The true story ‘X’ of my Veterinary School sex days triggered three love notes asking for dates, one from as far away as New York with an attached photo of a beloved Angora cat. From that arousal comes this sequel….
The Michigan State Vet School sits in the southeast corner of a wooded campus with pastures beyond. This huddle of brick has been a century-old cloister for a new class of fifty each year, but ours of ‘72 was special. Outside the world was exploding- Vietnam, minority rights, women’s lib and the waft of tear gas from student riots sinking in old vents. I saw the same fifty students every day for five years to graduation and all but three were painfully male.
Each morn I arose and jogged to the Vet College before the rest of the campus awoke. The first duty was to walk lines of 200 indoor cages where dogs and cats awaited diagnosis, treatment and recovery from surgery. I learned to read a face and body in a blink, and after a gentle word and pet to walk on. Then, in large animal clinic, lay more stalls of horses and cows similarly examined day-to-day until their discharge. Year after year, there was nothing but animals and classes, and I devoted full energy to Vet School and its mysteries.
There was a beauty contest each weekend in the campus Rodeo Building. Some deprived janitor by 7am on Saturday and Sunday lined up on the dirt show ring strings each of pigs, sheep and horses. The students paraded down a line once to eye individuals for size and conformity. A second trip we felt each animal- especially on the thighs and backs for flesh, belly for fat, and skin for oiliness. After two hours, everyone smelled like saddles when the professor ordered the janitor to free the animals to study grace. Then, the envelope please, each student awarded points and voted a winner, second and show. I learned to defend my choices with, ‘Look at the daylight between ‘er legs,’ and ‘Felt her wool’. These weekends gave new meaning to animal husbandry.
But necropsy was the essence of living medicine and my favorite class. When you die you go through autopsy but a dead animal goes to MSU necropsy. Each weekday at 8am, we fifty filed into a gymnasium-sized room filled with galvanized picnic tables. The 12’ doors of a gigantic walk-in freezer were thrown open and we pulled out by legs and tails – larger animals on castors – all species great and small. I recall a scurvy lion and giraffe fallen from respiratory ailment shipped for determination of cause of death from the Detroit zoo, cows with hay stuck between the teeth (a lightning strike), horses with heart attacks, and poor critters gone belly up in-house under the careful treatment of learning students.
First, each student sharpened a foot-long knife with his initials carved in the wood handle on a grinding wheel under the professor’s eye. Then it was knife work for six hours. By noon the concrete ran blood and our red-speckled white aprons were tossed aside for lunch. I kept my staple bologna sandwich and Red Pop between stiffs in the freezer. I grabbed it, sat on a table outside the door next to a corpse to eat, and butchering began anew after lunch. The room smelled worse than a human morgue because of the traffic- upwards of ten animals per student group-of-three per day and never mind the freezer backlog. Guest tours of the necropsy lab were canceled one day forever when three visiting dignitaries fainted to the floor that became a liability and laundry issue. But necropsy went all day long for six months for the Veterinary students.
I gained a carnal knowledge that few receive in a lifetime. First a sharp blade sliced the animal’s skin like buttons popping off long johns from feet to chin. This integument was peeled away and discarded. We rooted around an organ or tissue as the toe-tag ordered. This tag told puzzle clues. If ‘Abdominal distress’, then we waded the bowls for thirty minutes for a cause of death. Equine encephalitis and other neuropathies were prized for brain dissection. I spent hours searching carcasses top-to-bottom for a seat of consciousness without success- not in the pineal gland, third eye nor solar plexus. After six months a suspicion arose that it lies without.
After necropsy, each student spent a year internship in small animal clinic and another year in large animal clinic. MSU is renowned throughout the land for its Veterinary College and drew sick animals from afar where students made tentative diagnoses and treatments. A professor was always at hand to correct our errors. On slow days, sometimes we drove a van over the rolling mid-west countryside to find the patients.
My first patient at the small animal clinic was an obese bulldog. This breed’s brain is between its legs because the face is squashed in and this individual snapped air as if rabid. I muzzled it with a twine loop, drew my thermometer and stuck it far up the south end. As it warmed, I brought my stethoscope to the patient’s chest and felt alarm when the heartbeat grew fainter and distant. The dog’s gums turned purple and it toppled on the steel table. Its brachycephalic head and my muzzle in the excitement had cut its wind. I lifted and lugged the brute down the hall to surgery where we intubated and oxygenated it back to life. This was my only near-iatrogenic death (induced in the patient by the physician in a complicated case) throughout Vet school. My second patient that day was a thin Afghanistan Hound with a psychiatric problem, according to the chewed-fingernail owner, that after a neurological exam I referred to a pioneer animal psychiatrist.
