“Room 2 is Freddie,” says the tech. “He’s been vomiting for a couple of days.”
I grab the chart of the door and take a peek as I go in the room. “Hi there, Mr….Krueger-” pause-
“Freddie Krueger?” I look at the dog, a wrinkly shar pei.
The owner grins proudly. “I was going to save that for my first born son, but I figured I’d use it on the dog.”
I want to know why, in a profession where 75 + % of the entering class is composed of women, all the veterinarian memoirs out there are written by men. Vet school memoirs are even more scarce. I find this simply unacceptable. All those doe eyed little girls out there want to know how it really happens, right? I’ve seen the class pictures plastered inside the dean’s office going back a bajillion years, and I guarantee it isn’t what it once was, back in the good old days. For a lot of reasons.
How do all those old guys write memoirs 50 years after the fact, anyway? I can barely remember how it was for me, and that wasn’t very long ago at all. I think the best approach would be to write it down immediately, before I forget and find myself, 75 and wrinkly, making up stories to fill in all the holes from my long ago past. “Chapter 12- the day I delivered giraffe twins in Old Ruddy McDermott’s calving stall! That’s just how it happened. Or did I just read that in a James Herriot novel? Dammit!”
I’ll tell you how it all went down for me, starting 11 years ago. Actually, I need to back it up and go even further back. 1993.
Back then, I wanted to be a doctor. I loved science, I liked problem solving, and my father declared that English (my second choice for a major) was “utterly useless.” So my choices were, engineer, doctor, or…well, those were the only choices I had thought about.
In 1993, I was a senior in high school. I applied to some top tier schools, some state schools, and one random small liberal arts college. In what is to be a recurring theme in my life, I kind of applied to that last one on a whim- my high school counselor, the affable, brogue-tongued Mr. Malarkey, was an alumni of Nameless Small Catholic University and always talked it up. It was close to last on my list of choices, but what the heck, everyone needs to apply to at least one random school. When the acceptance letters began arriving, I started to sort them out in order of preference and realism- Harvey Mudd, great, 30 grand a year, never mind…UC San Diego, check, UC Santa Cruz- why did I apply there again?… Nameless Small Catholic University, accepted, and…whoa- scholarship? For full tuition?
My father, ever the pragmatist, was not much one for organized religion himself, having suffered plenty as a child under the harsh rule(r) of Sister Mary of Beatific Beatings. That being said, as soon as he saw that letter he couldn’t talk that place up fast enough. Oh it looks great, small private school, think of the opportunity! So SCU it was.
I was a little leery about attending a Catholic university- although I was brought up Roman Catholic in Boston, I stopped going to church almost as soon as my family set foot on the West Coast in the 80s. It was just the first of many ways I would disappoint the East Coast extended family- no church, said “like” too much, didn’t wear socks, wore pants to a funeral. Maybe going to a Catholic university would convince them somewhat that I wasn’t entirely a lost cause. I had a lot of less-than-pleasant memories about my experiences in church, and to be honest I was none too thrilled about going back to an environment saturated with a philosophy I had long since shrugged off. But, the scholarship made it the most affordable option, even more so than state school I had assumed I would be attending.
At SCU I was surrounded by the pampered sorts of liberal arts college attendees who had connections and money, and didn’t really fret too much about the future since it was a given that they would be taken care of no matter what. I had no such delusions, however, so I spent that entire four years studying, doing community service, and running around accumulating things to pad my resume with so I would stand a chance at grad school.
Going to a Catholic university wasn’t as bad as I had dreaded. They had a church on campus and held masses, but they weren’t mandatory. Many of the professors were members of the clergy, but quite a few were not. I took ‘Religions of the World’ with a rabbi. Overall it was a pretty positive experience, with so many of the Jesuits there inspiring people to go forth and do good services, which we did. Then there was Brother Snickers.
Brother Snickers was the head of the biology department, a rotund little Dutchman with a nasally voice and piercing blue eyes. On the first day of Biology 101- aka ‘Weeding 101′ he stood at the front of the room and told us half of us would drop the class. He also told us that although many of us harbored dreams of medical school, we should just get over it because most of us weren’t smart enough for that. And stupid me, despite every evidence to the contrary that I was not “most of us”, I started telling myself I probably wasn’t smart enough either. Boy, that was dumb.
