We were asked to contribute something to Animal by our colleague Rachel, Edinburgh College of Art Archivist. The exhibition contains fascinating items from the Royal Dick Vet collections and the Towards Dolly project on animal genetics in Edinburgh, but would we really have anything to contribute as an archive dealing very much with human health?
Luckily, it turns out that neurosurgeon Norman Dott, whose case notes Louise is cataloguing, was a great lover of animals. From his youth in a large house in Colinton, he was surrounded by family pets, from cats and dogs to a pony and even a pet bat which clung to the curtains in the Dott family living room!
Part of the Animal exhibition wall on the sixth floor of the main library
The item that we chose to exhibit reflected a case note relating to one of Dott’s two beloved Samoyed dogs, Kasyan Dott. The case note is from spring 1947. Since Kasyan suffered from a mysterious paralysing spinal condition, it was decided to put him to sleep, but not before Dott had himself tried to investigate whether his beloved pet could be saved. He even carried out lumbar puncture on Kasyan – a diagnostic technique he used on many of his human patients.
Since no cause could be found for Kasyan’s partial paralysis while he lived, a veterinary post-mortem was carried out – and when this proved fruitless, Dott asked his experienced neuropathology colleagues at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh to step in and have a look at the findings. Further investigations found that Kasyan’s condition was incurable, which helped Dott ‘and [his] family very much to feel that [they] had not neglected a possible cure’.
The case note is full of evidence of Dott’s strong relationship with his canine companion. Not only did Dott keep the case note with those of his human charges, but referred to Kasyan as ‘a canine member of my family’. And when hospital neuropathology came back with an undated and less than thorough initial report, Dott was not slow to demand a new investigation!
Oh.. and don’t worry, because this case note is not about a human, we can show it to you without redaction….