Orion Goes To The Dentist

Poor old Orion the hippo of Medellin Zoo in Colombia had to recently undergo oral surgery on a bad tooth. Now this is something I can relate to because my husband had root canal surgery last year. Apparently, the 6,000 pound hippo damaged one of his incisors while biting a metal column in his pen. Hmm. Okay, a couple of things here. First, REALLY??? He BIT a METAL column in his pen? Dude, what were you thinking? I could understand crunching up a big ole pumpkin for a little afternoon snack, or snapping at another hippo to establish your dominance, or even chomping on one of your human caretakers just for a laugh, but a metal column?! Even my husband knows better than that.

Orion was not seriously injured but his dentist decided to operate anyway to keep the tooth from becoming infected. Get that? The dentist is choosing to perform ELECTIVE surgery on a hippo. Meaning he is VOLUNTEERING to put his hands in a hippo’s mouth for no imminent reason. I don’t think my husband would have gone for that. In fact, he successfully ignored the dentist’s recommendation to have root canal surgery for over two years. But poor Orion did not have a choice.

Now here’s where the story gets interesting. Not only did the dentist decide to perform preemptive surgery on Orion, but he then decided to perform the procedure WITHOUT anesthesia. WHAT!!!! Please tell me how THAT is going to work. Well, actually, I already know. Here’s the deal: Orion’s trainer trained Orion to stand still with his mouth open so that the dentist could do his work. It took him THREE months. To train the hippo, not do the work. The work only took ten minutes. So they spent three months training the hippo for a ten minute dentist job. I’m impressed by this. I once spent three months training my husband to clip his nose hairs but he still can’t do it in under ten minutes.

If you are halfway even paying attention to this story, you might be wondering two things. First, why didn’t they shoot up that poor hippo with some pain killers and second, do hippos feel pain? The answer to the first question is that hippos are not good at being anesthetized. It tends to kill them. Last year I posted a story about a hippo who died during castration because his anesthetization did not agree with him. The answer to the second question is I have no idea. I know my husband feels pain. I’m pretty sure my cat feels pain; he certainly screeched that one time I stepped on his tail.

A funny thing about this story is that the hippo used to belong to drug lord Pablo Escobar. Old Pablo had quite the zoo going in his glory days. I’ve also blogged about this before, here and here. When his ranch was seized by authorities, some of the animals escaped, including some hippos, who became footloose and fancy free roaming the wilds of Colombia. (Well, they allegedly trampled some crop fields but I don’t believe that for a minute.) Orion, however, remained a captive and has been living a cushy life in the zoo there. (Except for that metal column – that was not cushy.)

Now, one suggestion I would have made, in regard to Orion’s surgery, would have been to raid his former owner’s stash of cocaine and just rub some of that magic powder all over Orion’s gums to sort of numb them up a little before going in with those dentist tools. I think that really would have done the trick. Maybe I’ll mention that to my husband, too, if he ever chews on a metal column.

See the full article here.