Of course, he was also the pre-med advisor. That didn’t help.
Brother Snickers’ asshattery was tolerated, even when it became glaringly obvious he had a not-so-subtle misogynistic streak. He was a fraternity advisor and often showed up at parties to hang with the boys. Those boys, especially if they were of the loud-drunk-stereotypical Catholic schoolboy type, got glowing recommendations and wound up at Georgetown med school, Loyola, you name it. I found out years later several of the MVP guys were incorrigible cheats and in actuality just as dumb as I had privately thought they were. But they had a mentor holding their hand, and that made all the difference.
As I was neither a member of his preferred fraternity nor a member of the greater fraternity of XY, Brother Snickers was no help to me. I had other wonderful mentors, fortunately- but they were PhDs and thought medical school was a waste of a good brain. “Get a PhD!” they extolled, one and all. “Being a doctor is soooo boring. Biomathematics is the new biomedical engineering!” And I toyed with the idea, accumulating enough engineering classes and high level math to get a minor should I want it, but it wasn’t where my heart was. I liked fractal equations and looking at mollusks, but I just didn’t have the right temperament for academia.
By senior year, I had amassed a great GPA (o chem notwithstanding), a year as a teaching assistant for freshman biology under Brother Snickers’ ambivalent eye, hundreds of hours of community service, an internship at the LA County Coroner, and no intention of applying to medical school. I had just then started to entertain the thought of a career in veterinary medicine instead. My mother reminded me of a conversation we had when I was 12:
Me: Hey mom, I think I want to be a doctor.
Mom: A human doctor? I would have thought you would want to be a veterinarian. You LOVE animals!
Me: Yes, but I could never bear to euthanize a dog. I actually think it would be too hard to lose a dog or cat, but I think I would be OK losing a human patient.
Mom: ….That’s an interesting angle to take. Don’t ever say that out loud, OK?
For my potential human patients’ sake, I think deciding not to apply to medical school was the right decision.
So- back to senior year. No one had any idea what to think about veterinary school. Brother Snickers could care less; his only expertise was in getting men into medical school. Unfettered by his dream-squashing tendencies, the women in my class went on to other health professions: optometry school, dental school, osteopath school, and me representing the animals. Since no one knew enough to tell me getting into veterinary school was exponentially more competitive than getting into medical school, I was too blissfully ignorant to allow my self doubt to rear up and talk myself out of applying. My marine biology professor and my mathematics professor, mentors both, wrote me great letters of recommendation to have on hand. I had missed the fall deadline for applying, so I decided to take a year off to apply, clear my head, and make sure it was what I really wanted to do. Oh, and I figured, I should probably actually try and work in a vet clinic at some point.
That was 1997. BS in Biology, a vague idea in the back of my mind as to where to apply, and I needed to find a job.
By the by, in 2002 Brother Snickers was placed on administrative leave after being arrested for possession of male child pornography. No joke. He didn’t have issues with me, he just had issues. Oh, was that a bittersweet realization.
Next chapter: My brief and terrifying foray into the realm of erectile dysfunction research. It’s a doozy.
The CDC just released a report estimating 86,000 falls a year are caused by dogs and cats. I wonder if they do a similar report on the number of falls caused by roller skates, weak ankles, wet floors, and banana peels.
The report seems to infer that the majority of injuries are to the elderly, caused by tripping over little dogs out on walks.
Interesting, but I can’t quite figure out what they want to happen. The benefits of having a pet are well documented. Are we going to place warning labels on dogs- “May pose obstacle hazard”? Tell the elderly not to have dogs? Tell them not to take their dogs on walks since that is when the majority of injuries occur?
Is there anyone out there with a dog or cat who hasn’t tripped over them at one point or another? I just don’t get the point of these studies sometimes.
I have a confession to make, and this one is hard.
Skippy is no longer with me.
This is painful. I feel like a failure, especially since I spend so much time talking about responsibility and how a pet is a lifetime commitment. I still believe that, which is why I also think you should be really careful about the hows and whens of bringing a new pet into the home, and that is where I really screwed up.
