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How a lion from Saskatoon ended up in a dentist's chair

It's hard enough to get some humans to go to the dentist, let alone a lion.

In 1979, George the lion broke three teeth chewing on a fence, which prompted a dental session

A lion named George was in need of a dentist in 1979, after damaging some of his teeth. 1:29

It's hard enough to get some humans to go to the dentist, let alone a lion.

But 40 years ago, that's where George, a lion who lived at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm & Zoo, needed to go.

"Several weeks ago, he broke three of his teeth while chewing on the wire fence of his cage," reporter Cathy Little told viewers on The National on Sept. 7, 1979.

The lion started losing weight after that, which prompted veterinarian Jerry Haigh to make the call that George needed to see a dentist.

"George had to be cajoled into going, but a tranquilizer dart did the trick and the 300-pound lion found himself in no position to argue," said Little.

'Their first non-human patient'

George, a lion, was tranquilized so that he could be transported from the Saskatoon Forestry Farm & Zoo to the dentist. (The National/CBC Archives)

The injured lion was taken to the University of Saskatoon's College of Veterinary Medicine. He was X-rayed and had a root canal performed on each of his three damaged teeth.

Little said three dentists worked on George, which the reporter said was "their first non-human patient."

They had to make oversized tools to do their work on the lion, but Little said the operation was otherwise largely the same one that would be performed on a human.

Little predicted that George could end up being even more popular with zoo visitors after undergoing the dental work.

"Three of his teeth will be silver, instead of white," she said, referring to the caps that he was going to be fitted with.

The dentists had to build oversized tools in order to work on the lion's teeth. (The National/CBC Archives)