Category Archives: Vet stuff

Nothing is ever as simple as it first seems

Today served up one of those true examples of something not quite being as simple as one might initially have expected, this time in the form of a tricky case of hide and seek. Clinical hide and seek that is.

The afternoon saw a stray cat presented with a history of a swollen paw, with the concern being that it was broken. The fact that the cat was weight bearing and had a discharging wound on the front of the paw did make me doubt whether we were dealing with a fracture or, as I suspected, simply a bad case of infection on account of a cat fight. Anyway, the cat was duly tested for FeLV and FIV, both unfortunately common among the stray cat population, and was thankfully found to be negative for both. Examination of the paw under anaesthetic (it was too painful to examine thoroughly conscious) resulted in pus being expressed – so clearly an abscess was present – but there was something about the level of swelling that didn’t quite fit with a simple cat bite abscess. As such, x-

paw, cat, foreign body
You can see the object between the bones clearly on this view of the paw

rays were taken after all and the cause of the swelling and discharging tract soon identified: a small radio-opaque foreign body present in the paw, sitting, based on the views taken, right in between the metacarpal bones, the equivalent in humans being the bones in the main body of the hand. The object was suspected to be a tooth and was, according to the images, in line with the open puncture wound on the paw.

Consent was received from the owners to take the cat to surgery in order to remove the mystery item; a simple procedure that I would be able to complete within thirty minutes before my afternoon consults. Or so I thought. As is often the case in all walks of life, from professional veterinary practice to business, and life in general, the initial simple imagined scenario – ie, I open the wound a little, find said object quickly and heroically remove it from the paw thus effecting a rapid resolution of the cat’s problems – ended up being anything but. Do you think we could find the mystery object? No. No we could not! For what felt like ages I found myself frustratingly exploring the area, having to extend my initial incisions to open the region up more and all the while wondering why on earth I was not able to locate the offending article. Further radiography, this time making use of needles and the mobile dental x-ray unit in order to more accurately ascertain the precise coordinates of the object, which was very clearly visible on the films, eventually led me to see what ended up being the tiniest of pieces of tooth lodged firmly between the two middle metacarpal bones and virtually imperceptible to the naked eye. With the tip of what was clearly a cat canine tooth finally extracated from our patient’s paw, I was able to finally close the area, dress it and let the owner know the result.

My team of nurses were, as ever, superb and the entire operation ended up being a lot more challenging that any of us had initially imagined it would be. Thankfully the fact that the surgery took longer than anticipated was not a major issue as my colleague was able to handle consults whilst I rooted around delicately but purposefully in search of a biological needle in a fleshy haystack.

The main lessons that I took away from the experience include the fact that apparently simple situations can sometimes become more complicated or time consuming than first imagined and being prepared to cope with and adapt to changing circumstances is vital. Everyone on my team remained calm and acted in a really smooth and professional manner during the entire process and it ended up being a great example of effective teamwork. Remaining calm in a stressful situation is so vital as you need to be able to think clearly and make decisions, actions which are difficult if stress is at high levels. Trusting the evidence gathered is also important as in this case I knew that there had to be something to be found, due to the unequivocal radiographic evidence, meaning that persistence was simpler to adopt than if doubt had been allowed to creep into the scenario.

All in all, a testing afternoon but ultimately a triumph of appropriate clinical process, access to decent, reliable diagnostic equipment, trust in one’s own ‘gut instinct, and the superb dynamics of a great team. A great result all round, with a more comfortable and happy patient as a result.

One Day. Two Very Different Organisations.

With another Windsor Triathlon under the belt today saw me pack up and leave the relative calm of Maidenhead for the altogether zippier pace of London itself, complete with obligatory traffic queues on route to my ultimate destination of Battersea.

My good friend Martin had kindly offered to host me in his apartment overlooking the currently-in-the-process-of-having-a-major-facelift Battersea Power Station, a breathtakingly striking architectural icon, with London to be my base for the next two days of my UK trip. The first challenge of the day, aside from driving there, which was slow but otherwise straightforward enough, was to find somewhere to park! London may have it’s charms but readily available parking options do not feature among them. After confirming that there was absolutely no street parking available in the immediate area, a series of exasperated text message exchanges between Martin and myself finally hit upon the option of parking at nearby Battersea Park, where I had the option of staying for up to four hours (at an exorbitant rate I hasten to add), giving me the chance to hop on a train to Victoria, meet Martin at his offices (Google), grab some food, take a tour and then head back to Battersea, keys in hand, to thus allow me to retrieve the car park access fob and thus be able to relax safe in the knowledge my car and worldly possessions were securely stowed away.

All the above went nicely to plan in the end and the fact that London is actually geographically relatively tiny became very apparent as my initial concerns about not making our agreed-upon midday meeting quickly evaporated as it transpired that Victoria was literally one stop along the train line. Simples!

Google – Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for the Digital Generation

I had the distinctly geeky pleasure of getting a tour around the Googleplex in California back in 2012 and so I had already witnessed with my own eyes the sheer joyful awesomeness that a Google ‘office’ embodies. It was with a similar sense of giddy toddler-esque enthusiasm that I jumped at the chance to tour the London offices (or should I say, more accurately, one of them) where Martin works. We met at the lobby of the fairly standard London office block opposite Victoria, where Google rents space, and headed up to grab some lunch at one of the several eateries found within the Google-sphere. From the minute I walked in it was clear that these were no ordinary offices, with a funky, coloured reception area leading through to one of the cafes, where we grabbed our respective lunches, me going for the healthy option of a delicious turkey escalope and roasted vegetables, and joined the assorted throng of young Googlers all doing the same. Sitting there in my jeans, red Vans, matching red Swatch and Superman T-shirt I instantly felt right at home among fellow nerds, the vast majority of whom would quite easily have been able to totally out-nerd me. I had found my people! Seriously, one of the things that is almost instantly apparent at Google is the relative youthfulness of the employees, with only a couple of guys that I saw clearly being over the age of forty.

With lunch eaten it was time for the tour itself. It would be very easy to get lost in Google given the apparently random layout that seems to have been applied but on reflection this is actually a misleading mis-truth, as it was simply the fact that there is no uniformity to the spaces, as the futuristic corridors open seamlessly onto serene coffee enclaves at one turn whilst guiding Googlers into engineer areas, where the real digital magic takes place on the other. Our first stop was such a coffee area, complete with free snacks, a heady array of fresh coffee options and a naturally lit seating area complete with fake grass that made one feel as though we’d happened upon a San Francisco version of Narnia. Fresh latte and yoghurt covered raisins in hand it was into the recording studio/ music room for a bit of impromptu drum and guitar action before checking out the games room, makers workshop, massage studio, more cafes and even a 1920′s style auditorium where tech presentations are given in some style. Oh, and then there was the informal meeting ‘room’ that is basically the back of a London bus. In the offices! Love it.