I knew after Mulan died that I would eventually want another dog, and I had a specific kind of dog in mind. Skippy was not that kind of dog, but he was kind of in the right range, and he needed a home. His owner came to my house to check it out and give Skippy a chance to meet everyone. I went over my ‘deal breaker’ questions, specifically, Is he housetrained, and Does he bark, and was given the answers yes, and no. He seemed to get along with everyone. I was planning on thinking it over for a couple of days, until the owner told me she was moving the next day and was really hoping he could stay, if I thought I was going to keep him.
And me being me, I said OK. The things she mentioned as issues- separation anxiety, and cat chasing, I was prepared for, and really were OK to handle. But. butbutbut.
It only took one day to realize he wasn’t housetrained. Not even close. Worse, he was a closet pooper, so he’d go run far away where no one could see him or correct him, and hide a treat. OK, I said, I’ll have to crate him. No problem.
The next day, I found out he was a barker, and not a little bit, but the worst kind of offender- yippy, hysterical, and to top it off he’d pee all over the place when he got excited. I was a bit miffed at this point, but still ready to try and figure it out.
On the third day, I realized he could squeeze through the bars on my fence and go running around the neighborhood, more specifically, into the neighbor’s yard with 4 large dogs. And because he hadn’t had any sort of training to respond to come or other commands, once he was gone, it was a wild chase. That is when I really started to panic. We spend a lot of time running around in our yard.
On the fourth day, I spent hours retrofitting the fencing with chicken wire.
On the fifth day, he dug right under it.
By necessity, Skippy now spent the entirety of his time attached to a lead. He was either in a crate, tied to a table, or tied to me. He couldn’t be trusted inside, where he’d either run off to take a poop or eat cat poop; he couldn’t be trusted outside, where he would run away. I consulted a trainer and a behaviorist to get some suggestions about what I would have to do to mold him into a model citizen, and the answer was, to put it mildly, daunting. And would probably involve methods far more intensive and aggressive than those I have ever used in the past.
His old owner was by now unreachable, of course, and wouldn’t have been able to help anyway. I spent the next two weeks conducting doggy boot camp, which worked as long as he was under constant surveillance, but he really didn’t have much desire to please so any slip of the guard, and off he would go to wreak havoc. One bright and sunny Saturday morning was spent trespassing through my entire neighborhood after my son accidentally let him dart through his legs. Off he went, through one fence and under the next, boom-boom-boom throughout the whole development, me in pajama bottoms and wild morning hair, waving a salmon strip at him, calling, “Oh Skip-py!” in my cheeriest voice since of course we can’t let him know we are fuming since he won’t come if you are, but it didn’t matter since he didn’t come anyway. I had to ambush him under a blackberry bush. I spent the next two hours pulling foxtails out of my hair, wondering how many neighbors saw me and how many knew what I supposedly did for a living.
My friends, my co-workers, everyone who knows me and how I am mentioned to me at some point or another that this was not the ideal match. I knew it, but I had made a commitment, and damnit, I wasn’t going to give up. I can’t give up. I made this decision to give him a home and I should abide by it. I seemed to be the only one who felt this way.
A couple of days later, a family friend came over, and I pre-emptively apologized for what she was about to endure. “Oh, it’s no problem,” she said over Skippy’s high pitched screeching. She picked him up and cuddled him while he peed on her. “I love poodles.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” she said as he licked her with his cat-litter breath. “I had one who passed away a few years ago.”
“Well, I really am sorry,” I said as he sunk his teeth into her pants leg and started to hump her. “I’m trying to make him better.”
“Oh, that’s just how they are,” she said and petted him affectionately. “He’s just young.” She looked at me intently. “If you don’t want him, I would love to give him a home. My chihuahua would love a friend.”
I said we were working on things, but I would for sure let her know. Another long week passed.