The following year in large animal clinic was exciting and dangerous. Livestock grow as large as cars. Farmers brought Dora the cow or Duke the mule for a mastitis or lameness check to the clinic receiving area where a team of students made a preliminary diagnosis that was confirmed by the professor. The animal was subsequently treated or boarded for surgery. This large animal outpatient area connected to the surgery room and holding stanchion hotel through a maze of gates, one of which I left ajar and caught Hades when a Black Angus galloped through an operation.
The rotation of large animal surgery taught how anatomy and physiology mesh, and we cut everything under the fluorescents and supervision of professors. One-ton animals were strapped to tilting tables, given gas anesthesia, brought level, and opened with two-foot incisions. The operations ranged from repairing broken bones to cancer removal. These patients belonged to mid-Michigan farmers but when none was available we induced clinic goats to swallow spare change. The goats were then anesthetized and an intestinal anastomosis performed to retrieve the coins like beggars. It was not cruel but unfair, the animals recovered, and it was our education.
A 30’-square Rubber Room adjoined surgery that still reminds me of the ones in psych wards where I would later work in as a human psych tech. Large animals, especially horses, are notorious post-anesthetic recoveries. We carted them and I was also hailed as a strong virgin to carry animals up to pony-size to this room to safely recover. I sat on the hind ends for one to two hours checking the eyes for nystagmus, listening to respirations, missing dinner, and catching flies until the animal was up and well. Sometimes a horse rose in wild flops that threw me against a rubber wall where I bounced up and out the escape door.
However, small animal surgery was the most active sector in the clinic. One day I was the chief student surgeon looming over the pre-prepped abdomen of a male cocker spaniel. The animal was entirely draped in green linen except for a 4’’ window into the potential incision area. The operation was to be a spay (ovariohysterectomy). It was a mistake for the cocker to be on the table that I caught since we had been cautioned to lift the linen to check for testicles before making the cut. Likewise, once in large animal surgery I was instructed to castrate a female Holstein but caught myself again.
Spays were the most common small animal surgery. Professor Flow oversaw a Rottweiler neuter once that I prepped until the abdomen glowed. The three steps in any surgery are: The anesthesiologist renders the animal unconscious, the prep man shaves, washes and drapes the incision site, and then the scrubbed, gowned surgeon walks up with a scalpel. I had tilted the steel table to drain blood, shaved and was massaging Betadine into the would-be incision area when the hovering Dr. Flow whispered in my ear, ‘The more you rub it the more blood comes to the surface for greater bleeding. Take it easy.’ I gawked at her wink, but it would be years before I grasped why.
Dr. Flow was the only female on staff at the Vet hospital, a pert Michigan Upper Peninsula neurologist who gave rise to the in-clinic two-liner definition of a pubic hare: ‘The pubic hair is a rare northern Michigan rabbit. Dr. Flow’s is a hutch.’ She caught it from all directions. The #1 student in our class of fifty was a gutsy homosexual who would become a famous animal dermatologist. One afternoon he labeled a bull urine sample destined for the pathology lab, ‘Dr. Flow’. It was common for professors and students to submit personal specimens for diagnosis. The path lab students found semen in it under the microscope and taped the report to the revolving door so the news spread. Dr. Flow walked the clinic with a red face for a day and we massaged it for a week with laughs.
The pathology lab is the brain center of a hospital. The diagnostic method is that a doctor examines a patient in or out of the clinic and orders a blood, tissue, fecal, spinal fluid, biopsy, or other test to be examined under a lab microscope. This report speedily returns positive or negative for a parasite, pathogen or diagnostic reading to the doc who utilizes it for a diagnosis and treatment. I loved the clues and problem solving. I missed my first sick half-day after three years of Vet school when I got a black-eye from pneumonia fever shivers while looking at a fecal specimen through a microscope eyepiece. The second half-day miss in my fifth year career was more dramatic.
That morning smoke flowed under the door of my rented attic room on MAC Avenue next to the campus. I slid downstairs ahead of the inferno and sat in tears on the sidewalk curb watching the flames lick through the roof, the attic window burst, and the house burn to the ground. A negligent housemate had plugged excess electrical cords into a stairway socket that ignited the blaze. I lost everything except the ‘whites’ on my back and bowtie I’d grabbed on the way down. I phoned the Vet school to report I’d be late and sifted the hot ashes till noon for the sacred texts and animal organs in alcohol jars. None remained so I stuck the bowtie to my Adam’s apple and ran to school. I was a rebel and the tie was a mild protest against the Vet austere dress code of white pants, shirt and a tie. I kicked the ashes and snow off my boots at the clinic door and entered like a phoenix to finish the day.
