Behind the Scenes: Animal Hospital Edition

I have been working in the Veterinary profession for many years now (in fact, so many I lost count). It’s the kind of profession that follows you wherever you go. Once others are aware of what you do for a living there rarely is a social event where you are not asked if you “Did you see any interesting pets at work this week?” It’s true we do get to see many wonderful pets and cuddle puppies and kittens when they come in for their appointments. Most weeks though it is so much more than that.

The majority of my job satisfaction does come from helping clients with their beloved pets young and old. We are there to see the bond between owner and pet grow over the years. We are here to help when their dog gets into something he shouldn’t and has a stomach ache or if we need to induce vomiting because he ate a whole box of Valentine’s Day chocolates! I definitely have a story or 2 about pets eating something they shouldn’t… Everything from underwear, socks, pincushions, bags of screws and bags of ribbon! I’ve seen cats who have eaten necklaces, foam toe separators, watch straps, dimes, and earplugs!

The stories with happy endings are always a treat to share! Everyone loves a happy ending when it comes to pets and when all is said and done a giggle can be had. Why do pets eat the things they do? In the human world eating any of these items is just dumb!

The stories of being peed and/or pooped on, and expressing anal gland matter all over your face almost always result in a disgusted reaction, followed by a “gross!” For us, it’s all in a day’s work.

We do face some safety challenges! Cats and dogs can be unpredictable. Some are very friendly and happy to be a cooperative patient. Others not so much and can go from happy to angry at the flick of a switch. Despite our ongoing training and experience in making our clinic as pet-friendly as possible sometimes pets are just mad at the fact they are at the Vet, or scared or both. Handling them with care so they are safe and you are safe can be a challenge. Cat and dog bites can be very serious. If you are looking for a story about feeling an adrenaline rush after handling an angry cat. I have a few of those too. I have also been bitten and scratched by both.

The stories I usually don’t tell at a party are the ones that are the saddest. They usually involve the death of a beloved pet. Sometimes tragic and unexpected. Sometimes because they are old and a quality of life decision needs to be made. A position many of us have been in and understand how painful the loss can be. As professionals, we remain composed and strong for our client to help them through the emotional turmoil. There have been many times we have cried a tear ourselves once the client has left. I once had an older client euthanize her old dog who was having a hard time even walking. She had loved him for 16 years and they had entered the Golden Years of life together. She was also a senior now and struggling with health issues. I listened to her cry as she told me the hardest part is knowing she will not be able to own another pet. Besides her health concerns, she felt she was too old to adopt another dog as the dog would outlive her. She thanked me for helping her and said she was going home to plan her own funeral now as her health concerns had her facing life’s realities. I hugged her and told her to come visit when she could. Then I shed a few tears myself. I try to find comfort in the fact that we were there to help and support her that day.

Tomorrow is another day and when I arrive at work I have no idea what that day has in store. I will probably come home with a story or two, some happy, some sad, and some downright hilarious. Those I will save for another blog!

Written by Debra Briton, RVT