You are not a real veterinarian until you have spayed a tomcat.
CAVEAT: This piece contains gross, and is not for the squeamish.
Veterinarians are human too. We make mistakes. And we laugh at them. Might think that means we don’t care. Nope. We care. We care so much we cry in the car on the way home sometimes. Over the things we see, or have to do in the passing of our days doing our job. We care because we cannot fix em all, and we never will. And we cry about some of the horrid things we have seen our public do to their animal friends.
Laughter is the medicine we take to make all that horrible stuff go away.
A uterus full of near term puppies or kittens we gently place in the freezer so they stop moving in there as quickly as possible. Maggots on anything. That time where the entire staff put in unpaid time to try to save the puppy some jerk couldn’t be bothered to vaccinate, and they watch it die from parvo, spewing bloody diarrhea and then jerking until it stops. And the check bounces because that jerk was also a liar and a thief.
Asking to charge is, after all, presumptive evidence of fraud.
Crying in the car doesn’t fix anything. Laughter does. Some of my friends hate this blog for they think it paints veterinarians in a bad light. They think. We shouldn’t mention all that bad stuff in public. We shouldn’t make jokes about it. Pretend it doesn’t happen. The world will think badly of our profession if we confess that this stuff gets to us. Well, if we truly didn’t care, if we truly were just in this for the buck, none of this tragedy would get to us. We’d just cash the checks and go down the path dancing and singing. I don’t know. Maybe my friends do precisely that.
I don’t. I find a way to laugh, instead.
We don’t spay tomcats. We spay those female cats, the queens. We neuter tomcats. So when you “spay” a tomcat, what you really do is surgically invade the abdomen looking for two ovaries and a uterus, and not finding such, you belatedly look under her tail, and her ovaries are right there. Just like in a tomcat.
This is a mistake. It is easily corrected, by simply changing the gender of the cat in the medical record, and then you remove her testicles from under his tail, and all is right with the world, until you have to explain to the client that Jill is really Jack, and I am an idiot for not checking first. So I laugh, and the other doctors tip a cup to me at the next meeting when I confess, and they laugh too, because they are real veterinarians, too.
We turn other un-pleasantries into humor too. We lance an abscess on a cat, and the foul smelling pus roils out, and somebody asks, “Where’s the crackers?”
We spend an hour picking maggots from the skin of the old collie, and somebody always mentions that when the maggots are busily eating the live dog, they sound like rice crispies. Because, how else to you cope with the horror?
The gross drunk calls the office from the tavern, over and over again, from two phones and using all three of our phone lines, shouting and swearing and insulting my female staff members for three hours, while his low-life friends laugh in the background. And then sober, he shows up the next morning to pick up his dog, and I get to talk with him. And I explain how to do the home care for his dog, and which pills to give when, and then when that’s all done, I quietly ask him if he has the balls to say to me, face to face, even some of the crap he threw at my staff the day before. He hems and haws, and shuffles back and forth, and then he says he is sorry. And I reply: “You’re not sorry…you are an asshole. You are a sub-human primate.” And I proceeded to fire him, to toss him from our practice for eternity. Goodbye. And now, I can laugh about it.
Every time I perform a euthanasia, deliver a humane death, provide the release from intolerable when that is the only thing left to do, and I stand there with the grieving folks left behind, and I tell them they did the right thing, that they did the only thing left to do, to provide a gift for a friend, I always tell a joke. Or six jokes. Because nobody goes home after parting with their friend, without laughing.
Because that is how we heal.
They care. So I owe them that.