As I stood there, Emmett by my side hiding from Skippy’s aggressive ministrations, it hit me. Skippy was not, and would never be, the right dog for me. The words of my trainer friend echoed in my ear: “He really just needs someone who doesn’t care about all that crap.” I wasn’t so determined to make this work out of a deep bond and love for Skippy, but out of a sense of obligation. And was it fair to him to keep him with me because I didn’t want to seem like a bad pet owner for giving him away, to in essence save face, when there was someone right in front of me who would offer him a better life? My friend would love him as he was. I would not. I would be like that woman in Cosmo they always warn you not to be, trying to fix her man, dress him up, teach him some manners, when all he wants is to sit in a wifebeater with a Coors in one hand and his junk in the other.
I called my friend and asked her if she was still serious about Skippy. “Yes, absolutely,” she said. I told her very bluntly why I was willing/mandated to give him up, and all the issues he was bringing to the table. She said yes, she knew this, and was still ok with it.
Skippy went home with her on Wednesday. The first thing he did when she came in the door was take a poop right in front of her- a final sendoff to me, I suppose, and she laughed and cleaned it up. “Let me know if it doesn’t work out,” I said. “I have contacts in rescue.”
“Oh, I’m keeping him,” she smiled, poop bag in one hand, dog in the other. “Let’s go, Skippy.”
I guess I can tell myself that everything happens for a reason. I still feel like a failure.
I.e. trying to get a thicker skin.
Today I went into a room to give a little dachshund puppy his vaccine boosters. This was a cute dog. Seriously cute. I had seen him once before, 3 weeks prior, for his first vaccination and he was healthy and adorable then, as he was today.
I went in and gushed, trying to ignore the fact of the very stone faced owner glaring at me. Everyone has bad days and bad moods, right? She asked me a couple of questions that I started to answer, and she cut me off each time before I could finish. I did my exam, gave the dog a few extra pets, complimented him, and then got him his vaccine. It was a very standard visit.
The owner then went out and told the receptionist she wants to see “the other guy” next time. She saw “the other guy”- my colleague- one time, for a cough that she declined to do anything about. Nothing special.
Personality is a matter of preference, and I just can’t help whether or not someone likes me. It makes it easier, though, if there is something I can pinpoint that I did to make a person not happy, but in this case, there really wasn’t anything that went wrong. I was in top veterinarian form today. I even wore PEARLS to work, which I never do. My hair was perfect. I did the best I could but it was just me, personally, that she rejected.
Well, you know what? Her dog was UGLY. Ugly and goofy looking too. I’m glad I won’t be seeing him again, him and his dumb floppy furry ears and little brown nose….
*sigh* I lie. He really was seriously cute. Maybe she was afraid I was going to steal him. I could lie a second time and say I don’t get hurt at all, that’s life, but truth be told I do get a wee bit hurt. Much less than I used to for sure, but I prefer to delude myself into thinking my magnetic personality is utterly irresistible to all.
As I was leaving the house this morning on my way to work, my phone rang. “Hi, it’s Carmen,” said my tech. “I know you’re probably just about to leave anyway, but I wanted to let you know Comet is here and he doesn’t look good.”
I grabbed my keys and shot out the door.
Comet is owned by one of my favorite clients, an extremely sweet woman who adores her cats. Not three months ago, she lost a recently adopted cat to a nasty virus that has been striking hard in the local shelters. It hit very fast, and despite all our efforts, he died. I spent a lot of time turning over in my head every decision I made, every diagnostic I did or didn’t do, and wondered what I might have done better. Would it have made a difference? Probably not, but still. His owner had nothing but thanks for me, which of course made me feel even worse because regardless of what I did, he was still dead.
Comet was in last week because he wasn’t feeling well. I did some tests, I was waiting for some results, and I called on my days off to follow up on his care. I didn’t want to drop the ball on anything because I got the feeling she had just barely recovered from her other pet’s death. I spent last night planning a course of action with my boss for Comet’s diagnostics today. We weren’t going to lose this one. I was worried about some recent results but I was still hopeful we could figure out what was going on with him.
Once I was on the road and had my Bluetooth hooked up, I called back to give the tech some things to start while I was driving. “Hey, it’s me,” I said to the receptionist. “Tell Carmen to get a PCV going and run him on O2 if he needs it. I’ll be there in 10.”
“On who?” she asked.
