And today, it happened to me.
Flash back to the summer of 1982, nearly 27 years ago. I had just been accepted into vet school and I was on the moon, giddy with excitement. I met an old veterinarian at a festival in Iowa, and shared my good news with him. I will never forget his reaction.
"Congratulations!" he beamed, "and welcome! You will never regret it. You will have a wonderful life."
I was moved. I felt like I was joining a secret club, and the greatest profession in the world. (I still feel that way.)
Then, the old man gave me a sly smile and said, "Wait until you spay your first tomcat."
Now, I hadn't been to vet school yet, and I didn't know a lot, but I knew that you didn't spay male animals. Females are spayed, males are neutered. I thought I must have misheard.
"Umm, I'm sorry, I must not have heard you right. I didn't think you spayed male cats."
He grinned even wider and said:
"Every vet does it once."
At that moment, I swore it wouldn't happen to me. I checked the gender of every kitten presented to me. I checked every cat who was under anesthesia for a "spay" operation. I caught many mistakes in exam rooms over the years ("Sorry ma'am, but this isn't Simba, it's Nala") and a couple of cats who were being prepped for a spay. I even got a little cocky - "It will never happen to me."
A couple of years ago, with 20 years' worth of experience under my belt, I somehow got out of the habit of checking my "spays" before surgery. After all, it had never happened to me.
Flash foward to today, in the surgery room. I have just opened up the abdomen of a 5 month old kitten and I can't find her uterus. After a couple of minutes of looking, I asked the technician, "This is a female cat, right?"
She checked the chart. "Yes, that's what it says here."
"Look under the drape, will you?" I requested.
"Um, Doc - there are two testicles here."
Oh, no. It has just happened to me.
Thankfully, the owners had a wonderful sense of humor about the whole thing. Both of them thought it was hysterical. I am still embarrassed. And, I foresee at least a week of ribbing from my staff, who love any opportunity to give me a hard time.
The cat has not yet expressed an opinion.