Dogs & Cats & Familiar Faces

Battersea Dog & CatsGoogle fix had it was back to Battersea to get myself settled before an impromptu, spur of the moment decision to pop in and visit the Battersea Dog and Cats Home, literally a stone’s throw down the road from where I am staying. After asking if it would be possible to get a tour ‘behind the scenes’ on account of being a fellow veterinarian, I was guided by 2007 London graduate Phil, whom I am almost certain I had met before, maybe back in the midst of our university days, hearing about the day-to-day work of the home and the impressive plans afoot for a major renovation and expansion, the evidence of which was already on show, as well as being heard. The Battersea Power Station project is literally set to transform the immediate area and it seems that the dog and cat home is to join in with this major facelift, which will see, in addition to new kenneling, a shiny new vet clinic. This comes after the addition of an impressively designed and very modern cat section, complete with central spiral staircase and glass kennels, with extensive environmental enrichment to keep the resident felines as happy and stress free as possible during their (hopefully) short stays before rehoming. Such is the small world in which us vets move within that it wasn’t long before I met a fellow Bristol graduate in the form of Claire Turner, who later informed me that I literally missed out on the excitement of an evacuation of the site due to a bomb scare! (Apparently there had been an unexploded WWII bomb found over by the power station, which would explain the presence of the police as I walked past en route back from the home. Exciting stuff indeed!)

So, there you have it. In the space of a few hours two very different examples of good work being done here in the capital, and an incredibly interesting start to my short stay in London.

Dubai Vet Exam

I have had a few people ask me about the exam that one has to sit in order to become registered as a veterinarian here in Dubai. As such I thought it would be a good idea to write a short piece on exactly that subject and hopefully answer many of the recurring questions that crop up.

NOTE/ DISCLAIMER: The following was correct, as far as I was aware, at the time that I experienced the exam process. Like much here in Dubai, processes are subject to change, often abrupt, and so no guarantees can be made on current accuracy or validity of the following. As ever, you are encouraged to do your own independent research and discuss your specific requirements with your employer (current or prospective) or to clarify matters directly with the relevant Ministry.

What?

To become registered officially as a veterinarian here in Dubai, which permits you to work in a solo capacity in a clinic, the Ministry requires vets to apply for and sit the official exam. Eligibility for this is determined on the basis of having completed and satisfied all of the registration/ licensing requirements, such as demonstrating evidence of 5 years veterinary post-graduate work experience (for non UAE nationals).

When?

The exams seem to run about once per month. There is little point, however, of applying to sit it until you are confident that you have all of the licensing requirements ticked off.

Where?

I sat mine at the Ministry that deals with veterinary licensing, which happened to be the Ministry of Environment and Water.

What does it involve?

It was about an hour in length, although it was easily possible to complete it in less time. There were essentially three sections:

1. Short questions on the relevant laws and bylaws, pertaining to the practice of veterinary in the UAE.

2. Short questions of a clinical nature, especially focusing on diseases of a zoonotic and notifiable nature. There were also some basic questions on subjects such as the TPR (temperature, pulse and respiration rates) for species such as dogs, cats, camels and cattle.

3. Long questions, of no more than a single side of A4. There were two of these in my exam, asking me to outline the signs, epidemiology, treatment and cause of certain notifiable diseases, such as TB. Having a basic overview of the various notifiables, as listed in the Ministry guidelines, is essential for passing this exam.

How hard is it?

Honestly? Not very. Assuming, of course, that you have actually bothered to do some revision and go in with the relevant knowledge, even if at a superficial level. Personally, I was not convinced that my answers were anything other than average at best when I left the exam, but I passed, so feel confident that unless you do no work in advance or have a complete meltdown in the exam, you’ll pass.

How quickly did you get your results?

I found out whether I had passed within two weeks, so very quickly.

Did you get anything after passing? A certificate?

Um, no. Just a feeling of relief that it was over and, once I had passed, that I was able to practice as a vet.

I have included a downloadable PDF here of the revision notes that I compiled and used to prepare for my exam. Again, I make no guarantees regarding this content and provide it merely as a learning aid. You are ultimately responsible for your own learning and preparation so if you don’t pass then don’t blame me 🙂
You can access it here: Dubai Ministry Vet Exam Notes

Vet is much like working in a Startup

This week has made me realise something that I had long suspected: being a vet is very much like being a start-up entrepreneur, or certainly an employee of one. This idea crystallized in my mind after watching the fascinating and very motivating documentary “The Startup Kids,” which takes a look at a number of tech start-ups and their founders, a subject that I have always been utterly fascinated by.

What characteristics or features of working as a vet do I consider to be in parallel to being involved in a start-up? I reckon the following merit mention….

  1. Multiple Simultaneous Roles – I have oft advised potential new vets that a career as a veterinarian is not simply a matter of wearing the “fixer of sick and maintainer of healthy animals” hat. The truth is that most days involve us having to swap our various hats more often than a lady at Ladies Day at Royal Ascot. In any given day we could act as doctor, negotiator, team-leader, social worker, financial planner, debt collector, psychologist, gymnast, electrician/ mechanic, inventor, problem-solver extraordinaire, confidante, sprinter, weight-lifter, endurance athlete, receptionist, diplomat, surgeon, clairvoyant, magician and, at times we are also expected to be both super heroes and miracle workers! Only the other day I found myself spending a good hour taking on the unexpected role of financial problem solver, empathetic negotiator and fiscal planner whilst carefully navigating the options for a possible payment plan structure for a client who clearly could not afford the required treatment for their pet but didn’t wish to consider euthanasia of said injured animal. I am no financial planner but found myself having to assume the role, liasing between various members of the clinic team and the client in the process. Fixing the animals, it seems, tends to be the easiest bit of being a vet.
  2. Small Dynamic Team Players – Most vets work in relatively small clinics as members of small, focused teams, with de-lineated roles such as vets, nurses and reception team. Working so closely with so few people in what is often a high pressure and rapidly changing environment is very akin to that seen in most start-ups and whilst highly stressful at times can lead to superb examples of team-work and extraordinary results. I think back to the example I had when a rabbit we were anaesthetising suddenly went into cardiac arrest (ie died!) and as a direct result of superb teamwork involving skilled, focused and motivated professionals we were able to resurrect said bunny!
  3. Cope with Caos & Rapid Growth – Think that your vet spends their day floating along from one kitten consult to the next puppy on a cloud of serene tranquility? Think again. In many busy clinics the hectic schedule kicks off the second you arrive (usually early) to the minute you finally exit the building (usually late), with the spectre of the unexpected always lurking around the corner and with every phone call. This level of (organised?) chaos is amplified if you happen to be in a rapidly growing clinic, with new clients and their new and newer animals rolling in. Embrace the chaos! We do.
  4. Work to Tough Deadlines & Multi-task like a Juggler – Can you spay a cat quicker than it takes to spell cat? No? Well you’ll quickly learn. Especially when you cop a look at the ops list for the day as it spills off the board and starts streaming down the wall. But no worries as you can just keep going as there are no consults in the afternoo….. oh, wait… yes, there are. Vets work to deadlines all day long and swap out roles as mentioned above like a juggler on a Red Bull infusion.
  5. Lunch? What lunch?! – One really cool feature of most tech start-ups that I frequently read about is that many place real value on taking breaks, especially lunch, to catch their collective breath and hang out with colleagues, with many of their best ideas often coming out of this time. I make no secret of the fact that I value my lunch highly and can become a tad grumpy if and when I am denied it. The most productive people I know are those who are actively encouraged to tune out and re-fuel, even if it’s not for very long. Ironman races see athletes encouraged to re-fuel – in fact, not refueling would quickly lead to poor performance and probably failure. So I don’t see why it should be any different in our industry which has unfortunately seemed to collectively hold on to this “lunch/ breaks are optional” mentality. Start-ups know that rested, fueled team members usually perform awesomely and I am convinced that vets, nurses and the rest of the team are no different. When it does happen then I have seen how awesome team spirit and performance can be.
  6. Super Flexible – Part of the excitement of being involved in a start-up is that it’s never always possible to predict exactly what is going to happen. Vet clinics are the same, as previously mentioned, with a new emergency or challenge literally a phone call or walk-in away. We have all been in situations where our manageable consult or surgical list has suddenly been thrown into disarray by an unexpected event and the ability to be super-adaptable and flexible to a dynamic work environment is key to being a successful vet, as it is to being a start-up team member.

