The Lion and the Lamb – Mike Hardwich

The stories in The Lion and the Lamb – Memoirs of a Vet are first-hand experiences of Mike Hardwich, both a vet and a farmer, who originally practised in Pietermaritzburg, but now practises at The Heritage Vet in Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal.

Mike is no ordinary vet. Although initially drawn to the larger domestic animals such as cattle and racehorses, as his practice grows so does the variety of animals he is called upon to treat.

In demand by everyday pet owners with their usual cats and dogs, he is increasingly called upon to attend to the ailments of wild species. Game park and circus owners need him to treat, among many other creatures, an off-colour orang-utan, an elephant with a leg abscess, a celebrity lion with chronic rhinitis, a jaguar with a broken tooth, a crocodile with a fractured femur – not to mention a fruit bat with conjunctivitis.

Mike’s skills and ingenuity are matched only by his passion for his work. He is on call around the clock and much of his work involves risks to himself, but he remains dedicated and undaunted.

In places this book is laugh-out-loud funny, and in others incredibly sad – it is suitable for all ages, for all animal lovers, and is a must read for all aspirant vets.



  • TITLE: The Lion and the Lamb
  • SUB TITLE: Memoirs of a Vet
  • AUTHOR: Mike Hardwich
  • PHYSICAL BOOK ISBN / EAN: 9780992213701
  • eBOOK ISBN (ePUB): 9780992213718
  • eBOOK ISBN (ePDF): 9780992213725
  • PAGES: 285 pages
  • EDITOR: Cathy Leotta
  • ILLUSTRATIONS: Sketches by Shirley Thurbon
  • FORMAT: Paperback
  • PUBLISHED DATE: October 2013

 EXTRACT from The Lion and the Lamb – Memoirs of a Vet

A strong hairy red hand grabbed my left forearm and clutched it tightly. It was extremely painful and I could feel the arteries in my arm throbbing as the blood flow became restricted. The pressure increased until my fingers turned numb. Massive canines glistening with saliva were moving steadily closer to my now-powerless arm.

I knew that if those teeth sank into my flesh, the damage would be severe. The bite wound would become infected and I would be lucky if my arm was all I lost. This sort of aggression from one of the world’s most powerful apes could very easily be lethal.

It was because of my own naivety that I was in this predicament in the first place. Who in his right mind would get into a cage with an adult orang-utan, let alone try to insert a needle into him? My precarious situation was the result of believing, against my better judgement, the advice of the large primate’s foreign handler – a short, dapper Italian man with blazing red hair and a poor command of the English language.

My sole objective now was to escape the menacing ape with as little damage to myself as possible.

The massive orang-utan was named Borang. He and his handler had left Italy during a heatwave a few days earlier and arrived in KwaZulu-Natal in cold, damp weather. The sudden change in climate had affected the large ape. He was off colour, and that was when I, as the vet to the zoo in the Camperdown area, became involved with him. His handler had managed to convince me that the great ape was too ill to be a danger to me.

The initial examination of Borang had not presented any unusual problems. He had allowed me to take his temperature with a standard oral thermometer and, after first tasting my stethoscope, had let me listen to his chest and abdomen. The handler had persuaded him to open his mouth, and I immediately noticed that his tonsils were inflamed. He was also chesty and had a slight nasal discharge. His temperature was slightly higher than that of a human being – which I guessed would be a little elevated for him too. He was obviously not just suffering from jet lag.

I decided Borang needed an antibiotic and some vitamins. In his broken English, the Italian handler told me that the orang-utan had never taken any form of oral medication and immediately spat out anything that was not to his liking. This is a problem that vets often encounter and the only alternative is to restrain the animal and inject it, which can be both dangerous and stressful.

‘Will he allow me to inject him?’ I asked with a fair degree of trepidation.

My interpretation of the handler’s reply was no problemo. Still doubtful, I drew fifteen millilitres of long-acting penicillin into a syringe. This antibiotic is very viscous so it is necessary to use a widebore needle, particularly if it is to be administered speedily. I selected the largest needle in my medical bag – which was more javelin than needle. The handler held Borang’s arm as I tapped him firmly over the injection site to deaden the area. He did not move. With a deft twist of my hand the needle was inserted into a blood vessel and I injected the penicillin. The orang-utan remained calm.

Next, I drew up the vitamin solution and, following the same procedure as before, I injected it into his other arm. But this time he did not remain calm – he erupted.

And this was how I found myself in Borang’s powerful clutches. The handler fled when he saw the animal’s reaction to the second injection, and I was alone in the cage with him – after all, I was the one being paid to do the job.

Beads of sweat broke out on my forehead. I believed that if I moved or tried to pull myself free there was a good chance that Borang would take fright and sink those great, filthy teeth into my arm in defence. He might do that anyway. The worst thing I could do was panic – I had to remain calm at all costs.

Slowly, I moved my free right hand to where the ape’s hand was gripping my left arm. He did not react at all. So I lifted each of his massive, hairy fingers one by one from my arm, and then placed his hand at his side. He loped off to the far corner of his cage and covered his eyes with his arms. Was I relieved! I was even grateful that Borang was unwell – I am sure that was why he did not put up more of a fight. Then again, I would not have been in his cage in the first place if he had been well. I would certainly never give him another chance, even though his handler had assured me that the animal was gentle by nature.



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