Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I've Been Published!

       An essay I wrote recently has finally been published in Imprints, the new literary journal of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University (my alma mater). All the contributors are faculty, staff, students, or alumni of the College. It consists mostly of photos and fine art (drawings, paintings, other visual arts), but there are some poems and 4 essays. Mine is the first. I have the right to publish it independently online or in print, so here it is (when an online link is available that shows the actual page image I will link to that - probably in October):


Thousands of years ago, in a place of rocks and sea and cerulean skies, men and women gazed with terror upon the face of evil: wolves and dogs and men seemingly made mad by the gods. The Greeks called on Artemis, beseeching her to intervene against the illness known as rabies as she was said to do. But Artemis always had better things to do than listen to their pleas – not a single biting, shrieking, drooling victim lived to tell of her power in all the long centuries of pleas. And their true foe, a microscopic machine which exists only to make more copies of itself, worked unseen and uncomprehended until one man deduced a means to fend off this hideous destroyer of the mind.
We reap the benefits of Louis Pasteur’s work even now. This French scientist brought us not only vaccines to prevent rabies infection outright, but developed post-exposure prophylaxis, and all without ever seeing his enemy. The ancient Greeks had another god, one who guarded against the onset of the spreading madness: Aristaios; and they might consider Pasteur to be his specially favored son.
Rather than blaming this disease on angry gods, in recent centuries man has rewritten the myth in various literary horror themes. Werewolves, vampires, zombies, alien invaders – on cursory inspection these are stories with Freudian or Victorian themes, or merely moneymaking fantasies which owe their proliferation to the availability of cheap pulp paper for dime store novels, and later on the blossoming film industry. But they all derive from a single fear unique to humans: the utter obliteration of self, transmissible to others.
As a lifelong fan of the horror genre, I find the zombie myth to come the closest to the reality of rabies. This has perhaps been aided by my up close and personal encounter with this ancient scourge fairly early in my career. A cat - every muscle finely trembling - grasping blindly at the air just beyond its carrier door – pupils dilated as in death – a single drop of saliva poised on lower lip. It had ceased to be a cat and been instead transformed into an automaton with only one purpose: that of transforming all other living creatures within reach into identical violent automatons. Given the opportunity it would have shredded everyone in the exam room into ragged, bloody walking dead.
My immediate and visceral reaction upon seeing this poor doomed creature felt more like instinct than objective medical evaluation. I knew that I was in the presence of Death. It may be that we as a species have lived and evolved in proximity to this particular lyssavirus for millions of years and in so doing can recognize and fear its handiwork almost as readily as we do the hissing of snakes.
One would expect that the prospect of such a terrible disease would cause veterinarians everywhere to rise up as one and shout from the rooftops about the need to immunize our domestic house pets against rabies even today. Certainly many have done so, and we can attribute the vanishing of canine rabies from the United States to successful public health campaigns involving private practice veterinarians. But here in Southern California I find myself and many of my colleagues doing battle against an uninformed public and veterinarians who apparently consider rabies, common in our local bat population, as mythical a threat these days as the aforementioned zombie and friends. It is more common for a new client to tell me that their prior veterinarian specifically told them to avoid rabies vaccination than for them to be able to tell me their cat has even once received it.
So we who recognize the danger soldier on – we, who serve as priestesses and priests of Aristaios. We perform the rituals of unwrapping syringes and mixing diluent into lyophilized powders and injecting them into our willing supplicants, and all that is lacking in our endeavors are incense and chanting and long linen robes. With each injection we offer up a silent prayer that our nostrums do their magic, and that the evil be kept at bay for another year, and another, and yet another. And we teach – or at least we try. We are the new Greeks.

Apologies for the double spacing. I can't seem to fix it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I just realized I hadn't posted here in a while, and it's been MORE than a little while. But you can find Cat's Meow Veterinary Clinic over on Facebook where I like to post news links relevant to feline medicine.

 In other news, LA County Veterinary Public Health issued a press release today regarding the major increase in bat rabies in the county this year. You can read about it here.

 Here'e the text of the press release (please excuse the formatting problems - I can't seem to improve it):

 For Immediate Release: September 10, 2012

Increase in rabid bats in LA County prompts health concerns Avoid contact with bats; keep your pets’ rabies vaccine up-to-date

 LOS ANGELES – A record-high of 45 rabid bats have been confirmed in Los Angeles County this year. The Department of Public Health is reminding all residents to avoid touching any bats or wild animals. Previously, the highest number of rabid bats seen in the county was 38 in 2011. “The reason for the increase in rabid bats is unclear. Regardless, it is important that everyone understand the potential dangers posed to themselves and their pets as most of these rabid bats have been found in and around homes,” said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. “Children and teens especially should avoid handling bats or other wildlife, even if their intentions are to nurse an injured or ill animal back to health. If a bat is found near a home, a school, or another area frequented by people or pets it must be reported to the local animal control agency so rabies testing of the bat can be arranged.”

Since the beginning of 2012, several individuals and pets in various parts of the county have encountered rabid bats in public areas, in their front or back yards, and, occasionally, inside their homes. It is unusual to see bats on the ground or flying during daylight hours as healthy bats tend to stay away from humans. Individuals exposed to any bat or wildlife should seek immediate medical attention. A bite from a bat can be difficult to see on the skin, or on a pet, as bats have very small, very sharp teeth. Infection with the rabies virus can ultimately cause disease in the brain and death. “Thankfully, we have very effective post-exposure treatment and vaccine, which means there has not been a locally-acquired case of human rabies in Los Angeles County in over 50 years. Exposure to rabies is not contagious; people cannot transmit rabies to other people unless they themselves are sick with rabies,” said Dr. Fielding.

On average there are usually only 10 positive rabid bats discovered per year. The majority of bats do not carry rabies and these animals play an important environmental role by feeding on insects and controlling insect populations. Bat colonies found in a home’s attic, a commercial building, or other non-living space are protected by federal law and can only be removed by humane exclusion (release), and not by extermination. For more information about bat exclusions, visit

To reduce your risk of rabies:  Make sure all pets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations. Unvaccinated dogs and cats exposed to rabid bats may need to be euthanized or may need to undergo a six-month quarantine at the owner’s expense.  If you think you have been bitten by a bat or other wild animal, immediately wash the bite area with soap and water, and contact your doctor or health care provider to determine if you need post-exposure treatment. If possible, safely contain the animal and - 1 - - 2 - contact the local animal control agency to arrange for rabies observation and quarantine of the animal or rabies testing.  If you find a bat on the ground near your home or in an area frequented by people and pets, do not attempt to touch the bat or capture it with your hands. Cover it with a bucket or box, keep children and pets away from the animal, and contact the local animal control agency.  If a bat found inside a home may have had access to pets or areas where people were sleeping, do not release it outside; if possible put a small box or container over it. Contact the local animal control agency. For more information about rabies and rabid bats, visit the department’s Veterinary Public Health webpage at

The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises nearly 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do please visit, visit our YouTube channel at, find us on Facebook at, or follow us on Twitter: LAPublicHealth. # # #