I daresay that there are many other examples and feel free to add any you can think of. In the meantime I am off to grab some lunch.

Emergency!

The past two weeks have seen the launch of our 24-hour service, meaning that the clinic is now open round the clock, with a vet available any time of the day or night, much as we are used to having in the UK.

With two new vets enlisted to take it in turns being on overnight on alternate weeks, backed up by a night nurse and our existing night animal care staff, the service officially kicked off at the start of the month and has so far proven to be popular. There have, inevitably, been some adjustments to the way the rest of us regular day staff operate, such as some new shifts and a few later than expected or usual finishes, but we’re all optimistic that once the initial adjustment period is complete it will actually make our lives less hectic and stressful.

One of the changes has been that naturally we need to do a handover with the night vet going into the day shift, and so one of the vets is assigned to the hospital for the week. This basically means that they come in for an earlier start at 7am, which gives them an hour to effect a detailed handover with the night team, before being in charge of checking, planning, updating and generally doing what is required by the various in-patients. Given that our wards are usually pretty well populated, this can result in quite an intense shift, with the hospital vet then consulting from about half ten until their finish time at 4pm. The early finish clearly makes for a nice end to the day, although that does assume that they get to actually walk out at four, which so far I don’t think has really happened.

The other vets come in as usual for an 8am start and crack on as before with admitting surgeries and seeing consults, or getting on with the various procedures booked in for the day. Trying to get our full compliment of two hours of lunch (sounds like a lot but bear in mind we are in from 8am to 7pm) is still a challenge, although when it happens it really does help to set us up for the afternoon/ evening consulting period, which is usually pretty busy. One change that certainly seems to have occurred is that the couple of hours leading up to 7pm have become a lot busier, with more of what we can refer to as the genuinely ‘sick’ animals booking in. As such the final couple of hours have been, on the whole, very busy. With the consults being booked up to, and even beyond 8pm, it does mean that when 7pm, and hence our scheduled home time, comes round it is usually the case that we either have results pending for a case we have seen in the afternoon, or there are simply more clients waiting to be seen than would be fair to leave the late vet to deal with solo – after all, we’re all nice people and we’re not the kind of individuals who can knowingly walk out leaving both clients and our colleagues delayed and inconvenienced. That has meant several late finishes which, again, I am sure will even out as the new system becomes established and when we get some new vets on the team.

Last night was a particularly intense affair, with both an in-patient requiring a blood transfusion at the end of the day – never a quick process – and a ‘sick, off-colour’ dog coming in which turned out to have some seriously nasty business going on internally and so required surgery that evening, including, again, a blood transfusion. As such we all stayed on until gone 10pm, well into the night shift, although sustenance was provided by a much welcomed, and oh so chocolatey cake, that one of my colleague’s clients had dropped off earlier.

The cases in question, for those of you with an interest in such gory details, were a cat with a severe immune mediated haemolytic anaemia, most likely secondary to tick-borne disease and not helped at all by being FeLV positive. A lovely little young cat, she was presented the evening before with, again, a history of just not being herself and was found to be very pale. Her bloods revealed the true extent of her predicament, as she was sadly diagnosed with FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus) and had both a severe anaemia, with a red blood cell percentage very much on the borderline of needing an immediate transfusion, and a raging high white cell count. Aggressive treatment was started but the response was not enough to prevent needing a blood transfusion last night.

The second case was that of a geriatric dog who, as with the cat, was presented with a history of just being quieter than normal. Again, pale and lethargic, bloods revealed a low red cell count and concerns about possible internal bleeding were confirmed by ultrasound, as we found her abdomen to be full of blood due to a ruptured splenic mass. As such, the options were starkly binary: euthanase or operate to try and save her. Her owners opted to try and save her so after bringing in a blood donor we took her to surgery and removed her spleen, complete with nasty, ruptured splenic mass which was the cause of her abdomen being full of blood. The surgery went well and at the time of writing the patient was recovering well, although is certainly not yet out of danger.

So there we have it…. the next chapter in the vetty adventures here in Dubai, complete with a new 24-7 element. Things should continue to be very interesting and, I daresay, remain intense.

If your pet does need to be seen overnight, then Al Safa Veterinary Clinic, on Al Wasl Road, Dubai, is now open 24 hours, 7 days a week, and can be contacted on +971 (0) 4 348 3799.

Resurrection

Moments of intense stress often bring out the best in both individuals and teams. Last week served up an extreme test of the level of calm yet effective teamwork that can really work wonders in veterinary.

This story starts with a rabbit – let’s call him Mr Bunny. A rather elderly bunny but a healthy rabbit all the same. Well, apart from the large, unsightly, ulcerated and all round nasty mass attached to his lip, hence his being in the clinic with the intention to surgically remove said mass. Everything pre-op went according to plan and with an intra-venous catheter safely placed in Mr B we proceeded to give the standard anaesthetic combination of drugs, ready to continue monitoring his anaesthetic during the surgery and until he was back safely hopping around and munching on his hay again.