Also lost in the blaze were a dozen championship Intramural windbreakers from assorted sports. I never wore a jacket but gave them to first dates as a come-on for sex. At the time of the burning, the fifth and final year of Vet school, all that hard study had built to a near-climax with the human female. It had been a long road.
I was driven in early life by a strong male influence and naivety. There was one younger brother, childhood sports with guys, and I remember high school but no sex. Schoolmates tagged me ‘Burr Head’ for a homemade crew-cut pa clipped under a bowl. I had one date through high school when a be-speckled redhead in journalism class asked me to the Sadie Hawkins dance. It went nowhere. My parents provided no sex education, but the track coach one day gathered all the graduating seniors into a room for a pep talk about the birds-and-bees. He stared at the group for one minute and stated, ‘Once you get past the barrier of pain, you’re a winner!’ I graduated to enter Michigan State a clueless virgin looking for the barrier of pain.
Girls – next housing – preoccupy the fertile freshman mind. I’d never been more than a mile from home, a shy, slight kid who could name the 101 breeds of dogs in one breath. At MSU I landed in a sex-segregated frosh dorm called Fee Hall surrounded by cornfields kitty-corner from the Vet Clinic. There were after-dark street dances called dorm ‘mixers’ to let the sexes know the other side existed. I hid in dark corners and stared at the curvaceous coeds undulate to ‘Wild Thing’. Something unidentifiable arose at the mixers; nonetheless it would be years before it consummated.
I simply didn’t lay eyes on many girls during freshman year since the consuming Vet school was 94% male, and my side of the dorm was 100% male. A Fee Hall English roommate used his accent to get me a first blind date. I didn’t even know what a blind date was until he explained. That Saturday I hiked 100 yards to the girls’ dorm side and flashed my student ID to the resident attendant who recorded the time and warned not to overstay the one-hour rule. She glanced doubtfully at the grass stains on my knees from the football field and rang the room. ‘Sure!’ I heard my blind date chirp. ‘Send him in.’ I walked the hallway, knocked hard on the wood door and peered into the one-way peephole. The door never opened. I slunk off, ashamed that I was dumb and ugly.
I figured the incident and more like it were character building blocks that would culminate in a date. One evening, our Fee Hall floor sponsored a hayride with a corresponding girl’s floor where the horses clopped dirt lanes and I was literally pressed into a blonde. I held her hand for twenty minutes with a tight paddleball forehand grip. A month later, I popped a kiss through her braces, and I was on my way to the conventional wisdom of the first feel under a blouse. Sadly, I liked her too much to try. She dropped me and I picked up more character.
I moved as a sophomore from the dorm into Farmhouse Fraternity full of bright farmer kids with a feisty Little Sisters affiliate club. In the Farmhouse living room, after studying canine mammilla, I pinned with sweaty fingers my first corsage on a Little Sister at the dance as a jukebox played ‘Light My Fire’. That was all, but I was getting warm.
One day a Little Sister repulsed my advance, ‘No! I’m building a pig from a kit.’ So, I thought to construct a dog to make her and others say yes. I acquired a deceased dachshund from necropsy and boiled it in a kettle on the stove until the meat fell off. The Woolies gagged and wouldn’t speak to me for a week. The dog has 321 bones plus the male os penis. Before me on the kitchen table lay a bone pile and an anatomy text propped open to the dog skeleton. One bone at a time, I wired and glued them all together until Frita, as I called her, emerged. She became the room centerpiece in seducing a Sister, and convinced me that the way into a girl’s pants was via her head.
I backed the skeleton with an arsenal of quirky designs. I memorized a formula for all the days and dates of the twentieth century so if given a girl’s birthday, I could say she was born on Sunday and make her feel exceptional. I knew the gestations and longevities for a zoo of animals. I had a repertoire of 100 logic riddles for budding moments, like ‘How many animals of each species did Moses take aboard the ark?’ In addition, there was always a yoyo in my pocket that I could make do tricks.
Sleight of hand was another lure. I magically poured water from my palm onto a girl’s bare knee. Once fire leaped from my fingers into a dates face and burnt her eyebrows off. She ran and never saw me again. I knew my magic source of power and hadn’t been laid.
