UT-VMC emergency room tails: “Good Samaritan” goldfish

UTVMC COLUMN HEADER  2By Dr. Amanda Rainey

We often have animals brought in that are either abandoned or injured. We call these patients “Good Samaritan” animals, meaning they don’t have an owner but require safe housing and possible medical care. I would say the most common are dogs and cats, but a variety of species have been represented by this title over the years, including guinea pigs, hedgehogs, hamsters, parrots, bearded dragons and domestic rabbits. The animals stay with us for a night or over the weekend and then transported to Young Williams Animal Center for further care and possible adoption.

One of the more interesting “Good Samaritan” experiences of my career occurred during the middle of August when I was still interning at the UT-VMC. It was the time of year when all the undergraduate students were moving back into the dormitories, fraternity and sorority houses and apartments around campus. I had noticed a definite difference in the traffic around the hospital on my way in for my shift, owing to its close proximity to Cumberland Avenue and Kingston Pike. It was a fairly busy night; we had seen several small animal emergencies when I received a call from the front desk on my hospital cellphone.

“Hello,” I stated while filling out radiograph requests for a current inpatient.

“Hi Dr. Rainey. We have a policemen up here who needs to speak with you,” the receptionist informed me, sounding a bit tense. I immediately told her I would be right up and put my paperwork on hold.

Two police officers greeted me at the front desk. I was concerned they needed to discuss a legal case with me, which happens from time to time. I was quite relieved when the first officer began telling me why they had come in that night. Apparently they were on patrol around campus, which was keeping them busy due to the rowdiness of the returning students, when they noticed a large glass bowl on the side of the street. The officers stopped to investigate the bowl and what they found inside was quite surprising. Three small goldfish were seen struggling to survive in a tiny amount of water. The officers didn’t know where else to turn. I couldn’t hide my smile at the strange situation and thanked the kind officers for rescuing the fish.

“We will absolutely take them. We’ll have the front desk create a chart and I’ll take them to exotics where I can fill the tank and give them food,” I told the officers.

We all shared a chuckle at how unique this discovery was. The fish ended up surviving the ordeal and found a permanent home in the much more spacious and appropriate fish tank that our pharmacy staff kept. They lived for several years and to this day I do not believe we have had another set of “Good Samaritan” Goldfish brought in.

(Dr. Amanda Rainey, DVM, is a clinical assistant professor in the small animal clinical sciences department at the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center in Knoxville.)

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