As I am sure most of us are acutely aware, real life sometimes follows a different script to the one planned and Mr B had plans of his own. Basically his heart stopped. Literally.

As soon as he had been given his medication my nurse, who had been listening to his heart from the word go, identified that there was a problem. The potential at this stage for mass hysteria and panic was there, especially considering that the owner (an employee of the clinic) actually happened to be in the same room, albeit talking with someone else and not actually involved in the procedure taking place. Full credit to my team as we very swiftly and decisively put a rapid resuscitation plan into full swing.

The reversal agent was immediately given, oxygen was adminstered, rapid fluid therapy was instigated, adrenaline was injected and cardiac compressions started. This continued for several minutes, although those minutes often feel like hours in such highly charged situations. Rabbits, as anyone with experience of either owning or treating them will be able to attest, aren’t great at dealing with stress at the best of times and always seem to be plotting cunning schemes by which to expire early. As such, the chances of a successful resuscitation effort seemed at best remote and at worst dismal. It was with a sense of surprise and relief then that during the cardiac compressions I felt Mr Bunny’s little heart kick in and take over the rather vital task of pumping. From there on it was a slow but steady path back from the light and into the world of the living again.

Mr Bunny did make a full recovery and actually returned this week for another attempt at removing the large mass on his face. This time, thankfully, things went much more smoothly and Mr B bounced through his operation safely.

This episode did highlight the benefits of a well trained, calm yet decisive team, coupled with a sensible approach to preparation and the importance of monitoring to pick up on issues very early on. The response of the entire team was exemplary and Mr Bunny is still with us as a direct result.

No such thing as stupidity? Not true!

I am used to seeing examples of simple, innocent ignorance doing the job I do, and it is actually gratifying to a certain degree when you can make a difference to both the lives of an animal and their owners by filling in the obvious gaps in their knowledge. However, there are also occasions when you just despair of people and the fact that they can possibly be so blinkin’ stupid!

Friday at our clinic is mental – no other word for it. The hours, officially anyway, are 9am until 5pm, but considering that during that time, which is normally fully booked with appointments and with at least one or two ‘walk-ins’ plus ’emergencies’ plus repeat prescriptions to attend to, the vet on duty also has to deal with all of the clinic’s in-patients, the day actually has to start much earlier and inevitably ends much later, with lunch but a pleasant idea. As such, by the time you find yourself getting towards the end of the day tolerance levels are waning and the last thing you want to find yourself dealing with is a problem that really shouldn’t exist.

The clients I called in to my room were new to us, having purchased two kittens only the evening before. All fine so far. We see many new puppies and kittens and I actually quite enjoy seeing them for their initial check-ups. What I don’t enjoy however is being faced with underage, underweight, clearly disease-riddled specimens and to then be informed that 5000 AED (roughly equivalent to about £1000) was spent on said kittens. I just wanted to scream at these people and ask them how they could have been so bloody stupid to have parted with so much cash for cats that were, even to an untrained child, clearly not right. I have a deep rooted disdain for the fact that people pay so much for pets anyway, especially when there are so many perfectly good, healthy animals in adoption centres. In fact, we have a clinic full of kittens all looking for homes. The best part? They had purchased the kittens for their young child! OMG!

Needless to say the scumbag who duped these two, not on the face of it unintelligent people, refused point blank to take them back or refund them. As shitty as that is I guess it was to be expected. If you’re unscrupulous enough to advertise and trade in diseased babies, which is what we’re effectively talking about here, and you find someone dumb enough to hand you their money, then of course you’re unlikely to have the moral fibre that dictates you do the right thing by them after they discover their mistake. The fault lies with the idiots who seek out and then pay obscene amounts of money for these animals – they are creating the demand for such a disgusting trade.

Anyway, I thus had the pleasure of informing my clients that they had paid a lot for two kittens who had, in no particular order, ringworm (a fungal skin disease that is zoonotic – ie, we can get it), worms, raging upper respiratory infections, with one of the kittens having awfully gummed up eyes, ear mites, and were both very underweight and in poor general body condition. There may well be additional health issues which come to light, such as the risk of diseases such as giardia (again, something we can pick up) and FIE (Feline Infectious Enteritis, a form of feline parvovirus and bad news). To even attempt to rectify the various health issues they had was going to take considerable time, effort and more money. Oh, and with no guarantee of having healthy, alive kittens by the end of it. Always a fun conversation to have at the end of a crazy Friday!

If anything I would like this post to serve as a wake-up call to those looking to acquire a kitten, or indeed any animal: THINK! It isn’t rocket science. If you’re buying a young animal from a man in a van, with no paperwork, previous history and it clearly looks underweight, in poor condition and has physical evidence of disease – I think we can all recognise a snotty nose and eyes when we see them – then think really long and hard about whether it is a good idea to part with a wedge load of cash, because all you’re going to end up doing is doubling that amount on vet fees and giving the dodgy seller ample good incentive to go out and ‘replenish his stock’ with more sickly specimens to flog to unsuspecting suckers. If you really must get a kitten or puppy then I urge you to, first of all, consider rehoming an animal from a shelter or vet clinic – they will have been vet checked, passed as healthy and probably already wormed, vaccinated and, depending on their age, neutered. If, however, money is simply burning a hole in your pocket or you must have a specific breed (!?) then seek out a reputable breeder, insist on seeing the mother and, if possible, the father too, and go and view the puppies or kittens with the rest of the litter before going back and forking out money. As for pet shops, don’t go near them. Period.

The depressing thing is that I daresay I am going to see many more such cases, especially if the past week has been any guide to future events.

Time to Catch Up

Okay, I admit it…. part of the reason that I have been “off the grid”, in a blog writing capacity at least, is that I have been having fun. Lots of fun. In fact so much fun that you’ll probably want to hate me for it. But I’m cool with that. Seriously though, I just realised that it’s been over a month since my last post and I honestly had no idea such is the pace with which my time here in the UAE is hurtling past.

Much has happened since my last installment, from some interesting clinical cases and happenings at work through to some awesome social, sporting and, well, just fun endeavours.

In terms of the clinical, the main changes since my last post appear to be (in no particular order):

Down a Vet

The loss of one of our vets meaning that there have been some changes to the weekends that I now get to enjoy. Unfortunately one of our more recent vets just wasn’t getting on well and was, as far as I could tell, also quite unhappy. It was pretty darn clear even from the moment I started that there was a major mismatch between her style of consulting and flexibility to new ideas and ability to cope with the challenges of this particularly busy clinic with exceptionally high standards. It was telling that she seemed to spend rather a lot of time being corrected or otherwise having meetings with the bosses in the office, on a number of occasions preventing me from getting my stuff and getting home! In the end it was no surprise to discover that she was asked to part way with the clinic, a decision which was clearly inevitable. As I mentioned, it did mean that instead of my usual Friday to Saturday weekends, I was switched to working Saturdays and so generally get my weekends on Thursday and Friday, or occasionally Wednesday and Friday.

