DUBAI // When he is not dealing with cats that turn out to be cheetahs and moggies that have elastic bands ingrained in their skin, Dr Dieter Malleczek is educating children about animals and showing them not to be fearful.
The Austrian veterinarian is the owner of Blue Oasis Veterinary Clinic, in Dubai Investments Park, and has lived in the UAE for nearly 10 years after spending a year in Oman. He worked at a couple of clinics before setting up Blue Oasis with a partner in 2008.
In his time here he has seen almost everything there is to see as a vet, but some instances stand out more than most.
“One case was that of the rubber-band cat,” he said. “A client brought in a stray cat with a circumscript wound on the chest. We realised that there was a rubber band around the cat.
“You could only see the rubber band on the top side of the cat where the vertebrae are and then it disappeared between the hair halfway down the chest. I cut the band and pulled it out.
“It must have been there since the cat was a kitten and slowly made its way into the body, like a rope that melts into an ice cube.”
Another incident that Dr Malleczek recalls vividly was when the clinic’s driver walked in and said he needed help bringing in a cat.
“We walked out and found a pick-up with a guy sitting on an upside-down laundry basket with a fully-grown cheetah underneath,” he said.
“They drove from the farm to the clinic with a person sitting on a laundry basket with a wild animal underneath.
“I also remember when an animal handler and my receptionist had trouble communicating, so we thought the man was coming to the clinic with a cat. When it arrived it turned out to be a goat that could not stand.
“The most common cause for that in such animals is calcium deficiency. We gave the goat an IV, and left it for the night.”
The handler thought the animal would die, but Dr Malleczek called to say that the goat was very much alive and would not come down from the surgical table.
“Sometimes the proper and very simple medication can do a great job,” he said.
Dr Malleczek, who specialises in radiology, set up Blue Oasis with Dr Wolf Olfner, who he had known for more than 20 years, just as the financial crisis of 2008 hit.
“Luckily, my business partner and I had been here for a few years and we took a lot of business with us from our previous jobs,” he said.
“I think many people chose to continue with us because we practise transparent medicine. A person will leave my clinic knowing what I have done, why I have done it, what the prognosis is and what the outcome will be.”
Dr Malleczek had wanted to be a vet since he was 14 and decided to specialise in radiology after his mother had brain cancer diagnosed.
“I wanted to know as much as I could and learn as much as possible about diagnostic imaging when my mother got sick, and I really liked the field. She’s fine and healthy now,” he said.
He said one of his greatest achievements in Dubai was taking part in school visits to break misconceptions that children had about animals. “Many schools have a day on pets, and children would draw posters on walls saying: ‘dogs eat bones, cats eat mice’. I would go to the schools with a small selection of pets to give them facts on the animals,” he said.
“I also bring a brush and my dog, who in some cases was bigger than the children, so they can interact with him. When they’re brushing the animal, they feel safe and realise that he’s harmless despite his size.”
Often, the fear of animals can lead to them being treated cruelly, but Dr Malleczek said he felt cruelty to animals in the UAE had decreased in the past 10 years and the quality of pet shops had improved.
“When I lived in Barsha in 2005, there was much more aggression towards animals,” he said. “You’d see children throwing stones at strays, but I don’t see that much any more,” he said.
“Pet shops are also improving in quality, and part of that change was because of the municipality wanting to raise the standards. There’s been a lot of change since I’ve moved to Dubai.”