Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dorothy and Martha

Dorothy and Martha were two Labrador Retrievers I spent a year with. They were experimental subjects in my project, determining the effect of hypertensive agents on cellular exchange of potassium and sodium. A conflict I wrestled with was, I have always had a love of dogs, as does my pianist and my children. The dog lab was at the University of British Columbia and the year was 1960. At that time UBC had a large attached farm and I would pick up Martha from the kennels on Tuesday and Dorothy on Thursday. They were well looked after in the kennels because they needed to be healthy throughout the period of experimentation. When I picked them up, they seemed to know which was their day, and after a little quivering they would come with me down the trail, ambivalent, since they enjoyed the time out in the un-kenneled world, and with an interlude before the day's trial. My predecessor had spent a year teaching them to lie still and supine on a table for 4 to 5 hours while they were cannulated in the femoral artery and two veins, infused, injected, arterial pressures measured, and blood sampled over the period, all the while un-anaesthetized and unrestrained. I have often thought of Dorothy and Martha, and still do 52 years later. I think they were precious. I suppose that is sentimental! I don't care. That year was my only encounter with animal experimentation, thank goodness. In some curious fashion they were attached to me despite the pain and discomfort I must have inflicted on them, which they bore in silence. At the end of it all, we always had a little play and they gave me tail wagging. I suppose even painful attention is better than no attention in the permanently kenneled. Though animal experimentation, even then, went through rigorous ethics assessment and is the heart beat of scientific progress, the feelings I have today are mixed with the sense of man's inhumanity to dog, and what they will say to me in the hereafter, when I ask their forgiveness for fooling them.

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