As mentioned above, I am now working regularly on Saturdays with the change in staffing, meaning that my working week technically starts on a weekend. This was initially at the main hospital all day, which tends to be crazily busy all day, although since we opened our branch in Mirdif, a part of town out near the airport, on Saturday mornings, I start there and then head back over to the hospital in the afternoon. Most Saturdays I arrive to find the clinic as busy as it often is on weekends, with people waiting to be seen and my colleagues all dealing with additional in-patients. There seems to be this annoying feature of veterinary life that dictates that there is never just a happy medium to anyones’ day. It’s either full on, crazy mental, oh-my-God-I-haven’t-even-got-time-to-think-let-alone-eat-or-go-to-the-toilet, with consults booked solid, walk-ins galore and extras just pitching up expecting to be seen (and doing so because we’re just nice like that), or nothing at all with plenty of time to thumb-twiddle, although there is obviously always plenty that can be done to fill the time. Busy is good: I would rather have stuff to do, especially as the day does progress much more smoothly and at pace than if you’re simply thumb twiddling. What I don’t like, however, is the frantic nature of those insane days, when everyone is just rushing around not quite sure if it’s all going to go to shit at any moment. What I have found some weeks is that by the end of the working week there is the danger that people start to get a little snippy with one another, meaning that there is sometimes some definite tension in the air, something that I find very uncomfortable. I like the people I work with – they’re great and I think we have a great team. I don’t like to see them stressed to the point where peoples’ tempers or nerves are getting stretched, which is what I have felt happening some weeks. The notion that it’s “just part of the job” is also something I don’t subscribe to, in much the same way as I view the concepts of “lunch is a luxury in veterinary” and “animal bites are part of being a vet or nurse” as the big crocks of shite that these viewpoints clearly are. It should always be possible to organise things in such a manner that people are busy and able, if necessary to work at 100% capacity when called upon to do so, but not to expect that level of intensity all of the time. The irony, of course, is that we will then get days where there are virtually no appointments – one of the twisted facts of life in veterinary!

Passed With Flying Colours

After a month of waiting, and a few days of hasty revision using my geekily created “Dubai Exam PDF”, I was once again back at the municipality to sit my exam for real this time. It was just little old me this time and I was led up to an office where I sat as if working for the ministry and completed my exam, with “colleagues” around me at their desks discussing various matters in Arabic. The exam itself was a fairly straightforward affair, following the formula that seemed to be firmly established by past papers: three questions on matters related to ministry rules and regulations, such as the duties and responsibilities of a vet and what is supposed to happen in the event a sole vet is absent from the clinic for more than 60 days; then some short clinical questions, including being asked for TPR ranges (temperature, pulse and respiration) for cows and camels – yes, there was a camel question! Most of the clinical questions are geared towards notifiable diseases and public health, so there were ones on everything from leptospirosis to rabies. The last part of the exam was three longer “essay” style questions on, if my memory serves me well, tuberculosis, distemper, and strangles (I think). I didn’t come out of that exam feeling like I’d nailed it and was actually rather apprehensive about what the pass mark might have been. However, this apprehension was misplaced as I discovered a couple of weeks later that I had in fact passed and so am now fully registered.

So, what does being “registered” actually mean? Well, it simply means that I am legally permitted to work in a solo capacity as a vet, such as I now do at our Mirdif branch, and not a great deal more. I have been led to believe that there are many vets operating in Dubai that are not fully registered and it seems they are still able to go about their business. Monique and Malcolm, however, choose to do things properly, which as grating as I am sure it must be to know others are blatantly flouting the rules, is the correct approach to take and one for which I applaud them.

Clinical cases…

Its been busy so that must mean some interesting cases, right? Exactly. There have been some great cases to deal with, as well as some just comical or downright bizarre experiences within the clinic, such as the situation I found myself in last week when a rather attractive client came in with her dog, very professionally and elegantly dressed, and then promptly farted in front of me. Not once, however, but twice! My initial reaction was to think it was the dog but it was quite clearly not and so I did the gentlemanly thing by simply ignoring what had just happened, even when it occurred twice! The bizarre thing was that she didn’t even seem fazed by it and I suspect just considered it a perfectly normal and reasonable thing to do in front of the vet. Bizarre indeed.

We see a lot of skin cases in Dubai, with ringworm top of the list when it comes to dermatological issues. Having never seen a case of ringworm in practice in the UK, with my only experience of it being getting it myself as a young vet student working on a dairy farm (I thought it was just a really nasty rash from rolling out the straw each day – it wasn’t), I now provisionally diagnose and start treatment for it on an almost daily basis. In fact I use the UV Wood’s Lamp so frequently that it occasionally feels like I’m running a tanning salon 🙂

Ear mites are another dermatological scourge oft seen and it seems the ones here tend to be bruisers compared to their whimpy European cousins, as you can easily see the little rascals scampering around down the lugholes of lots of the pets we get in.

When it comes to parasites, ticks are the big problem here whereas we see very few, if any, fleas. In fact I think I may have seen a single flea here since arriving, which is in complete contrast to my experience of working as a vet in the UK for the past five years. As I say, ticks are the big issue here, and unfortunately it’s a fact that they carry some pretty nasty diseases, especially ehrlichia, which I have diagnosed several times. I had a dog presented to me at the end of last week which had been missing from home for several days. When it returned it was found to be absolutely infested with ticks. Our nurses alone removed over 30 from the poor dog! Although the dog wasn’t displaying any overt clinical signs of ehrlichia, we routinely test where appropriate and so a blood test was run, rather unsurprisingly proving positive. Ideally in such cases a full blood count (CBC) would be run to assess the nature and extent of any haematological abnormalities but the owners were not keen to spend the money and so after checking a PCV (normal, thankfully), the dog was started on a 30 day course of doxycycline at 10mg/kg once daily and started on Frontline, to kill any remaining ticks and provide protection against potential further bites. Instructions were given to the owners to a) bring their other dog in for a check and testing – he also proved positive and so treatment was started – and to thoroughly spray the house against ticks, as ehrlichia is a known zoonosis, and a potentially very nasty one at that. Definitely not something that any person wants to end up contracting.