“Comet,” I said. “Carmen knows what’s going on.”
“Comet just died.”
I spent a long time in the room with Comet’s mom, as surprised and unhappy as she was.
“Why did he die?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied, honestly. “We never got a chance to find out.”
We talked a bit about necropsies, what we could learn, what we couldn’t. She decided not to have one done.
“Thank you so much for everything,” she said between her tears, and all I could do was hug her back.
“I don’t feel like I’ve helped you very much,” I replied. Half of her household pets now, gone under my watch. And she thanked me.
She is a very kind person. What a way to start the week.
My license allows me to legally practice medicine on just about anything- except humans, of course. If you really want to make a vet’s hair stand on end, ask them why they didn’t become a “real doctor”. Most people only ask that once, at least to me.
Granted, that’s a hell of a lot of species to know. Sheesh, MDs manage to eke out a living focusing on one organ system of one species- OBs, for instance, or dermatologists- and yet somehow I’m expected to be able to handle a cow dystocia as well as a rat with a mammary tumor.
Truth be told, it can’t be done. Not these days, with the wealth of knowledge out there. It’s hard enough focusing on one or two species, as most vets (at least those in relatively urban areas) tend to do. I see dogs and cats. That is my comfort zone. On occasion, if there is no other choice, I’ll examine a rodent or a rabbit although I’m not particularly knowledgable on them. Seeing a horse would probably be malpractice.
I had one horrific episode when I was working in emergency when someone brought a mostly-dead finch in. He was laying on the bottom of the cage, huffing away. There really wasn’t time to get to an exotics vet, and besides, it was 8 at night. The other vets on duty made themselves immediately scarce, and I found myself staring at the tech with a blank look on my face. “Just give it some SQ fluids,” said my boss, who then also disappeared.
My tech picked up the bird, extremely carefully, and I prepared a very carefully selected dose of appropriate fluids, and administered them very carefully into the proper location- which is nothing like the proper location on a dog. As I finished the injection, the bird took one big huff, and died. Boy, the techs had a field day with that one. “Dr. V is so good she doesn’t need pink juice to euthanize an animal! She can do it with subcutaneous fluids! Hahaha!”
Now I turn birds away at the door. I believe it is in their best interest.
I am actually more confident than ever in telling people to take their animals elsewhere. The more I learn, the less I know. I’m too old to learn about lizards, not when there is a perfectly wonderful exotics vet 10 minutes away.
And since it’s Monday, let’s do it in pictures!
Hi there, Mr. Williams. I’m Dr. Barbie. Nice to meet you. It says here you have a cat with diarrhea.
Ah, well, yes, about that…see, I was in Kenya on a dig, and, well….
This is Chuckie. Say hi to the doc, Chuckie.
Oh my …um, look, Mr. Williams, I’m really not a primatologist. You need to go to an exotics vet. I can’t help you. No. No way.
Are you scared? Don’t be scared. Look, I can dress him up and everything. Can’t you just take a quick look and tell me how much Pepto to use or something?
Frankly Mr. Williams, I am a little nervous here. Haven’t you been watching the news? Did you SEE Grey’s Anatomy last week? These guys are dangerous! How did you even get him here? Chimpanzees aren’t legal in this state.
Oh, you know, I just came back with my dad and he knows some people. Look, his parents got run over by a Land Rover and I just felt so bad for him. He’s so smart, too. You wouldn’t believe how smart he is. Aren’t ya, Chuckie?
Oh, I believe it. Um….hi there, little guy. Oh hey there, will you look at that. So Mr. Williams, I’m leaving the room right now. (backing away) My receptionist will get you the phone number for the exotics vet. And the zoo. Nice meeting you both.
That was the headline CNN gave this story.
I admit I was a little disappointed to hear it was just a dog who just snacked on some Benjamins. Dogs eating stuff they shouldn’t it as newsworthy as “cat barfs hairball in shoe, live at 10.” I was hoping it was going to be a modern day Golden Goose, a dog who could miraculously generate currency in their colon. Need some gas money? Feed Fido some kibble and wait. Need a quick $100? Add in some fiber. If you’re really desperate and loan sharks are after you, give him some baked beans and wait for the cash to come rolling in!
