Raining Cats & Dogs

No kidding, the sunshine has packed its bags and moved on! Or at least, I thought it had when I began this post. When it came to opening my curtains, however, Mother Nature had changed her mind. Rowena and I have concluded that she’s currently undecided as to whether she wants to identify as Winter or Spring. It’s a very personal choice, I understand, but I hope she makes her mind up soon.

There’s been a crazy mixture of heavy rain, snow, gale-force wind, and now sunshine. But in the end, perspective is important and, as we all know, Britain as a whole does not cope well with snow. After a few inches settled around the vet school, an ‘Amber Warning’ was issued, and our bus company warned that they couldn’t make it out to the Easter Bush estate. The Muskevets were home by then, but Ella was sitting stationary on a bus, and ultimately trudged through the snow past the queuing traffic to get where she needed to be. Chaos.

The snow was gone by the morning.

This week hasn’t been terribly exciting, and started off with some fairly stodgy lectures on muscle contraction and animal waste management on Monday.

Tuesday, however, included a morning of Thorax lectures – anatomy doesn’t hang about! Naively I thought ‘Meh, thorax, it’s just heart, lungs, ribs, sorted’. No. No, it wasn’t. It was two hours watching a lecturer drawing scribbly interpretations of complex three dimensional structures onto a smartboard-style tablet and saying, “It doesn’t have to be artistic, it’s just schematic” to justify it. Let’s just say, I’ve found my own learning resources for these lectures.

I’ve often enthused to my parents about how well put-together the dog often appears. The muscles of the forelimb were satisfying to look at, in the way that they all wrap around each other and work together and in opposition to bring about this  beautiful mechanical motion.

But there’s almost an equal amount of times where I look at the anatomy and think, ‘This makes no sense at all’. The recurrent laryngeal nerve is just such a point of interest. It originates as the 10th cranial nerve, which exits the skull, called Vagus. It travels down the neck alongside the jugular vein as the vagosympathetic trunk. When it gets into the thorax, there’s a split where the Vagus continues straight down the oesophagus, the sympathetic trunk veers up to run alongside the vertebrae, and the recurrent laryngeal nerve does a 180. Yeah, on the left it does a u-ey round the aorta, and on the right it does the same around the right subclavian artery. It then goes back up the neck to innervate the laryngeal muscles, which are inches from where it originated. What?

In the giraffe, this means that the nerve itself reaches 15ft in length. In the sauropod dinosaurs, that length would have been up to 92ft! Yours makes the same course. And the course of this particular nerve is a really strong argument against design, because it can be explained so elegantly by common descent. But, if you’re interested, an expert comparative anatomist, an evolutionary biologist and the former chief veterinary advisor for the RSPCA can explain it for you. I’ll let this video do the talking (and dissecting!):


So there’s a great bunch of wiring in there, with nerves, airways, arteries, veins and ducts all racing around in funny directions. And I’ll be dissecting it all with my lab team tomorrow!

The afternoon of the thorax lectures, we were dissecting the body wall. When it gets to the muscles of the body wall, you and your dog are pretty much exactly the same. (Sorry).

Trying to get to the deep inguinal ring had me with my face inches from the months-dead genitalia of our cadaver for much longer than I would have liked. That is assuming any amount of time spent in this position is desirable.

But in the end, we did find it. But not without bits of muscle pinging in various directions. And, as my lab partner pointed out, it quite literally rains cats and dogs in that room.

Wednesday saw the cell bio presentation, which I had been waiting to get out of the way for far too long. I was really pleased with the group of students I was to present to. Each one was a great person that made me very comfortable. And the examiner, who was supposed to be the man who delivered our first ever cell bio lecture, had either undergone major surgery in the last few weeks, or had got his female colleague to stand in for him. Either way, she was very amiable and nodded sagely every time someone spoke. In a way, this was encouraging. On the other hand, I like to be able to look at my examiner and read off what they’re thinking about me. I could have been waffling complete nonsense in the worst technique imaginable, and she would have continued nodding like a bobblehead.

But I delivered my presentation fluently from memory, in what felt like the right amount of time, and the questions at the end were nothing unanswerable. So, I hope it’s a pass!

What is frustrating for us all, though, is that the score is given out of ten, and is only based on three criteria. And yet we must wait until the 18th December to know what we scored. Why so long!?

When Thursday arrived, I was excited to see ‘Clinical Skills’ written on my timetable. It was a theoretical session, where we discussed things that might get your struck off the register, and the Subjective, Objective, Assessment, Plan process for looking at an animal. It was a very vetty, purposeful session and one in which I was relieved to find that the exam was online and open-book. But what’s even better is that, this Thursday, we’re examining live dogs. Yes, you heard that right. Not dead ones – live ones!

And so, with more lectures and a histology practical, that concluded another week in the life. Only two more to go until we return home for the first time – and I can’t wait!

I found, in our Histology of the Nervous System practical, that the slides for some structures look very much like modern art. The first two images are of pig nerve cells with an osmium tetroxide stain, that highlights in black the lipid sheaths of the axons. In the first they’re cut longways, in the second they’re sliced like chorizo. The third image shows canine autonomic nerve cells in the spinal cord. I do think they’re very pretty.



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