On the theme of ticks, we see a large number of “yellow” cats here, with Bartonella felis, from ticks bites, being the usual culprit. There was one case in particular that came in one day with a history of just being very quiet, flat and “just not right.” Upon examination it was clear that the cat would probably have glowed in the dark, such was the vividness and intensity of the yellow discolouration that it was showing. As with ehrlichia cases, a full blood count is performed, in addition to biochemistry, and the cat was found to have a severe anaemia, as a result of immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia, and so aggressive treatment was started, with doxycycline and steroids at immunosuppressive doses so as to halt the ongoing destruction red cells that the cat’s own immune system was undertaking. After several days in hospital the cat did make a good recovery and the last time I saw it for a check-up, it was a much more normal colour and a tad more feisty – always an encouraging sign!

Fun and Socials…

I always thought I had a lot going on in my life when in the UK but since moving over here it seems that the options for ways in which to spend any spare time you get are numerous, and at times it is difficult to know which options to choose and which to pass by. Since my last post I have been up to the following shenanigans:

Kitesurfing. After taking a few lessons, more as a refresher following the course I undertook in Wales last August, I took the plunge and invested in my own kite, and other gear, so that I am able to get out and put my new skills to use whenever it is windy and I am free. The past few weeks have been somewhat devoid of wind – good for a skydiver – and so I have only really been able to make it out onto the water properly twice. The first outing was fun but rather expectedly frustrating at times, as I spent the time getting used to the kite and board, never really getting up properly or in control, and crashing the kite on more than one occasion, at one point rather alarmingly near a group of sun bathers – quite why they choose to sit on a beach where there are loads of very large kites flying around is beyond me, but there you go, they exist and so it is generally regarded as polite to avoid thwacking them on the head with a large kite if at all possible. Friday, however, was completely different and in spite of the beach being packed, I had a blast, getting straight up on the board and actually kitesurfing for real for the very first time! The feeling of being in the water and then with a simple movement of the kite and a powerful pull from the wind, finding yourself skipping across the waves is indescribably awesome and it is instantly easy to see why people get hooked on the sport. You feel as though you’re actually flying across the surface of the water, which is an amazing feeling indeed. Although I had to ‘bail’ from the board a few times, I found it very simple to control my kite and steer back to my board, and didn’t crash the kite once during my session, which constitutes a major achievement in my opinion. I actually cannot wait until the next windy day when I am off and already find myself doing the kitesurfer thing of constantly assessing whether the wind is strong enough, even whilst walking across the street to get lunch and back. I am addicted it seems but as far as vices go, playing with kites seems a harmless one.

Skydiving. My other passion which, rather ironically, also relies heavily upon the wind, or preferably on very little wind being present, is jumping from perfectly good aeroplanes in the name of sport. Since arriving here in Dubai I have taken advantage of the fact that one of the best dropzones in the world is on my doorstep by jumping at Skydive Dubai several times. Unfortunately I have not yet reached 500 jumps and so am unable to jump at the jewel in the skydiving crown, The Palm, which is really the ultimate aim owing to it’s absolutely stunning location and views. I have, instead, been doing my jumps out at SD2, the desert dropzone, located on the main road between Dubai and Al Ain, and past both the Sevens rugby stadium and the main camel racing track. Getting out there is so easy given how good the roads are here, meaning I can, in theory, leave my villa in the Springs and be in a plane within the hour. As it’s generally hot and sunny all of the time, it is very rare that we get weather delays, although it does get really hot by about mid-morning, meaning that being packed into a small plane for the climb up to jump altitude can be a bit uncomfortable. Its so worth it though as that door opens and you get to leap out into the vast UAE sky.

I am currently working towards my USPA B-license, having logged over 50 jumps. Part of the requirements is to complete a canopy course, which basically teaches you how to fly (and land) your parachute better (in other words, more safely). The first day was sadly too windy and was cancelled but day two was on and so I spent the day learning the theory of more effective canopy flight, including such principles as stalling (not for the faint-hearted, as it basically involves pushing your parachute to the point where it collapses) and finding the flare “sweet spot,” before going up and out to put into practice what we were learning. As it is just the part of the skydive under canopy that we were concerned with there was no need to go to full altitude, meaning that those of us on the course were the first out of the plane at 5000 feet and literally pulled our chutes a few seconds after exiting the plane – Hop & Pop. Although jumping at 12,000 feet is exhilarating enough, the fact is that 5,000 feels so much closer to terra firma (because it is) meaning that the thought of impacting it seems to be much more prominent in the mind. My first exit wasn’t the most stable and it would be easy to just get into a panic and deploy before being in a stable freefall position, all of which increases the chances of there being a deployment issue and ultimately having to cut away. As such, it is vitally important to remain calm, remember the training, breathe and relax – the key to skydiving. After correcting my body position on exit, the next four jumps went very well and I finished the day with a series of pretty good landings, meaning that I have been able to ‘graduate’, as it were, onto a slightly smaller canopy. In practice, what that means is that I fly under canopy much faster, all increasing the importance of having good control so as to lead to a safe and stable landing, which is the number one priority with this sport.

My parents came over to visit. I have had my first set of visitors as my parents headed over for a week in April, arriving on the day of the World Cup horse races, which we attended. Although I had to leave them to entertain themselves for most of the week, owing to the need to work, the three days we did manage to spend together were action packed and a great deal of fun. There is something about having guests that ensures you remember to do all the touristy stuff that as a resident you’d probably not actually ever get round to doing normally. For example, we headed up the Burj Khalifa – a Dubai must – and had breakfast at the Burj al Arab – again, another must see and do in my opinion. One of the highlights of their trip was a desert ride, although it was not without it’s helping of initial drama, more of which I shall delve into.

So, all in all its been a busy few weeks since I last posted and although I have only actually been here for about nine weeks I do feel as if its been significantly longer, which can never be a bad sign. The next significant challenge, however, is going to be the summer, which I have been led to believe by many, many people is brutal. I guess I shall be catching up on a lot more DVDs then 🙂

Oops… I did it (not quite again)

Burj al Arab, DubaiOops….I did it (not quite again)

As you may have guessed by the digital silence on the blog for the past week it has been somewhat of a busy one. The good news, however, is that there should be lots of fun and interesting things to tell you about.

The working week for me now starts on a Sunday, which I must admit I still haven’t gotten used to, meaning that my mind and body are still very much in ‘downtime’ mode when the alarm goes off at what feels ridiculously early. The fact that I haven’t been sleeping brilliantly probably doesn’t help matters – I am still adjusting to the heat and seem to have a choice to make most nights: either sweat it out or freeze with the air-conditioning running, something that I have opted for on several occasions, although this does come with a price, which is that you make up with a mouth and throat drier than the desert in which I know reside. Still, come the summer months, when the temperature apparently hovers almost continuously at a sizzling 40 degrees celcius, or higher, I am going to be more than happy to trade a dry throat for some comfort. Anyway, I digress. So, the alarm now goes at 6am each morning, with plans for this to gradually be pushed back as I start to get out in the cool(er) mornings before work to train, and after the usual pre-work preparations – I’m really not going to bore you with details of how I get ready for work – it’s in the car and a forty or so minute drive from The Springs to the clinic, in an area of Dubai called Umm Suqeim, which is but a few blocks back from the beach itself and the famous hotel in the shape of a huge sail, the Burj al Arab. In fact, I often pop across to the small mall across the street at lunchtime and am able to sit there gazing at the surreal sight that is the Burj. I still haven’t become used to it, even after two weeks.

