5:  A true animal technician

Three months had passed since Anne started to come daily. When we met, I would say hello to her, but I was still wary. One day, I heard a dog leashed in the treatment room shrieking. I thought, “Oh, not again!” and headed for the treatment room. Three researchers were holding the dog down and trying to give it an anesthesia injection. The dog was frothing at the mouth, and its eyes were bloodshot. The wire wound tightly around its neck seemed liable to break. They probably had tried several times as there were syringes on the floor, all with bent needles. I had lots of experience and was quite confident that I could perform the anesthesia procedure, so I told the researchers to step aside. I shortened the wire around the dog’s neck, strongly pulled its hind legs, and was about to make the injection when I heard a voice from behind yelling, “Stop!”

I turned around and saw Anne standing there with a very sad face. In broken Japanese and with gestures, she told me to step aside. She also asked me to hand her the syringe. I also used gestures to tell her that the dog was very excited and too dangerous for her to handle, but she did not listen. After repeating her argument, I had to hand her the syringe. I decided to watch close by, so that I could help her if the dog tried to bite. Anne put the syringe into the pocket of her lab coat and sat near the dog. The floor was soiled with feces and blood, but she seemed not to care.

Holding her body lower than the growling dog, she started talking to it. Since it was in English, I did not understand what she was saying, but I imagined she was saying something like, “You poor thing. Sorry to have frightened you,” or “I am not going to hurt you.” She kept on gently talking to the dog and gradually went closer. When the dog began to calm down, Anne spit saliva onto her hand and put it in front of the dog. What a surprise! The dog that had kept on growling for so long licked Anne’s saliva. As the dog was licking, she patted the dog from the top of its head to its back and the dog became completely tame. The anesthesia procedure then was done smoothly using its front leg, without any resistance.


That sight struck me like a blow to the head. I had believed that I was the most proficient practitioner of this kind of procedure in the entire university. I thought I had a technique even beyond that of doctors, but after seeing how Anne so skillfully handled the unpleasant situation, I lost confidence in my technique and was utterly crestfallen. Anne’s humane and sensitive actions made me notice how ignorant I had been and from that day forth, I became her follower.

I sought advice from her not only about anesthesia techniques but also on anything related to working with experimental animals. As a result, I started to have grave doubts about the content of the Japanese technical books I had studied. We still had communication problems, but I could understand her belief and true objective that “even technicians should be concerned with animal welfare, and should aim for animal experiments without cruelty.” As I spent time with Anne, I was able to naturally learn a new attitude towards animals, which I had never even imagined before, such as; “rather than trying to tame the animals, try to be friendly with them,” or “even if you know that the animals are going to die, do not handle them badly,” or “similar dogs are loved by their masters for their whole life,” and so on.