This hour’s guest post comes from the brilliant and hysterical Susi Szeremy over at KnobNotes. She’s not only really, really funny, she’s my Yoda when it comes to the world of breed enthusiasts. As a breeder of Pulik, this woman knows her stuff. Today she shares a reminiscence of how her vets allow her to be part of the health management process for her beloved pets.
I’m honored to have been asked to write a guest post for Pawcurious for so worthy of an event as Blogpocalypse. I, myself, will be at an undisclosed location for the impending doom, and needles in my eyes (I just hate that, don’t you?) will never make me talk.
Oh, all right. I’ll be at a dog show. I’ll be spending as much time as possible hanging out near dogs known to hate the undead. Mastiffs, for instance, hate zombies. Bloodhounds hate the smell of decomposition, and Chihuahuas are especially intolerant of people sloughing off skin as they walk. Throw in a cranky show judge who won’t tolerate disorder in her ring and I figure I’ll be in the safest spot on earth. Zombies, bring it on.
In honor of Dr. Jessica’s profession, I’ve chosen to write about my own veterinarians.
“Dr. Dan” and “Dr. Ray” went to great schools, got superb training, and coupled with their compassionate natures, both are fine vets. Their human clients love them, their animal patients get top notch care. I’m very fond of both of them.
But I gently put forth the proposition that they got their real training from me. Let me explain.
Twenty five years ago, I moved into a new part of town and went scouting for a vet who would work with a fancier (dog show person) and breeder. Dan and Ray’s clinic was on my list and during our interview, I learned that they were keen to build up their young practice among breeders and show people. This could work, I told them, but part of giving them my business was to allow me access to all of my dogs’ procedures. I wasn’t squeamish, I wanted to learn, and I felt that seeing what was being done to my dogs would make me a better owner. They agreed, but I imagine with reservations.
As it happened, one of my dogs required a minor surgical procedure soon after that meeting. As promised, I was allowed into the operating room after “gowning up.” The vet techs sat me on a wheeled stool just in case I felt faint and directed me to a corner of the room where I’d be out of the way. My stomach was never an issue during the surgery, but my stool was situated over the one spot on the floor that wasn’t level and I spent a good portion of the time rolling from one side of the small room to the other. Putting my feet on the ground only resulted in the stool sliding out from under me. I tried not to let on that I was having difficulty staying in one spot, but there was no hiding the fact that every time someone talked to me, I answered from a different part of the room. Worse, I had an uncanny knack of rolling to whatever spot the vet techs needed to be in next. They took to simply rolling me out of their way by the shoulders. I felt like a five year old. Or a pin ball.
My next surgery was a big one: a splenectomy. My dog was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, and since it was possible he wouldn’t survive the removal of his spleen, I was determined that the last thing he would ever feel would be my hand stroking his face. The surgical team, still not convinced that I was sea-worthy to withstand this particular procedure, again put me in a chair – this one, wisely, without wheels. The vet techs were terrific, but I wish they’d asked the administrative staff to provide the chair. They evidently had no way of knowing that they put me in a chair set aside for trash removal. One third of the way into the surgery as I leaned against the back of the chair, it snapped off. It was loud and it clattered for a long time. And who knew I could bend over backwards at the waist at a 90 degree angle.
When I attended the next procedure, the medical team knew better than to have me sitting at all. Having proved myself disinclined to faint or vomit at the sight of blood, I was allowed to stand, but well away from the sterile field. I was put in a corner among machines not needed for the surgery, but of course, I didn’t know this at the time. As an aside, the surgery took place during the height of pollen season and I was a true hay fever sufferer. Suddenly, I was overcome with a sneeze so epic that I believe my feet actually left the ground. Bent over and recovering from a total rearrangement of my senses, I noticed with horror that several of the machines were unplugged. I was sure I’d unwittingly pulled the cords out with my feet while sneezing. Hoping that no one had noticed, I did what anyone would have done. I quickly plugged them back in.
Evidently, many medical apparati make a sound when they’ve lost power. They also make a sound to indicate that they’ve been turned on. The stillness of the room was now suddenly fractured by half a dozen machines beeping, whining and whistling all at the same time, and for no apparent reason other than that I was standing near them.
It was good that everyone wore surgical masks. I’d seen their eyes. It was better that I shouldn’t also see the smirks.
We laugh about it now, all these years later. My first few surgical experiences, calamitous as I painted them to be, didn’t result in any fatalities. My dog with hemangiosarcoma survived the surgery but died a few weeks later of a cancer very few animals beat. My vets have become very successful and moved from the old building with the un level floors to a spacious new facility built from scratch. The chairs all work, and only the surgeon gets to sit on a wheeled stool. After 25 years, my vets have conceded that the safest place for me to be is close to the operating table where I can keep an eye on the dog, and they can keep an eye on me.
It’s immeasurable, what I’ve learned by having access to the rooms “behind the door,” and from the emergencies, autopsies, poisonings, births, deaths and surgeries occurring behind it. I’ve come to appreciate the sheer amount of knowledge a vet is called upon to have. A physician is required to know everything there is to know about his human patient, from his skeletal structure to her reproductive system. A vet needs to know the same information, but in cats, dogs, reptiles, rodents AND birds. A human physician, as a rule, learns from his patient “where it hurts.’ A vet doesn’t have that luxury.
I’d like to think that my vets have learned from me, as well. Aside from having to learn how to operate under all manner of distraction, they’ve learned that a vigilant owner can be their best partner in making a diagnosis. They’ve learned to trust the instincts of that pet owner, even when test results may not support the owner’s contention that “something is wrong.” They’ve learned that an educated owner is their best ally. And in my case, they’ve learned to never, ever, shave hair off unless my Puli’s life is at stake.