Fortunately for this dog his owners were pretty understanding and had a good sense of humor about it. Emmett has fortunately never ingested anything of value necessitating such unsavory actions as sifting through poo like a prospector panning for gold nuggets. The closest I have come to similar tragedy is when a client dog managed to pull a diamond earring out of my ear during an exam (ironically enough, it was a guide dog in training. Good luck with that one, you klepto!) but I managed to fish it out of his mouth before he swallowed it. It was pretty astounding on his part- it was a stud earring with a safety post and he STILL managed to yank it out. I don’t think he ever graduated.
Vets are more likely to be boozers.
Considering my vet school classmates, I shouldn’t be surprised. We were all pretty happy go lucky back in those days, but I imagine close to a decade of stressors has taken its toll on more than a few of us.
James Herriot sure made this profession look bright and shiny, bold and beautiful and whatever other heartwarming couplets float your boat. It is, sometimes. Other times it is all things smelly and stinky, green and abscessed, angry and litigious. Health care professionals are expected to be correct 100% of the time. In our case, we are also expected to be able to manage it with the minimum diagnostics and treatments to restore health without a single thing that a client might perceive as a waste of money.
For every time someone says thank you, another person accuses you of gouging them. For every person who takes your recommendation, another person tells you they won’t do it because their breeder said dogs only need 2 parvo vaccines, or someone on the internet said bulldogs should never be vaccinated for kennel cough.
If you got into this thinking every client would be a compliant, grateful little old lady with a bottomless purse, who did everything you asked without question and brought you cookies once a month, I can see why you’d be driven to drink. We live and practice in a more cynical world these days.
Trust is no longer assumed from the get go, though to be honest it’s not a bad thing. Even if it’s not assumed, you can earn it. There are crummy vets out there, ones with less than perfect ethics, and in these days of sensationalistic journalism and the internet, horror stories are a dime a dozen. From my own experience with a lot of vets, I like to think they are still far more the exception than the rule, though I can understand the savvy client’s wariness.
I don’t mind the questions. I don’t mind having to work a little to earn someone’s trust. And at the end of the day, I just need to reframe how I look at it, right?
For every person who accuses me of gouging them, another thanks me for being thorough. For every person who tells me they won’t do what I recommend because their breeder said dogs only need 2 parvo vaccines, another listens when I explain about maternal antibody interference and the AAHA recommendations on vaccination.
So far it’s kept me sober, even though I’m still waiting for a client, any client, to bring me some cookies.
I haven’t euthanized a pet in a couple of weeks. That is one of the things I like about day practice, as opposed to emergency, less of that sad stuff. But for whatever reason, this sort of thing comes in waves, and the tide came rolling in today.
First was a young cat who was horrifically sick. He was so jaundiced that you could see the yellow tinge from across the room. The owner had him euthanized. I never did find out what the cause was.
Next was an older cat, who was also horrifically sick. The owner agreed to all the bloodwork, and unfortunately he was in end-stage renal failure. She, too, was euthanized.
Be it a serious disease in a crappy economy or just a flat out end stage illness, some cases are pretty black and white. There just weren’t other realistic options.
I thought I was going to get through the day with just these two euthanasias, each sad, but ultimately understandable. Then Johnnie’s owner called.
I’ve been seeing Johnnie since he was born a year ago. Johnnie was a mutt of dubious origin, struck with affliction after affliction of the sort that ill bred dogs often develop. Giardia. Coccidia. Mites. Retained testicles. Funny eyelashes. A brush with parvo. But his owners love him, and each time he came down with a new and expensive problem, they rolled their eyes, sighed, and treated them. Another thousand dollar discount mutt.
Johnnie’s owners were recently flattened by some unrelated events in their life, so it was less than welcome news when he was diagnosed with a serious orthopedic problem that would eventually require surgery. Even still, they took home some Rimadyl and decided to start saving up. They put up with a lot.