The clinic is a pretty busy one and the appointments start fairly punctually at 8am, with the expectation being that we’re in a little earlier, especially if we have any in patients to attend to first. I have been consulting pretty much since starting, although have done a couple of neuters as second, relief surgeon, on one morning after a couple of hours seeing clients. This is really to help me get familiar with the computer system – not that tricky actually, although it’s the various pricing codes that are always the sticking point when you move to a new place – and to allow me to familiarise myself with the specifics of vaccinations, and other Dubai-specific matters. There are, it transpires, certain conditions that we see more of here in Dubai than I would have seen back in the UK and a few that we really see hardly at all, such as ehrlichiosis.

drawing up a dog vaccineVaccinations are something that I have now done dozens of since joining and the key points to remember are a) everything gets vaccinated against everything each year, so no two year this or staggered vaccination patterns. Basically the authorities have decreed that dogs and cats are to be fully boosted each year, including against rabies, which does make choosing which vaccines to give much simpler. In order to get their annual Municipality tag, which is effectively a registration and must be worn on a collar at all times, they have to have a readable microchip, so every animal is scanned, and then a valid rabies vaccination. We can then issue new tags in house. We actually have a few clients who visit us from outside of Dubai, such as Abu Dhabi or Al Ain, and so they don’t require a tag. It’s only animals local to Dubai that are required to have one.

With cats, the same principles apply as do in the UK, in as much as pure house cats are not routinely given FeLV vaccine, but any cats that do venture out are strongly advised to have the vaccination, as we see a lot of FeLV/ FIV positives here. The cats just seem to be a whole lot more feisty and have serious attitude, so the fact that FIV is rife comes as no surprise to be honest. In fact, the new challenge, it seems, is to remain cat scratch or bite free each day. I had one vaccination consultation where the cat was fine, albeit with very gentle and calm handling, right up until the third and final injection, when it literally switched and went feral on me, scratching me but thankfully not landing a teeth shot. Although getting bitten by a cat must suck anywhere, it’s more of a pain here as any of the antibiotics or, God forbid, hospital treatment that would invariably be required ends up coming out of your own, private pocket, as there is no NHS here and we are not covered by any work-provided health insurance. Personally I think it would be fair for any ‘work related’ injuries that require treatment to be covered by the clinic, but that’s not the deal so its extra important to take care. Even the kittens here are little savages, and I had one spirited little stray to jab the other day, which made for a real challenge – good luck rehoming that one!

EM image of Psoroptes miteIn terms of the species split, its fairly even on the dog versus cat front, with the odd small furry and rabbit thrown in for good measure, much as back home. I’ve seen a couple of rabbits in my first two weeks, the first unfortunately requiring euthanasia as a result of being really badly affected by psoroptic mange, to the point that it’s paws were all thickened and crusty, and it had small facial abscesses where it had been scratching itself. It was also ridiculously thin and clearly wasn’t going to handle the pretty intensive treatment that was needed in order to try and resolve the issue. In the UK, all we would do in such cases is some ivermectin spot-on, with it clearing quite easily. Not so in Dubai, where mange seems to have some oomph and rabbits need systemic ivermectin, anaesthetic to bathe and remove the crusts and scabs, antibiotics to manage the skin infection, and ongoing regular treatment, often with a poor outcome anyway. Diet, as ever, is another issue for rabbits here, with the same poor understanding about optimal rabbit nutrition being prevalent as it is anywhere. There’s no reason why we can’t change that though.

So, you’ve had some insight into the professional side of things here in Dubai. Now comes a story that may make you laugh, or possibly scowl disapprovingly. Either way I would like to point out that it was in no way intentional and will not, repeat not, be happening again.

wine glassesOk, so last Monday I was invited out by one of our clients, Simon, who had kindly offered to give me the low down on Dubai given as I am a newbie in town. He had an extra ticket to an exclusive wine tasting being held at Hotel H, one of the many fancy and swanky hotels here in Dubes and so, after a (typically) manic day at work, whereby I didn’t actually think I was going to get away on time for the event, I dived in a cab as it screeched up to the clinic and the two of us darted for the venue. A quick splash of water to the face at the hotel was the best I could do to try and mask the fact that I probably still smelt faintly of ‘animals’, and off to the hotel restaurant it was to meet our host and other guests for the tasting. This will give you some notion of how small a town Dubai actually is: the host for the event and the very first person we met was none other than my friend Majid’s friend, Laurent, who I had literally met for the first time the previous evening! I recalled him telling me that he was in events and marketing and so, here I was, able to see first-hand exactly what he was talking about. The company he works with, Lime & Tonic, are a specialist events company who host really cool, unique events – I recommend checking out their site, especially as they have a presence all over the world. The format for the evening was that we were going to sample about six different wines, from a number of locations and all selected by Hotel H’s gifted new sommelier, Valentino Minotti. In fact, we were handed rather large glasses of incredible sparkling wine as we arrived, and these were kept topped up in expert fashion. Before I knew what was happening, we were being presented with an incredible Merlot, and all before we had even officially started the event. I think you can guess where this story is heading….

Fast forward a brilliant evening with some incredible wines, equally delicious food and some riotously fun people, including a guy and girl from MyDubaiMyCity, a couple of Aussies and a Brit, who has been over here for a number of years and writes a great blog of her own, Debbie. I do have recollections of Simon leaving and in hindsight that should have been my cue to do the same. All I can say is that my brain must have just been in full-blown holiday mode, given that I am still adjusting to the reality of the fact that I actually now LIVE here, and so going home didn’t seem like it needed to be done. Anyway, eventually we left, hopped in a taxi that went via TECOM to drop Debbie off and then to my place in the Springs. I do remember being sick, checking that my alarm was set for 6am and then, well, then it went blank. That was until I woke to the sound of my phone ringing and the sight on the screen of a) the time (0905!!!!) and b) the caller (my boss!!!!). I was awake at that point! I could not believe that I had allowed such a thing to happen, and less than a week into a new job too. Needless to say, I couldn’t apologise enough, leaped into a shower and then found a taxi to whisk me to work over an hour late and feeling like my brain was trying to peel itself away from my skull. If you have never suffered a hangover in the heat then you haven’t really experienced the full force of a hangover, full stop. The only other time I felt like that, albeit that time it was a tad worse, was in Ibiza during my final year holiday with my original year of vets. I remember waking up feeling the desperate need for water but at the same time feeling too decrepid and ‘in pain’ to haul my carcass up in order to go downstairs to the shop to buy some, as you had to do due to the tap water being pretty much unpotable. So now, here I was, being taxied in to do a full day’s work at a busy clinic, in a country where alcohol is tolerated behind closed doors but where it is illegal to be ‘drunk in public,’ and where it is not unheard of for taxi drivers to take offence at people who are clearly drunk and promptly drive them to the nearest police station. Not my proudest moment!

