“That Life Thing”: Occupational Folklore in a Wildlife Veterinary Clinic

Carolyn E. Ware (Louisiana State University)

Ware, Carolyn E. “That Life Thing”: Occupational Folklore in a Wildlife Veterinary Clinic” A juvenile possum with a head tilt who refuses to eat. A bald eagle with a broken leg, and a turtle with a broken shell. All are patients at the Wildlife Clinic at a veterinary teaching hospital, typically brought to the school by Good Samaritans. Clinicians and vet students perform expensive surgeries on these patients, feed and medicate them, talk and sing to them, until they are healthy enough to be released outdoors or treated by wildlife rehabilitators who are close partners in wildlife care and the necessary fundraising. The aim is not to make pets of these animals, but to nurse them back to a state that allows them to return to their own environment. Yet technicians, veterinarians, and students name their patients, sooth the panicked animals who attack them, and often grieve if a patient must be euthanized. “It’s all about life, isn’t it?” one practitioner said. “That life thing.” Veterinary medicine, like “human” medicine, is rich in work-related folklore. This paper draws on fieldwork and interviews to explore the occupational culture created and shared by employees in the Wildlife Clinic, particularly humor and narratives about patients.

Part of 06-11 Non-Human Animals, Friday, October 14, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm