IMAGINE performing a major ophthalmic operation in the African bush on a full-grown, wild, untameable lion, made irritable by long-continued pain, when nobody knew just how much of what anaesthetic a lion needed, or how it would react later to post-operational pain.
IMAGINE finding pythons in your washbasin, climbing into elephant carcasses to conduct post-mortems, treating aggressive leopards, sorting out the neuroses of a lap dog and her love-lorn owner, fierce bulls and sick donkeys.
IMAGINE giving hospitality to a toilet-trained hyrax (dassie) which insists on using the choo (lavatory bowl).
IMAGINE an air rescue of George Adamson’s favourite lion, who starred in the popular film, “Born Free”. Boy had been badly gored by a buffalo and needed an operation that lasted six hours ….. blood, sweat and surgical drama!
IMAGINE having to graft an artificial rubber horn on to a rhino who has smashed his prized part: his beautiful horn while a film was being made.
IMAGINE setting a cheetah cub’s ankles
The above incidents and more are all part of a day’s work for “Daktari Sue” and the animal patients, be they tame or wild, received her skilled and loving attention. In the Introduction to “Listen to the Wild”, Sue wrote:
“Our patients, as different from each other as one human being from the next, are also as varied in their response to us, each other, their environment and their predicaments as the multitudinous shades of the African bush. At times we must go to them to make treatment most effective; yet often, too, they are brought to us so that we can give them daily and perhaps hourly care. Our contact with them may be very brief, as in the case of the snared giraffe; or very much longer, lasting weeks and sometimes many months.
However long or short a time we have spent with them, each case counts as a new experience, an adventure in itself, often leading to fresh knowledge which might in some way be put to use for others. Inevitably, because our home cannot accommodate a permanent menage of wild animals, there comes the time for parting, leaving us with a deep sense of loss and the memory of their courage and immense endurance; of their marvellous sense of frolic and mischief contrasting their intensely heartrending, though often silent, manifestation of grief. Yet whatever their mood or emotion, their illness or injury, there was one need, one compulsion contained by them all: the ardent, passionate desire to live on, at whatever cost or sacrifice, a desire which burnt within them as surely and as fiercely as it does in man.”