ANIMAL MAGIC Vet Siobhán O’Malley and her dog, Amber, head out on a call.
I think at some stage, most young people go through a phase of thinking “I want to be a vet when I grow up!”. Most move onto teacher, farmer, footballer, doctor or even astronaut, but a few are determined enough to stick with veterinary all the way. But what then? Playing with puppies, kittens, calves and lambs, or the ‘James Harriett idea of veterinary’ all day? No, not quite!
Normally I wake up round 8am and let our dog, Amber, out ‘to do her business’. Some mornings I would swim with the triathlon club at 6.30am in the Leisure Park, which is a great kick start to any day.
I arrive to the clinic just before 9am to be greeted by Dell Boy and Roy 2, regulars in our Doggy Day Care facility. Amber has to do her morning greeting to them too.
First job is always to check on inpatients. One dog has been in overnight after having a toy car surgically removed from its gut. I examine him: temperature, pulse and respiration check – all perfect. He is in great form this morning, eating well and happy to go out for a quick walk.
Our morning surgery runs from 9am to 11am. First appointment: microchip a new retriever puppy, followed by some routine vaccinations, an arthritic 12-year-old Labrador and a rabbit’s nails to clip – ‘All creatures great and small’.
Once morning surgery finished it’s time to hit for the countryside for some calls and TB testing. I’m on the way to my first test when I get an urgent call. A heifer in difficulty calving. I change my route, as this call now takes priority – hence why vets are always late!
I arrive to find both an anxious farmer and heifer. The farmer puts her inside the calving gate to allow me to examine her safely, as she is quite agitated. Just as I suspected the calf is big; his head is now swollen as her waters were passed almost six hours ago.
It’s one of those calls that the vet has to make, quite quickly, rightly or wrongly. Will I be able to pull it, or does it require a Caesarian section? Based on the size of the feet and width of her pelvis, my gut tells me I can pull it. We set up the jack and get going. There is quite a lot of strain on the jack but once the head appears, the rest of the calf comes out steadily. Relief for all!
The calf immediately bellows and the new mother jumps to attention to attend her newborn. I assess the calf and see that he is in good shape despite a prolonged labour. All is well. Phew.
The form is triumphant, and I’m invited in for tea and some freshly baked scones and greeted by a very thankful farmer’s wife (one of the perks of west of Ireland practice and the reason I have to swim so much!). I can’t chat for long though, as my phone is ringing again; a sheep has arrived to the office in difficulty lambing. It will be awhile before I get to finish my TB testing today! I’m en route when one of the other vets, Mary, calls to say she can do the lambing, and I’m back on track again.
The evening consists of mostly routine appointments: vaccines, puppy exams and post-op examinations. Unfortunately, this evening there is an appointment we all have been dreading. Molly, a 16-year-old Cavalier King Charles has been booked in for euthanasia. This is the part of my job I hate the most.
Molly (who has become a firm favorite of the staff in Westvets) has been suffering from a heart problems for many years and, unfortunately, her treatment is no longer working. Her owners have come to the difficult decision of putting her welfare ahead of their love for her – a decision I have had to make myself with a previous pet and know how agonising it is.
The nurse and I then do a physical exam on our inpatients, administer their medications, clean their beds out and feed them to make sure they are comfortable for the evening. We eventually leave at 6.15pm after a long day. Thankfully another vet, Tom, is on call tonight, so I have some down time. Unlucky for him!
When I’m not wearing a stethoscope or wellies, you’ll probably find me in lycra! As a member of Westport Triathlon Club and Westport Covey Wheelers I’m often found on my bike on the highways and byways of Mayo. Having successfully trained for and completed Ironman Barcelona, you could quite easily find me in Achill, Clifden or wherever the road leads.
I also love doing classes in Forde Fitness … nothing like taking the stresses of the day out on a boxing bag. At 8pm, it’s dinner time and me and my husband, Martin, sit down for dinner to discuss the day’s events. These days our conversations are mainly about foundations, concrete and roofing, having just started our first self-built home.
Being a vet can be hectic and full-on at times, but that’s why I love it: most of the time. The variety keeps the job interesting and refreshing – no two days are alike. A day in the life of a vet can be tough, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In conversation with Ciara Moynihan
Name: Siobhán O’Malley
Job: Mixed-practice vet, WestVets, Westport
Tell us something most people don’t know about you?
Most courier drivers in Westport know me on a first name basis due to my ‘slight’ obsession with online shopping!
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?
A couple of years ago I visited a restaurant in Kenya called Carnivore. There we ate snake and crocodile. I’ve also eaten deep-fried insects in Asia.
Where your favourite place in the world?
Tough one … Thailand, Sri Lanka and Cape Town all were amazeballs … also Buenes Aires … Gun to my head: Thailand.
What do you miss most about being a kid?
Presents from Santa. Glenroe, Pajo’s Junkbox, Bosco, Dallas. Endless summers of football ’til dark. Tip the Can or making Wimbeldon courts out of your front drive. Bottle of red lemonade, a packet of Banshee bones, and 50 penny sweets for a pound after Mass. Cars that you’d pack seven or eight people into easily, with a few in the boot going to football matches. The travelling bread man on a Friday for treats.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
If it’s in, pull it out; if it’s out, push it in; if it’s down, give it calcium.
Name three things that are always in your fridge?
Cheese, beer (have to say Mescan!), sparkling water.
Who was your first hero?
David Attenborough, and he still is my biggest hero.
What makes you nervous?
Lots of things – start line of a race, Keith O’Connell’s spin classes, Mayo in an All-Ireland.
What’s your most-prized possession?
If money was no object, what would you do?
I’d pack me, my husband and Amber’s stuff up and travel the world. Visit all the nicest places and eat in all the top restaurants.