• James E Aarons DVM

Anatomy Lab: K’aalógii, Butterfly Boy, Ch 2

Updated: Mar 7

Rory was attracted to Katie the first time he saw her. A few days before classes started there was a picnic where the new classmates gathered.


He was lounging on the lawn, talking to whomever, when he noticed a slim woman with long, jet-black hair walk by, her darkness emphasized by her sky-blue sundress. She was breathtaking. The woman was heading toward the snacks table. Rory stopped talking, got up and walked her way to gather some cookies.

Katie noticed him and smiled.

He introduced himself.

She nodded and said her name was Katie. That was it!

Rory made several attempts to talk with her over the next few weeks, but she seemed uninterested. Every time he went to speak to her, she looked off to the side, down at the floor, anywhere to avoid eye contact. Rory was intrigued but had no clue what to do about it.

Anatomy labs began a month after classes started. Now, instead of sitting in a lecture hall, they would meet in the smelly lab in groups of three. The ice melted when lab partners were assigned. Rory was pleasantly surprised to see Katie was one.


In 1949 when Haring Hall operated as the first California veterinary institution, the anatomy dock became the place dead animals waited for necropsy. Although smelly, cold, and creepy to newbies, the pathology of these animals drove medical discoveries. Every dead animal has a story to tell and anatomy lab is the first step in this journey to understand.

The cadavers were invaluable learning tools. One needs to become accustomed to the way things normally look before deciding how it has been changed by disease or injury. Students spent hours in dissection, digging through skin and tissue, learning the names of the muscles along with their nerve and blood vessel pathways.

The lab was essential. In lecture class students memorized the descriptions of the muscles and bones. Now they saw how it connected anatomically. And this lab was the next step in learning successful surgery.

The lecture books sketched the bodies onto a flat map, explaining where you were. Now the lab made the map 3D.

The new friends were lab partners three days a week. The lab itself was hardly a romance generator, with the dogs and cats, cows, horses, and even chickens all stiff from death and refrigeration and smelling of formalin preservative.

Rory was undaunted. He could finally get to know Katie better, and took full advantage of the opportunity. The technical talk led to more casual conversation and softened her defenses.

Rory and Katie were finishing up some procedures at the lab when he figured today he’d find the courage to ask her for a date, a real date, not just a horse ride. “Katie are you going to the dance tonight?”

Next Chapter

Chʼį́įdii, Navajo Ghosts of the Dead


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