All I could do was just keep my head down, do my job and accept the huge avalanche of ridicule and ribbing that inevitably poured my way. Thankfully, I actually felt pretty normal by the early afternoon, and even managed a 32km cycle at the purpose built Nad al Sheba track that evening. I was granted a pass for this, my first offence, and it was very gracious of Malcolm and Monique to see the funny side in it all, although I assured them numerous times that it was totally out of character and not something that would be happening again. In fact, I think the lessons to take home are that a) I definately can’t handle my drink (already knew that) and b) it is a bad, bad idea to do anything that involves alcohol on a ‘school night.’ In all seriousness, the law on drink driving here is very clear: zero tolerance, and even though I knew not to drive the next morning, there is always the danger that there may still be traces in the blood the following evening, with even a trace marking you as instantly guilty. As such, I think I can envisage my contact with alcohol to be limited to the odd one or two beers and only ever on a weekend. If at all.

On the subject of driving, that is one thing that demands some serious attention here in Dubai. The roads are very similar to the system employed in the States, and my journey to work and, well, anywhere really, involves traveling on the six lane monster of a highway that is the E11, or the Sheikh Zayed Highway, which runs the length of the UAE west coast, linking Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Although there are clearly marked speed limits on all roads, very few people seem to ever stick to them and it is a bit of a free for all on the roads, with lots of tail-gating, flashing of lights, beeping of horns and swerving in and out of spaces, with undertaking a given. In fact the journey to and from work each evening is an adventure all in itself. One thing that it takes a lot of self-discipline to avoid doing is gesturing at bad, or rude, drivers, such as those who speed up behind you and flash their lights for you to get out of the way. I will be the first to admit that in the UK, if I had someone do that to me when I was in the fast lane doing a decent speed, then I usually just sat there and, if they persisted in flashing or beeping, they would then get a flipping of the proverbial bird, which if anything always manages to make me feel better about the whole unfortunate interaction. Not so here as gesturing in any way to another driver that could be perceived by that person to be offensive is illegal and can land you in hot water, regardless of the circumstances. As such, it is just best to ignore the idiot behind you, signal to pull over out of their way and let them speed off on their merry little way. The problem is that I am now not even sure if it’s ok to wave in order to thank someone on the road, for the fear that any gesture could be construed as insulting. As such, I have become more of an active head nodder, which I don’t think you can get into trouble for(?).

The working days here are very long, with 8am starts and finishes of 7pm, or often later. Granted, if we get the morning’s ops and consults done by 1pm we can theoretically have a little under 2 hours off for lunch, but its rare that happens, as anyone in practice will be able to attest to. As such, by the end of the working week I am finding myself feeling pretty cream crackered. This may be one reason why I ended up feeling a little under the weather this week, as I suspect the mild fatigue just added to the challenges my immune system is having adjusting to the new food, water and environment in general. There’s a whole world of new bugs out there to start getting used to, and that fact seems to have conspired against me a little over the past few days. Either that or I am having one of my classic reactions to Subway sandwiches?! (we had really nice sandwiches provided at our CPD evening the other day, which was run by Dr Rachel Ballantyne, with the talk being on Eukanuba urinary diets and urinary crystals). I have no idea what it is (all psychosomatic i’m sure) but every time I eat at Subway I always end up feeling ill. I just can’t explain it. Weird.

Kitesurfing in DubaiThankfully, the fatigue and general feeling of malaise hasn’t impinged on my weekend too much and I got out for a kitesurfing lesson yesterday afternoon, which was awesome. The beach on which the lesson took place happened to be hosting a kitesurfing competition which, despite making it a bit crowded, especially when added to by the legions of sunbathers who chose to put themselves at risk by soaking up the rays on a kitesurfing beach, looked amazing. The sight of scores of colourful power kites and their boarders speeding off, set against the backdrop of azure blue seas and the view of the Burj al Arab made for quite a fantastic view. The lesson itself ended up being more of a refresher of the course I took in Wales back in August, and we went over safe kite handling on land before progressing on to body dragging in the water. Before I knew it, two hours was over and it was time to pack up the kite, with thoughts heading forward to the next lesson in a week (wind permitting), in which the plan is to get out on the board. That is one of the major advantages of living and working out here: the great weather, which means that fun, outdoor recreational activities like kitesurfing and skydiving are serious options. This fact means that working a busy, hectic week is way more tolerable, as you know you’re going to get some serious fun in at the weekend. My instructor was a guy called Craig, who is originally a joiner from the Isle of Man, who came over to Dubai with his wife and did his instructors’ qualifications, meaning that his office is now the beach. Not a bad way to earn a living, something he’ll be the first to admit.

The other great thing I managed to do yesterday was get hold of some tickets to go and see Metallica, who are due to play in Abu Dhabi in April, and who I have been eager to see for a long while now. Thankfully, it seems the only gigs that really sell out quickly here are pop, such as Justin Bieber, which means that unless you leave it right to the last minute there is none of the usual desperate panic to get concert tickets that you get back home. And no touts as far as I can tell. Which is awesome as touts really are a scurge on the music and entertainment industry. The tickets had sold out online but it seems that if you have the get-up and go enough to head to any of the Virgin Megastores, such as the one in the colossally huge Dubai Mall, then they normally have plenty of tickets, as was the case this time. Roll on April!

Talking of Abu Dhabi, today was a bit of a bind to be honest. I had planned to head down nice and early to watch a load of friends, and some people from work, compete in the big triathlon, as well as do some big star spotting. In fact, I was up at 5am and in the car super early only to be met the other end of an hour’s drive by road closures, no signs or directions and, most annoyingly of all, blank looks from the very same people closing the roads. At one point they ushered me through a set of cones and I had the uneasy feeling that they had directed me onto the course and so had visions of being met by a hoard of disgruntled cyclists. Instead, I just had to admit defeat and turn the car around, heading straight back to Dubai. The upside is that I now know where the concert venue is. Oh, and Ikea 🙂 So, no triathlon but it has given me a day at home to catch up on the writing, so not a major drag then.

Anyway, that’s pretty much it for this week. Until the next exciting installment….