Pet Doctor Barbie
A couple times a year, I take a stroll through Toys R Us to see if there is a new Pet Vet Barbie being inflicted upon the masses. There’s a cat vet one, which I bought just because she has a slide on the exam table and that alone was worth the price- I mean, what cat doesn’t love going down a slide at the vet clinic?- but that’s not what really got me excited.
The Barbie I had to grab was the Fashionista Barbie. Those babies have moveable joints. MOVEABLE JOINTS! Now, why fashionistas need moveable joints but astronauts, veterinarians and bakers do not is beyond me, but maybe the good folks at Mattel just spend too many hours watching Paris Hilton contort on the red carpet and not enough seeing how women with actual jobs have to bend from time to time.
So anyway, I immediately took this Barbie, changed her clothes out for a pair of scrubs, and threw her into the Pawcurious Clinic to see what would happen. It quickly became apparent that she was so versatile and helpful, that she wasn’t actually a pet doctor at all.
She was, in fact, a tech. Now that’s a doll Mattel could really do something with. (more…)
The other day, my daughter was invited to a birthday party and told to bring a favorite doll. She brought down one of her special amputee Barbies, the arm neatly chewed off below the elbow.
“Aw honey,” I said, “Do you want to pick a doll that has all her limbs?”
She looked at me askance. “ALL of my dollies are like this.” She said this without a hint of regret or remorse. “That’s just what happens when Brody shares.”
I guess when all you’ve known is a pet serial doll killer, it doesn’t occur to you to be bothered by it.
Jessie: Wow, guys, I think we really hit the jackpot this time! We’re owned by a beautiful little girl now! Will you look at this place?
Buzz: It appears satisfactory. I am going to investigate the rest of the premises.
Happy Monday, all! This Pet Doctor Barbie post was probably the most labor intensive to date, but it was a labor of love. I hope you like it.
Pawcurious Media and Dr V present:
“A Wish for Wings That Work”
Hi everyone. Thanks so much for coming to Pet Loss Anonymous.
Hey man, what are you in for? Biting a kid?
Most Barbies only come out once or twice: NASCAR Barbie, Astronaut Barbie, Spongebob Barbie, etc. But there are some that, for obvious reasons, keep coming back in multiple incarnations for each new generation of starry eyed little girls. This is why I have 5 versions of Pet Vet Barbie.
The old ones weren’t so bad. Why each successive one has been stranger and stranger is open to postulation, but even I couldn’t explain what the heck Mattel was thinking with their latest offering of Pet Vet Barbie.
I know they know how to make a vaguely appropriate outfit for a medical office, as evidenced by the new Kid Doctor Barbie on the right. Kid Doctor: sleek, professional, bouffant-ed. Pet Doctor: ponytailed truck stop hash-slinger. What gives?
My theory is this: (more…)
Well, since you all have been so indulgent about the Hounds for Haiti stuff and are doing so well with filling up the page with bids, let’s take a mental break for an episode of Pet Doctor Barbie. What do you say?
This episode is entitled, “The Devil Went Down to Omaha.”
I recently had lunch with a colleague and friend of mine, who for the purposes of this post shall be referred to as Dr. Daisy. Dr. Daisy is a little ray of sunshine, sprinkling good cheer and merriment wherever she goes. It’s hard not to like Dr. Daisy.
Shortly after graduation, she took a job at my old clinic, working with Dr. Nessa.
I had worked with Dr. Nessa but briefly before leaving for a stint as an emergency vet. From what I understand, this was a good thing. Sure, she seemed decent enough in our brief interactions together, but shortly after leaving I started to get calls from my ex co-workers that sounded like Radar calling in for backup from the trenches in Korea.
“Dr V! I only have a minute…” sounds of yelling “It’s crazy here! You gotta come back! There’s needles flying every- whaa? AAAUUGHH!” crash
My friends on the front lines didn’t last long before getting their own discharge papers (mental breakdowns, every one) but the stories they told would make your hair curl. So when Dr. Daisy took a job there, I was a little nervous for her sweet and unassuming self. Apparently it went about as well as one would expect given the circumstances:
“Hi! I’m Dr. Daisy! I look forward to working with you!”
“Whatever. Just stay out of my way.”
“Can I ask you a question about a case?”
“But, it’s about this cat you saw and the owner says you turned it into a pot belled pig and- uh, oooooookay…….never mind.”
And so on and so forth.
Voiceover: Diagnosing a pet is like fighting a battle in the fog. Without their ability to tell you what’s wrong, you don’t know your enemy. Sometimes the fog is a mere hazy gauze, easily penetrated with our exam and our instincts, and other times it sits over the field like a big hairy blindfold.
Well hello there, Miss Blake! What brings you and Lulu here today?
Doctor, Lulu just isn’t herself. I don’t know what is wrong, but something is wrong.
Any changes in appetite or drinking behavior? No.
Any changes in activity level? No.
Any vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing? No.
What is leading you to think something is wrong?