The junior year I moved into the house of the Woolies, a backup band for Chuck Berry, on University Avenue. The mop-haired Woolies persuaded me to grow out my crew-cut to a revelation of wild curls. Still, I turned on the clothes drier alone when the band practiced rock upstairs to focus on basement Vet Med studies that, in essence, were my sex guides. Instead of Playboys, I thumbed diagrams of horse privates and foldouts of cattle. Under there, finally at age twenty-one, I first made love to an airline stewardess in a flash of sixty seconds. The basement quickly flooded that spring and I moved to an attic crib on MAC Ave that burned down. A dry spell followed until I won more Intramural windbreakers to barter for sex.
One went for the first breast feel. Summers ran the same as any other long Vet school term except the Intramural pool opened under the sunshine. I allowed one hour per weekend at the 50-meter grassy poolside that crawled with bikinied coeds The discipline of juggling three exam tables at school carried to the pool where I multi-tasked playing chess on the grass, reading feline ophthalmology, and glancing at the girl curves. I was average looking except for the striking fro, and never figured out why a smart girl wouldn’t play chess in the sun with a guy who could do so many things at once…
Until one afternoon Clutch Cargo sat down across the board. She was tan and lovely with a strong jaw and only lips that moved when she talked like the namesake cartoon character. She was the only sorority girl I ever dated. Like clockwork each Saturday, I walked to her Delta House and sneaked (against house rules) into the living room closet to make out. I got the first breast feel right there built around the animal experiences. A sharp rap at the door by the next closet couple stopped that. I got to my feet and exclaimed, ‘Thank you!’. She smacked me on the cheek. ‘Don’t ever thank me for sex!’
A championship jacket smoothed it over the next Saturday, and got me to the other breast. At that point, we both understood that everything was covered but the mystery box. On Valentine’s Day I showed on her doorstep with a gift box that she tore into. It was a heart scavenged from goat surgery pinned with a love note, ‘My heart goes out to you.’ She turned white and ran to the sisters. I stood heartbroken with the box in my hands.
A month later, she stopped running and had intercourse with me. It lasted two minutes but it started a trend. I was a lanky man she called ‘Praying Mantis’ when she wanted it. I discovered the female insect bites off the male head as coitus continues. That irked me, plus Clutch never wanted to get her pretty dress dirty in the hay, so we broke up after a half-year of Saturdays. I went looking for Miss Right in the spare seconds from Vet school.
Being on call 7-days, 24-hours through internship got sticky. I was snatched from a girl’s bed fifty miles into a midnight snowstorm to pull a dystocia calf (difficult delivery) with hooks and a come-along from Elsie’s canal. The visiting vet students were a hit night or day for farm kids to see men in whites pile out a van with instruments to probe the snow-backed stock. They called us Amish mechanics. A horse ate my golden afro thinking it hay. A farm dog bit my hand and a goose pecked my butt. A stallion with a worming nose tube reared and jerked me like a leaf high into the air with my hand caught in the lead. We stuck our arms elbow-deep into dozens of cows to palpate through the rectal walls to feel ripe ovaries and spray an ‘X’ on the ready backs for the grateful farmer. One irate wife shouted over a fence, ’Those sheep are liars!’ Internship bore a year’s anguish and laughs.
Stressed, but freshly 21, I started going to the college bars each free midnight after study. I always ran there, never drank, always stood, never stayed over an hour, and suffered turndowns seven days a week. ‘Ask me out when you’re bigger,’ one snipped. More significantly, a new girl accompanied me home every couple months. After a mile hike to my basement door, some about faced. One kissed me on the cheek and said, ‘Kissing isn’t cheating on my boyfriend,’ and walked off. I saw the positive in these rebuffs that girls screened themselves, not me. A few descended the stairs.
I was an angular and quantitative man. I speedily puzzled by bra straps, panty hose, tampons and so on to condoms, diaphragms and beyond. I did not talk about animal copulation and do the eyebrow thing. It was probably the first time they had slept with a naked man wearing a stethoscope. I closely monitored her respiration and heartbeat through foreplay and climax.
Premature ejaculation continued to be a problem and blessing since there was so little time and so many deadlines. Finally, a girl yelled, ‘Did I shave my legs for this?’ and actually shouted ‘rubber biscuits’ stomping through the neighborhood. I hit the books after she left with a resulting paradigm shift: It was in the timing. Animals get it over fast to procreate but humans expand it to enjoy. Thus I learned the beauty of foreplay.
