One weekend while I was working at an animal hospital as a teenager, the vet came in (I was by myself because it was a Sunday and the clinic was closed) so I knew we had an emergency call. I asked what was up and he chuckled and asked if I had ever seen an ostrich up close. Now, this DVM was our exotics specialist but he was also a bit of a trouble maker, so I just laughed and asked what he needed me to get ready. Over the next 1/2 hour or so we proceeded to get the OR ready with fairly routine stuff (keep in mind I was an untrained teenaged kennel attendant).
Then there was a knock on the back door and he went to open it while I stayed in the treatment room waiting for the dog, cat or maybe even a lizard or bunny.... So, when a big man came through the door pulling on a horse-like lead rope I was intrigued but still expecting something like a small farm animal (sheep or goat maybe). What I was not expecting was a huge ostrich! My jaw hit the floor and the doctor came in behind with a huge smile on his face.
In a display of uber-professionalism, I shook off my stunned expression and asked how I could help. The Dr had already drawn up the tranquilizer and told me to stand back. The breeder did his best to restrain the juvenile (read 6ft tall, couple hundred-pound bird) and the Dr injected it with the drugs. The next few minutes were a blur. The ostrich was NOT impressed with the poke in the bum (or wherever he got poked), slipped out of the rope and let out a screech like nothing I had ever heard before! He started running/slipping all around the room. I just about soiled my pants when it ran right at me. It was flapping its wings and squawking and had me cornered. It ran away, and I was left frozen, looking down at my jeans which had ripped straight down one thigh. To this day I still don't know if he split them with a toenail or if the fashion of the 90's had simply been stretched too far in my hurry to get away. (skin tight jeans that I pulled the zipper up with pliers)
The chaos diminished as the drugs took effect and eventually, we took control of the crazed poultry. The men were able to get the ostrich on the operating table and then the owner left. The Dr hooked it up to gas anesthetic and oxygen and my job was to squeeze the bag to breathe for the bird because placing an endotracheal tube was not an option. At this point the Dr began his attempt at a lifesaving operation to correct/relieve the bird of an impaction of food that was going to kill it. It was a long surgery and birds notoriously don't do well under anesthetic. Let alone huge flippin’ ostrich's! So eventually the inevitable happened. Dr said, "we're losing him!" and proceeded to attempt manual heart compressions. It wasn't working so he yelled for me to breathe harder and faster for the bird.
I did my best but the mask we were using to deliver the O2 and anesthetic was not a perfect fit around the beak (obviously) not to mention we were dealing with a 4 ft long neck between delivery and lungs. So, then he yells for me to give mouth to mouth. To an ostrich. Yep. After a couple seconds of disbelief, I sucked it up and quite literally wrapped my mouth around an ostrich beak and did my best David Hasselhoff CPR! All while in complete disbelief of what was happening. This continued for several minutes until the Dr told me to stop. The bird was dead. We did absolutely everything we could. He shut off the machines, closed up the abdomen and told me to clean up while he called the owner.
The owner came back. He was acting all shifty and weird and in my naive teenage way, I figured he was just sad his bird was dead, so I was shocked to see the vets less than compassionate response to the man's request to take the body home to bury it. Normally this Dr was a warm, understanding, soft spoken man, but his hackles were up with this guy.
After a few minutes of feigned sadness, the man became increasingly irate and eventually stormed out of the clinic in a tsunami of curse words. Dr explained to me that a dead ostrich was still worth a lot of money in meat. The man put on the act of being sad, so he could sneak the body back home and butcher it and sell it, not because he wanted to bury his pet. It is both illegal and very dangerous to sell or consume meat from any animal that is full of drugs and medications.
Needless to say, that was one of the strangest and most eye-opening experiences of my entire life! I mean really, how many people do you know who have given mouth to mouth to an ostrich??!!