Today, he bit their son. Apparently, he has had some aggression issues they have been trying to work through, on top of everything else. I knew he had an occasional brush in at the dog park, but I didn’t realize it had gotten this bad. So we talked. She knew as well as I did, that with the glut of healthy dogs in the shelter there was no dog less adoptable than an aggressive mutt with orthopedic issues. The rescues had no place for him. She didn’t want him to languish in a shelter for a few days, confused and alone, just to assuage her own guilt that maybe someone might want to take him on. She knew as well as I did what the chances really were.
I used to say to myself, I would never euthanize a healthy dog. Never euthanize a dog who didn’t have a terminal disease. Wouldn’t consider it for behavioral issues, because after all, it’s the owner’s doing and why should I have to clean up after their mess. That was then.
I’ve learned a lot about black and white and shades of grey, about being a parent and making a commitment and sometimes even about getting in over your head. About judging people and situations by standards 95% of the population can’t live up to. It’s paralyzing sometimes, standing in a sea of grey trying to make out the shapes. Life is so much easier in black and white, one dimensional line drawings in perfect contrast. Simple, and not very realistic.
So we talked, and talked some more, and the one thing I can tell you is that Johnnie’s owner absolutely loves him. Her decision, that most people can’t/don’t make, was to spare him being scared and alone and let him go in her arms rather than in the back room of a shelter. It was, I think, the right decision. I support her in that.
Time for the tide to roll on out. I don’t like to tread water for very long.
I saw a REALLY funny looking cocker spaniel today. He had a comb-over! He had the usual short cocker spaniel fur, save one long straight tuft that was swept back and feathered over his head Donald Trump style.
“I love his little toupee!” I exclaimed to the owner, before realizing it wasn’t intentional at all and the person had no idea what I was talking about. I really wanted to take a picture to put here, but based on his reaction to me I had a feeling it wasn’t going to happen.
Just imagine it for me. It was super funny.
Today is a very big day for Dr. Autumn. I had a Barbie floating around that looked like her, but I couldn’t bear to put her in the standard Barbie vet getup, so in her honor I created a pair of slightly more appropriate scrubs.
Hold on…just a couple more things here…
Ah. Much better.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with her previously, as Autumn, the awesome technician, but today is the Big Day for her: her first day as Doctor Autumn, practicing veterinarian.
I know she knows the basic cardinal rules of veterinary medicine: don’t mix prednisone and Rimadyl, don’t give Baytril to young puppies, don’t let your clients name their pets Lucky, etc, but I thought I would take a moment to pass on a couple other pieces of advice that for some reason they always seem to skip over in vet school.
1. Don’t introduce yourself by your first name. That works when you are distinguished, old, and grey to put people at ease, but when you are young and new, people see that as an invitation to talk to you like their neighbor’s teenage daughter. You are Doctor Autumn, and only Doctor Autumn.
2. Never let your perceptions allow you to avoid offering the best care. True, many people will decline that best care, and you will have to prioritize your choices, but make them make that decision. The second you allow yourself to make that decision for them- oh, this guy will never say yes to x-rays-, it will become a habit, and before you know it you aren’t offering the best care even when the person wants it. You can never tell which client will approve your estimate. (Remember the lady with the flame-red hair?) You’re not offering the best because you’re trying to rack up a bill. You’re offering the best because that is what you would want offered to you. No matter how many times people accuse you of the former, remember that just because they say it, doesn’t make it true. Be compassionate, even if they are transferring their guilt onto you. It’s easier to be mad at you than at themselves.
3. Make sure the back area is well stocked with lint brushes. If you wear black pants, you will see all Persians and Akitas. If you wear tan pants, you’ll see all black dogs. It’s a law.
4. Even when it’s 3 pm and your surgery waiting area still looks like this:
Buck up, at least you have a job, and how wonderful that all their owners trust you with their care.
5. Never fail to treat a euthanasia room with quiet reverence. This is a moment the pet owner will never, ever forget. Especially if they hear you in the back area laughing and joking around before you go in to see them.
6. The last is this: We have a stressful job. An emotional, sometimes heartbreaking, usually frustrating job. It makes it easy to forget that we also have an amazing job, as a surgeon, pediatrician, radiologist, internist, and hospice care worker. We are blessed to be where we are.
Best of luck to you, Dr. Autumn, and may you have a long and wonderful career.