I was still a kindly rube who refused to get a girl drunk to strengthen her instincts. I pandered instead intellect, preeminently Vet Med details that made them feel better about menstruation, birth and themselves. That, I thought, was foreplay. Some giggled nervously and others gaped back like I was breast fed by the family dog, but a few… I sifted dozens of overheard pickup lines and settled on the one, ‘Do you want to spend the night together?’ because it was onomatopoetic without commitment until I got my veterinary hands on them.
The majority were one night stands because I had no money for drinks, no car, conversed in scientific terms, was a learning lover and a poor second bicycle date. I showered them with trinkets from surgery including dewclaws, lenses and testicles. If they didn’t like them, there were too many… My bedroom shelves were lined with animal organs and shark fetuses in jars. It was fascinating to study their reactions to these and project how they might squirm in bed.
The cage of Igor, a mongoose, sat in one corner. I told dates he was napping but I’d try to stir him up. I hefted the wooden box with a chicken-wire top. Scratching sounds came from my fingers under the cage bottom next to a spring. Out flew a ball of fur hell-bent to tangle in long hair. A girl’s face in shock resembles one in orgasm, those who stayed found out.
As the dates mounted I learned more and more and related it to my specialty, dogs and cats. Cats purr at the same frequency as an idling diesel engine which is about 26 cycles per second. A dog loves his owner as god, and a cat has staff. Men were snapping dogs around the pussy. To find out why, I monitored our respirations and heartbeats during sex and recorded them on a chart taped to my bureau mirror to review for second and third dates. I shared this.
My ideal was an athlete, encyclopedia of chess openings, full of spunk, in an old dress I could rip off. Years passed.
Our graduating class of ’72 was special. It was the first ‘concentrated’ vet program in history. Students took 20 credits per term, classes during finals weeks, more on weekends, and year-round with no summer breaks. There was one dropout per term and a biannual suicide attempt. I was outgunned by forty-nine rural geniuses and never set the curve.
The watershed class before graduation was anatomy. It mowed the students down right and left. Our Professor Angel had a moose bone he’d discovered named after him and looked down at you with dissecting eyes. The first day of class we walked into a room with sixteen tables and sixteen stiffs with their legs pointed at the fluorescent lights. There were clouds of embalming fluid. We fifty divided into threes and choose a dog – half were bitches and the others males. A scramble for partners led next to one for a cadaver. I wanted a girl and a bitch so bad I could taste it, but was elbowed out. My team named ours Spot and that was the story of my life- surrounded again by males.
The first day Spot slapped me across the eyes with a wet Sartorius muscle, also called the ‘tailor’s muscle’ and the longest that originates on the ileum and inserts on the tibia. I flooded the stinging embalming fluid before going blind under an emergency shower. Three weeks later, we worked our way along Spot to the male part. Canines are the sole species having an os penis, a little bone in there. (Why mating dogs get stuck!) My team trimmed it out and chased the girls around the lab slinging it like an all-day sucker. That would be the story of my life, I thought, standing over Spot with a knife. I was a closet Don Juan stuck away from females just waiting for an opening.
One morning the professor announced a rare break from the daily dissection. There was to be a bone-and-muscle slide show of comparative anatomy. He projected on the lab wall and droned Latin parts of various stocks for fifteen minutes, then ultimately slapped the clicker. ‘This is…’ A naked eight-foot brunette with hands on hips stood against the wall. I remember her staring at me and that shocked class. I instinctually looked down. Dr. Angel swung the pointer from the brunette to us and cried, ‘God! There must be a horse in here somewhere.’
The professor summoned me to his office that afternoon. I took a deep breath, and stepped in. ‘You are invited,’ he didn’t look up, ‘to Thanksgiving dinner at my house tonight with my wife and three wonderful daughters. ’ He passed a folded paper, and I withdrew. That evening I followed the directions to the quaint home, rang, and was shown in by his wife who looked only a little older than the lady shown on the anatomy wall. A beautiful turkey sat in the center of a round table. I sat at the prof’s right and we were joined by three gorgeous Brunettes so close to my age. ‘Mr. Keeley,’ the doctor introduced, ‘I present my three daughters…’
In the coming weeks, I got familiar with the daughters and ultimately picked a favorite. I also took a weekend job at the sports building, bought a ’63 maroon Mercury Meteor, and she and I moved into a small house on the Red Cedar River. We studied anatomy there. My Boy Scout merit badge for knot tying augmented the Vet lessons from the Rodeo Ring, surgery, necropsy, rubber room, small and large animal clinic. She demonstrated females are animals. Her rule was that if both of you don’t orgasm it wasn’t sex. She made my ferret yodel. I wish the same for every girl and boy.
I earned this sheepskin,
Steve Bo Keeley DMV