Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Wear and tear.

It's hard to look glamorous for veterinary work.

Enthusiasm for an expensive wardrobe is curbed because you never know when you might get that warm, itchy, stream of dogs piss down your pinstripe trousers whilst carrying an anaesthetised pet back to the kennels. Alternatively there are plenty of opportunities for 'blood spatter' over your expensive suede shoes or cat snot scatter over your designer shirt.

I tend to stick with practical yet bright, non vet high street clothing. You'll never catch me in the James Herriot chequered shirt warn by vets the globe over.

When I splashed out on some expensive, yet practical shoes a year ago I was dismayed to discover within 6 months they had started to fall apart. I continued to wear them believing that the clients never looked at my feet, until yesterday.

'My God, have your shoes been chewed by a dog?' Asked Mrs averagely dressed dog owner.

With that, it was off to town for some replacements.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Human touch.

I deliver the sad news to Mrs Matthews.

'I'm very sorry but I think it would be kinder to put Harry to sleep.'

Mrs Matthews understands.

'I'd like to have his ashes back.' She tells me. 'So they can go in with mine.'

It was only after I put the phone down that the gravity of her words hit me.

Mrs Matthews is dying.

The tears well up and I find it hard to compose myself.

I have known Mrs Matthews for several years.

I could not cry for her cat, but I could not stop the tears falling for her.

Finally I understood, the relationship I build with my clients is not a relationship with their pets. While I may be fond of their pets, in a clinical context I will never be able to relate to them in the same way that they do. It is the human relationship that becomes so important, a delicate mix of counciling, empathy and friendship and this is what makes the job worthwhile.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Mobile disaster zone.

The mobile phone is a vital component of any modern day vet's kit.

I use mine when on call. Recently I have had a hands free system installed which means that if I am driving home, the surgery can contact me.

This nearly always happens when I get to the third roundabout, approximately two minutes from my house.

The dreaded caller identified as 'work' flashes up.

Road rage ensues 'I'm two minutes from home is this REALLY an emergency? because quite frankly I'd like to get something to eat!' I rant at the nurse as I turn the steering wheel hard right. This week, I am instructed a cat with a 'swollen eye' is coming immediately to the surgery for attention. In fact on examining the cat it is impossible to tell which eye is the bad eye and which is the normal. I charge them full price for wasting my time.

The other 90% of the time I use the phone for personal calls.

Yesterday morning before setting off for my weekly rowing session I decided to go mobile 'commando' for a variety of reasons. Firstly on rare occasions 'work' contact me when I am not on duty to ask me stuff they know I can't possibly answer without coming back in, usually of life saving magnitude stuff, which only makes me stressed. Secondly and most importantly I was awaiting a reply to a text message I had sent to a man/date/potential future husband/barer of my children. I knew he wasn't going to reply because I had an inkling he might not want to be my man/date/husband/sperm donor. The disappointment of continually checking for the little envelope signifying a received message and finding none was therefore removed.

I felt liberated and happy.

Until I discovered I was alone and locked into the boat house.

Having changed in the locker room in order to treat myself to a mobile commando shopping spree and thus prolong my new found liberty, I was the last person to leave. But I was not the last person to lock up.

As I rattled the door and nobody came, panic set in when I realised my one link to the outside world was lying on the dining room table at home. I was going to end up like the man who got stuck in the bowling club toilet for two days.

Frantic like a caged animal I made my way to the nearest fire exit and burst free. The alarm sounded and people came running. 'I didn't have my mobile' I explained.

On balance I decided maybe it was best to keep my mobile with me.

This morning I received a call from Michael from the rowing club. The only time he has ever called before now was to ask me out on a date, about two months ago. I declined but we have remained friendly.

'My girlfriend and I are looking for somewhere nice to go for a walk in the West of the county. I thought you might know somewhere?' He asked.

I proceeded to direct him to a nice pub about twenty minutes away.

'Might be a bit far.' He replied.

How ridiculous, anyone living in the East of the county who wants to get to the West would have to travel twenty minutes, unless of course that was not the true motivation for the call.

Thankfully my phone ran out of charge at that point and the line went dead.

Now my only dilemma is whether to charge it up or not?

Friday, 15 February 2008

Soften the blow.

My 6.30 pm appointment was booked in under the description ' Ebony Brown, possible PTS'

PTS in veterinary terms is short for 'Put To Sleep' or in other words 'The end of the road'.

A senior lecturer at my veterinary college once taught us that the use of the word carpet more than once during a consultation was a negative prognostic indicator.

Once the word diarrhoea and carpet had been used in conjunction more than three times during the course of Ebony's visit I knew she was doomed. A further negative prognostic indicator was the term 'Bad Debt' printed in red at the top of the notes and a history that stated 'owner does not want further investigations for chronic diarrhoea'.

It was obvious the family was divided, the teenage son felt she should live but mum and dad felt she should die.

Ebony looked pretty shitty, to pardon the pun.

So I did what I felt was best. I softened the blow.

'It sounds like Ebony's quality of life is deteriorating' I began. 'Perhaps it would be kinder to end her suffering.'

'I knew you were going to say that.' Sighed Mum, as if it was my idea.

The teenage son wailed and even switched off his Ipod.

'The vet says it would be kinder to put her to sleep.' Mum explained.

I hated to see his pain and I wanted to explain that his Mother had put the words into my mouth but I was powerless to do so without causing the family more distress.

