walk when we met her. NOW Lolli lives with Cathy and Sheldon. She weighs 11.8 pounds and is a gorgeously plump, spoiled house cat! It’s hard to believe, but this little brat is now TEN POUNDS heavier than on the day we met. How I love a happy ending!