I don’t know. (cue folksy music) (more…)
If there is one thing that is ubiquitous in this field, it is dogs with itchy skin. While many vets shudder at the ever present itchy dog, I kind of like it. Lucky for me, since dermatology represents something like one third of all the cases we see. I don’t think it’s boring. I think it’s interesting. That being said, it’s not always the most complicated case on the docket. We’re not talking House, here. There are one or two scripts that play out over and over like clockwork starting every spring. The story arc is as steady and predictable as a poorly written sitcom.
What does this episode bring?
FLEAS: Another Dr. Barbie Presentation (cue laugh track)
Hi Mister Jones! We haven’t seen you for a couple months. How are things going with Betsy?
Well doc, it’s the strangest thing. Yesterday she was fine, and today she woke up and had no hair.
Overnight, you say? OK, let’s take a look. Is she on flea control?
No, but she doesn’t need it. We don’t have fleas. (cue laugh track)
OK Mr. Jones…I’m seeing a lot of scabs here, and actually, oh! Look at that. There are quite a few fleas on her as well.
That’s not possible. She must have gotten them in your waiting room. I’m telling you, those bald patches showed up overnight.
These scabs are looking pretty chronic, to be honest. You might not have noticed them until today, but I bet she has had them for a while. All that black stuff is what we call flea dirt. I actually see a few tapeworm segments as well, which indicates that she has ingested fleas while she is grooming herself. So we should get you an antibiotic for that skin infection, a dewormer, and some Advantage*.
Can you just tell me what you’d give to her? Maybe write it all down for me? I have some leftover antibiotics from my other dog that died last year, I get dewormer at the feed store and I get Hartz at Costco. So I don’t need anything from you.
…..Or maybe you have some old expired stuff you could just give me? (cue laugh track)
(Mr Jones looks at camera and says witty catchphrase, gives a thumbs up):
I take it from your expression that’s a no.
(cue laugh track)
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.
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.
There are some vets out there, my ‘mentor’ (I use that term loosely) included, who don’t really use muzzles very often. I think for some, it’s a guy thing- “I don’t need no stinkin’ muzzle! I am brawny and manly and I can dominate this beast!” And two seconds later they tell their technician to go hold the dog. They get bit a lot.
Some clients buy into this too. When a pet is looking scared, anxious, or outright aggressive, I don’t waste much time in suggesting a muzzle. Most clients are fine with it, but every now and again we get the person who says, “Do you have to? I really don’t want you to muzzle Precious.” I look at Precious, who is hunkered down in the corner with her hackles up and bared teeth, and tell the owner, “Yes.” The persistent ones respond, “But Dr So-and-so never did,” in an accusatory tone. Implying that if I knew how to properly restrain Precious, it wouldn’t be an issue.
Granted, proper restraint technique goes a long way- but only so far. The best restrainer in the world is not immune to a determined dog with a mouthful of teeth. I’ve seen Dr. So-and-so do the doggy rodeo trying to keep from getting injured, and I am certain it is NOT less stressful for Precious to be aggressively handled as opposed to having a small muzzle placed on her. It allows us to do our job more quickly, and more safely. If clients don’t care for it, that is OK. They can leave. Few do, however.
I promise it is not a statement on you or your pet. When I say, “I’m going to get a muzzle,” some people automatically add in “because you are a terrible dog parent and your Cujo mutt is a fleabag menace.” I swear I don’t feel this way. Dogs get nervous and scared and anxious at the vet- who can blame them? This is their natural response. It’s OK. Let me handle it the safest and most effective way I know how. I still like you both.
On occasion we have owners who ask (insist) that they be allowed to restrain their aggressive dogs. Some vets allow this. It is extremely rare for me to do so, and only if I know the pet and owner very well. The reason: Well, allow me to demonstate.
Hi Mister Jones! Good to see you again. What brings you here today?
Well Doc, my dog Betsy has been shaking her head. I think she has ear mites. Don’t worry, she’s really nice.
Hi there Betsy! Can I take a peek at those ears?
Oh, Betsy’s looking a little nervous there Mr. Jones. I’m going to go ahead and get a muzzle just so I can get a better look at those ears.
Oh no, she’s never bitten anyone. I’ll hold her. See? Go ahead. Shhh, Betsy. It’s OK. Go on, Doc.
Mr. Jones? (Not again!) SKIPPER!!!! Get in here NOW!!
I thought you knew what you were doing!! I hope you’ve got good insurance, lady! I’m calling my lawyer!
Muzzle? Sure, if you think it would help.
Here we go, Betsy. I’m sorry, girl, just a quick peek. Hmmm….looks like an ear infection. Mr. Jones, I’ll go ahead and get you an estimate to get this worked up and we’ll have Betsy feeling better soon.
Note which one took longer, by the by. Regardless, I live in California, where people get sued when a burglar slips and falls in their house while in the process of robbing them. Taking that kind of risk, not only to myself and the staff but to you, the client, is something I’m just not willing to do. Even if you are.
P.S. If you know you have an aggressive pet and you mention that to me *before* I do anything with your pet, I will love you forever.