The ordeal was worsened by Ebony's reluctance to 'go'.

A large dose of midazolam and ketamine helped soften her blow.

Now, two hours later, after a busy week including the plight of Mr and Mrs Thomas' dog yesterday (life saved thanks to my intervention) a large glass of wine now softens my blow.

I only hope the teenage son is old enough to drink.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Breaking the bonds.

As a junior vet you get rather used to a client entering your room and pronouncing,

'Oh, I thought I was seeing 'perfect' vet, but you're not 'perfect' vet.'

From then on in you're on to a losing battle because you are not 'perfect vet'.

But more recently I have noticed an increasing demand for the services of 'LittleVet'. Perhaps it is simply because I feed dogs treats when they come to see me and play with their ears, perhaps it is because I am incredibly thorough or perhaps it is because I genuinely care about what happens to their pet.

Sometimes when I am tired after being on call for nights on end or when I am simply stuck out at a branch surgery too far for them to travel to, their loyalty becomes a bind.

Today, Mr and Mrs Thomas insisted on speaking to me on the phone during a very busy consulting period and subsequently bringing their pet to see me at the branch when it should really have gone to the main surgery for emergency treatment. They did so because 'I know their dog'. They then expected me to drop everything and treat their pet when I was booked up to the eyeballs with appointments. I know they were concerned about their pet and just wanted to see someone who knew her but the stress and the pressure I felt was enormous.

I wanted to break the bond, I wanted to send them to one of my colleagues but the truth was that I knew that they were right, I did know their dog and I did know better than anyone what should be done.

But sadly it is impossible for me to be in two places at once and so I handed her reluctantly into the care of one of my colleagues.

I hate to say it but I know exactly how they must feel because I am as anxious as they are.

Sometimes you just have to trust someone else because vets are only human and it's impossible for 'perfect vet' to do everything.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Ever Optimistic.

Daniel Craig brought his dog to see me today for his weekly check up.

He's not Daniel Craig but he makes me feel like I imagine the real Daniel Craig might. He likes to talk about his house in France, shooting and down hill slalom skiing. Even though I'm a socialist with very remedial skiing skills I find him incredibly attractive.

Today he had applied so much aftershave that the smell lingered long after he had gone, through the next three consultations and a particularly odorous set of Bassett Hound ears.

I think he loves me.

He even asked for my full name and wrote it down.

I am sure this means he will be sending me flowers tomorrow.

But deep down I know it's because he needs to know who to address his pet insurance forms to.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Lost for words.

'She's taking longer to eat her food.' Mr Tidworth tells me.

I check Rebecca's mouth.

'She's got a very good set of teeth for a fifteen year old collie dog so I dont think it's that.' I tell him.

'The other dog died two years ago.' He continues. 'He was a Dalmation.'

I'm not sure how this relates to the present problem but I act concerned and sympathetic.

'Ever since then, I have to get down on my knees at her meal times and pretend to be the Dalmation or she won't eat.'

Oh Lord, I hope he doesn't have a Dalmation costume.

'My knee's been playing up so I haven't been able to do it recently.' He tells me, not the slightest bit embarassed.

'Perhaps you should visit your doctor and then maybe everything will get back on track.' I smile opening the door.

The next client shuffles in with his terrior who requires anal gland attention.

'I often massage her down there, around her bottom, but it doesn't help much....' He starts.

'Please, no more!' I am screaming inside. 'Don't these men have wives?'

I say nothing and open the door once more.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Adults only please.

'How has Charlie been keeping since his first vaccination?' I ask as the small black Labrador puppy hurls himself in my direction in excitement.

'Well, he sort of was quiet after the injection, then the next day we took him to the park, then the next day Daddy builded him a kennel, then he ate my ice cream....' And so the eight year old child continues on, while middle class Mummy sits in the corner grinning with pride.

Does middle class Mummy, think I have time for this?

Charlie is being controlled by a fairly clumsy eight year old and makes a leap off the table.

'Well we don't want Charlie heading to the X-ray department so maybe mummy could hold him?' I ask.

'Excuse me?' asks the other child in a 'I've just learned this grown up phrase means I can try to get away with asking ridiculous questions because everyone thinks it's funny' kind of way.

'Can I draw all over your board?'

'No.' I smile.

'Excuse me do you get internet on your computer?'

Whatever happened to the adage 'Children should be seen and not heard'?

If the children are this badly behaved, what hope is there for the dog?

Saturday, 2 February 2008

All hail Caesar !

You may remember I mentioned Caesar Millan the dog whisperer a few entries ago.

I have been following his teachings and I can tell you they really work.

When I get an 'idiot' dog, like Emily the Retriever that was howling and climbing the walls like a manic stag this week, I ignore it's behaviour completely.

I tell the owner to stop the 'Good girl! Good Girl!' routine, which just winds the dog up further and to sit down and remain quiet.

Eventually the calm environment caused Emily to settle and I even got her to walk quietly onto the weighing scales (for the first time in five years) at the end of the consultation. The owner was Gob smacked.

The only down side to this technique is that by ignoring the dog the owners tend to think you don't care.

There is one breed that no amount of calm aura will settle upon, namely the German Shepherd, whose high pitched hysterical wining will persist and persist until you open the door and allow them to hurl themselves out of your room with the force of a large, hairy hurricane.

I'm going to write to Caesar and ask his advice on these, personally I think they might be a lost cause.