by Linda Benson
I just got done giving Mr. Chocolate and Mr. Big, my two donkey geldings, their yearly vaccinations. They were angels, both of them, but I always breathe a sigh of relief when this job is done. Even though I've been giving shots to horses, donkeys, cats, and dogs for something like half a century (yes, I'm that old LOL) I still have to psych myself up for the job - every. single. time.
Do you do that, also? Gah! I have a secret fear of needles. In fact, I've almost passed out (well, I have actually passed out) when on the receiving end of shots. But because I've owned lots of animals through the years, and in the interest of saving money and using a vet only when I really need them, I've become used to buying vaccines for dogs, cats, and horses at the feed store, bringing them straight home packed with ice, and doing it myself.
For years I followed a procedure that I'd read about somewhere. Take the needle off, go hit, hit, hit, with the edge of your hand on his neck, and on the final bounce actually stab the horse with the needle. Then, fish the syringe filled with vaccine out of your pocket (or your mouth where you've held it gingerly.) Reattach the syringe to said needle, pull out to make sure you have a muscle and not some artery (or, God forbid, a vein) and then push the syringe in, inserting all of the vaccine in the muscle, while your sweet horse stands perfectly still and does not bat an eye. This is the procedure if all goes right. If Old Blue throws a conniption fit at the stab or the attachment of said syringe, well, good luck. Either run to the feed store, purchase another vaccine and try to whisper Old Blue into the fact that it Really. Won't. Hurt. this time, or give up and call the vet.
After years of varying success with this method (and watching certain vets nonchalantly walk up and "press" the needle in, while the horse barely seems to notice) I finally perfected my method of vaccinating my horses and donkeys. This works well for me, since I usually have to do this all by myself, with No Helpers. First, cut up an apple or two into Lots of small chunks (carrots work well also.) Then (preferably still in the house) prepare your vaccines (which means taking them out of the crinkly plastic wrapper - horses have very good hearing) withdrawing fluid from bottle if needed, and reattaching syringe to needle.) Then (with vaccine hidden in your pocket) walk to the barn humming a happy song. Halter your animal, proceed to feed 1/3 of the apples to him while whispering sweet nothings and brushing his neck.
To desensitize the skin where the shot is going to go, reach over and poke Ol' Blue on the opposite side of the neck with your finger, one-two-three times. Then do the same on the near side of the neck. Feed him another apple or two, do this twice more and realize you are stalling. It's now or never. Feed him an apple, pull the entire syringe/needle combo out of your pocket, take the cap off, and make sure you Do Not Show the needle to Ol' Blue. Then PRESS (not poke or jab) the needle/with syringe still attached, slowly into their skin, all the while humming an old Disney tune, or rock 'n roll, or whatever makes you happiest. Did they move? No, they probably didn't even feel it, until you pull it back a little to check for blood, sing a little louder, and then push the vaccine all the way in. At this point, they've either stood there like good soldiers, or they begin to think something might be amiss. Whereupon you pull the entire needle and syringe out (success) mumble thanks to your creator, put the cap back on the needle, feed the horse/donkey ALL the remaining apples, murmur Good Boy, Good Ol' Blue and give him a BIG HUG. Now go in the house, pour yourself a glass of wine, and realize it's all over until next year.
Disclaimer: I am not a vet and am not giving out veterinary advice. I'm only sharing the method that has worked for me, over the years, by myself. Now, if we are talking twice daily shots of penicillin with huge gauge needles, then all bets are off. You're on your own, darling. I have already fainted, switched to oral antibiotics, or gave up.
So tell me, is giving shots your favorite thing? Do you have a good method to recommend? Any horror stories you'd care to share?