Thursday, February 23, 2012

Taking a Break

Tomorrow is a half day for me, and then I have the entire weekend off. Off meaning not working, and not answering the phone, and trying really hard not to have even one thought relating to my hospital slip inside my head, for two entire days. So of course, I have a bandage that runs nearly from wrist to elbow. This one supplants the one I took off this morning from the other arm, which replaced the one on this arm that I needed last week. 

I work with dogs and cats, and each comes fully equipped with teeth and toenails, weapons designed to help them capture and kill prey, and also to defend their very lives from others of their species, and those bigger ones who would kill and eat them. They are born willing and able to use these weapons. Yet I can go weeks without so much as a nick on my precious skin. That’s the norm for me, and I’m proud of it. Decades of this work, dedication to making my patients comfortable in an uncomfortable situation, and lessons learned from all those mistakes have taught me how to stay healthy in this work. So yeah, I can expect to go weeks without getting injured. Until I take some time off. That is my Achilles heel. 

The bite and scratch gods lay in wait for me to plan a day off. Their eyes light up at the prospect. And they turn loose upon me the nasty dogs, the evil cats, and those resoundingly clueless people that were somehow placed on this earth with no higher calling than to let their animals maul me.

It is no one’s fault that I chose a circumstance that mandates long hours and dedication to folks and their pets. I picked this deal at a tender age, and I rarely regret the decision. But after a few months of 60 hour weeks, I crave some time away. I recharge in really nice places, mountains and deserts and seashores, places of beauty, solitude, and quiet and fresh air. I look forward to these moments of respite, away from the pathos and tragedy that is the inevitable dark side to the work I love. And when these places have done their work on me, I return to my calling renewed, happy, and frankly a lot more effective. 

But something happens as I approach these moments away from my work. I change somehow. And the bite and scratch gods sense this, and they make me pay. Maybe after working myself ragged, my reflexes just aren’t up to the challenge. Or maybe that negative side of me, that I’m-not-perfect-and-thus-deserve-punishment side just folds and lets the harm happen. I don’t know… maybe I’m just tired.

This time it was the 7 month old puppy that never read the directions, the directions that state that puppies should love everybody and kiss the world. And this tyke lives with people who expect it to snarl, bark, and maul pretty much everyone it comes into contact with, so they yelled at me when their dog tore me apart.

This time it was the man with a career in education, the man with the geranium IQ, and the life skills of a four year old, who brought in the 108 pound dog wearing the harness. Every veterinarian knows that the dog wearing a harness will bite you, for the harness is the owner’s concession that the dog need never mind. The bite missed, but the claws have left their scars forever on my arm.

And this time it was the cat that reminds us that cats are only semi-domesticated animals, and he lived up to that potential.

So I’m going to leave tomorrow wearing a bandage again. But the coast beckons, and I will nap and read and write and relax, and the only thing that might go wrong is the other same thing that happens whenever I take a day off. It will probably rain.


  1. My patients were all pretty evil this past week too. I was LUCKY to not have similar bandages...Maybe I stole your luck - SORRY!!

  2. Hoping your time away is restful and enjoyable.

  3. It never ceases to amaze me that people actually believe all that B***S*** about having "better control" over their dog with a harness! What do you do with a with a half ton horse when you want to conrol it? You put a halter on it! What do you do when you want the half ton horse to pull? You put a harness on it! I sure hope the geneticists can find the "common sense" gene before it goes completely extinct, so we can bank it for later like heirloom vegetable seeds.

  4. There's a common sense gene??? How did half the population seem to escape having it included in their DNA?

  5. Harnesses & those retractable leashes should be illegal. Especially those harnesses that aren't normal harnesses but buckle & fit in strange, obnoxious ways... grrr.

    1. Ha! I hate those retractable leashes. It's like walking your dog with a spool of dental floss. Just the other day I was driving through my neighborhood, stopped at a stop sign, and watched a dog cross the street in front of me...followed about twenty feet and five minutes later by the owner on the other end of the dental floss. Zero actual control over the dog. If I weren't such an accomplished, awesome, and considerate driver, what with stopping at signs and looking for dogs and such, that dog could have been flat.

  6. I have some pretty serious scaring on my right arm and my left middle finger after jumping in front of an 80lbs, intact shep/pit mix that broke away from its owner and knocked my boss (a 70 year old veterinarian) to the floor, seconds from mauling his face. I've had 4 surgeries to repair the damage and am extremely lucky to still have 10 fingers and 2 arms. I get asked constantly at work (I'm now a receptionist, because I'm still uneasy around aggressive dogs, making tech work hard for me) by clients, "How can you still work around dogs?" My response is always the same: "I love this field and like any job, there are risks. When you work with animals, bites are bound to happen. I'm thankful that I didn't have to attend my boss's funeral."

  7. Please don´t fault the harness when the problem is the human who is holding onto said harness.

    A harness is not a sign for the dog to be agressive or untrained...or sleed dogs wouldn´t happen.

    Sleed dogs are trained proper and run in a harness and will stop on command...that humans just can´t train their dogs is not the fault of the tool they choose to use wrongly

    And maybe that is different in the country you are in, but where I live no veterinary thinks "Oh that dogs wears a harness so it has to bite and be evil and untrained"

    This is the same nonsense as seeing a bully type dog and thinking because it looks a certain way it has to be a killer and brute.

    Not the dog or the harness is at fault, the lacking training and owner is the problem.

    So what about all blacks are drug dealers and asian people can not speak the r properly?

    Those are all prejudices.

    Unfortunately yes,there are thugs who train bullies to bite and let them wear a harness. But you can not come to the conclusion that all bullies are bad and dogs who wear a harness are evil and untrained.

    I use harnesses for all my dogs, and minipigs.
    They might pull sometimes, just like they might pull on a collar.
    But with training both will follow with spoken commands and sometimes a slight tugging.

    I use a harness because I can hold dogs and minipigs more secure with them. Some of them are real houdinis, slithering out of collars...

    And with rescue work dogs you have to use a harness because the dog might get into a sticky situation..on a harness you can pull the dog out of it, may it be the dog having fallen in a hole or in a river or tumbled down somewhere.

    Those broken down buildings after an earth quake are a very sticky situation and when you send the dog out and the floor breaks away under them, you can still hold onto them.

    Try it with a collar and you may choke or kill the dog.

    Or when you send them out on a frozen lake because the cracking ice doesn´t hold you and there are children out there who don´t dare to move..they hold on to the ropes the dogs brings with him and you can safely pull them back.

    A harness is safe for my pets because it will not injure them, or only lightly when you need to pull them or they drop abruptly.

    But I can agree with the retractable leashes.

    They are not safe, they break easily and can not be seen very good when it gets dark.

    And if the leash breaks you can not hold onto the string, it burns your fingers or even breaks them...even may rip them off

    I use belt straps as leash, at least 25mm broad for good grip and with a breaking safety at least 3, better 4 times the dogs weight.

    And yes, I also use 10 metre leashes, belt straps, 25mm broad and in orange or red, for the night with reflecting stripes or when we work.

    I hold them short when we are near a road and on the field I let them use up the whole 10, 15 or 20 metres.

    My dogs also never bit anyone, but they were clawed and bitten at and tails and ears were pulled, paws were stomped and rips were kicked...

    Maybe some people should wear a full body would also solve the problems with the dogs