Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Raining Feces and Stuff

Right now…I’m tired.

My week, like it often does, started on Monday. I unlocked the door and entered the clinic shortly after 7 yesterday morning. I always have things to do before we open, before the chaos of clients checking in my surgical patients when they’d rather already be on the freeway fighting gridlock, before the phone joins in with the latest disasters that will ruin my carefully crafted appointment schedule, before I have to make that call to deliver bad news to someone who already has enough grief on her plate.

Before we opened for the day, I checked the fax machine for lab reports and pulled the medical records that matched. I fired up one of the computers to print out the last day’s numbers, to see if I could pay some bills yet, and so I could get the bank deposit ready. I went on line and researched a case before the client would arrive with her very challenging puppy. And then I looked up to see a man I didn’t know standing in my hallway, still a half hour before we opened for business, and I suddenly felt very vulnerable and very un-armed, and I started measuring the distance to the closest handgun.

Tuned out this guy didn’t intend to murder me, or even rob the place. He had one hundred pounds of very dead dog in the truck and he simply wanted me to send it off for cremation. Yeah, we could do that for a grieving young man. This stout fellow carried in the very stiff, very smelly, very dripping of bloody diarrhea dog and left it on the table in the treatment room, and I spent the rest of my getting ready for the day time cleaning and airing out the place.

I wasn’t quite ready to face the day, but it would start with or without my permission, so High Ho, High Ho…. The morning actually passed fairly smoothly, but it did run over well into the lunch hour. I ran to the bank and then stuffed a sandwich through my face just in time for the 1:30 appointment, and I ground through four more hours of clients and my usual assortment of major medical miracles. I locked the door just before 6. Eleven hours. A usual day on the way to the usual 60 hour week.

This would have been a typical, albeit wearying day in the office, and a glass of adult beverage and some of my left over meatloaf would have felt just fine. But I had a meeting to attend. By 6:30 I was in the conference room, and the association’s business and the lecture on feline behavior problems kept me there until 9:30. I was home by ten, still buzzing a mite, and in bed by 10:30.

The radio alarm this morning was not met by a broad smile, but shower and coffee jousted with the cobwebs and again my key fit the clinic door at 7 this morning. This time I had my alone time to get things done, and I even had time to read one of the blogs before we opened. Which kinda ruined my day. But the first client arrived at 8 and I was busy through the morning.

I passed the first half hour of lunch time clipping fetid wet hair matts from the rear half of an ancient cat, and picking off the swarming maggots. Take my word for it…this puts a dent in any lunch plans you might have considered. Mere rubber gloves and copious application of soap and disinfectant won’t influence the subtle impact this has on Chinese takeout. But it was the unsettling memories of reading that early morning blog that was actually bringing me down.

This was another blog put up by a group of veterinarians, and I hadn’t really followed it before. The particular post was penned by a veterinarian with problems I cannot identify with, but I would have let her pass without comment. But the internet is a bit of the Wild West, and any angry, ignorant, sociopathic, retributive, idiot in the world can post next to the legitimate comments of rational folks. And they stood in line to dump on my beloved profession this time. Somebody backed up the sewage truck, raised the bed, and pulled the lever on me and every other dedicated, sacrificing doctor of veterinary medicine I’ve ever known. And it didn’t feel real good.

After four decades of this, I’ve met a bunch of veterinarians. Like most arbitrary groups of humans, we ain’t perfect. I’ve seen some things I’m not proud of. Heck, I’m way far from perfect myself, and that’s part of this very process you are reading. But when I’m in a room with a bunch of veterinarians, I have never once doubted that I’m in the company of a very select, excellent cross section of my species. And it gets my hackles up when the Net fills with criticism of my colleagues penned by such obviously flawed and deficient people.

There was a time when I would have told you that I would never be in this position. I never figured there was a life after thirty, once. And to ask me in my youth how I would feel when looking back on a world 60 years older than the date I dropped in…well does inconceivable work for you? But I’ve played this game for four decades now, and as retirement and the notion that everything I’ve worked for and worked at and identified with will soon be old news, I do spend some time wondering if any or all of it was worth the effort. Is it the time to accept the truck load of sewage with a shrug and an I’m sorry?

According to some folks on the internet, I’m a lying conniving piece of shit dirty bastard thief. And they haven’t even met me. Surely, my sterling reputation hasn’t caught up with them. Maybe, just maybe, if they actually met me, saw me at work, talked with the people I’ve helped, petted the pets I’ve tried to help, they might reconsider.

Or maybe they are just assholes.

I’m tired. Ask me tomorrow when hopefully I’m feeling more sprightly.


  1. I enjoy your blog - I think that is the right word. It'll do. :-)

    Being of your age-group I also struggle with the idea that it's OK to be vile to other people just because you aren't face to face with them but they think they are hiding behind the tinterwebs. But as recent events focussed on a young soccer player in the UK showed - some people seem to have NO concept of self control or decency. There seems to be some sympathy for the male concerned who has almost certainly lost his chosen career option - but in my opinion if you can't control yourself as an intelligent (as he was about to sit degree exams that has to be assumed) 21 year old (so one hopes, an adult)it is maybe better you are NOT set loose in position of responsibility.

    Maybe we're just old. I hope not.

  2. They are just assholes. Thank you for all of your work.

  3. The only thing I ask of my vet is that he give my dog the very best veterinary care he can. I believe he does that, and he has my everlasting gratitude and admiration. Take it from someone in THE least appreciated job on the planet: sometimes that's all you can do. The dirtbags, slackers and assholes will always find a reason to fault you.

  4. I'm only 25 and I am horrified by some of the things people post on the internet, like Eileen said, hiding behind their computer screens. What's even more horrifying is when I know that the person is my age or older and acts so immature AND has children, because those children will grow up thinking that's a normal way to conduct oneself. And then I think to myself, if I feel like a grumpy old grandma at 25, what's it going to be like for me in 40+ yrs??

  5. As a teenager, I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to be an adult and live amongst adults. In my naivete, I assumed that the sheer meanness I encountered on a regular basis was something inflicted only by pre-teens and teens on other kids. Surely, once you got to be an adult, you shaped up and started to at least try to be a considerate human being? Nearly twenty years later, every day I see that I was wrong...some people are just nasty and spiteful no matter what. The internet has made it worse in many ways.

    Part of the reason it upsets us so much when people crap on us as a profession is that we try so hard to do what's right, to help and to heal and to make people happy even when it hurts the clinic's finances and our sleep cycles. If we truly were "lying conniving piece of shit dirty bastard" thieves, we wouldn't care what anyone said or thought about us, much less mean people on the internet. We'd be in at 9 and out at 5 and oh I'm sorry about your 5:05 pm emergency in respiratory distress, but I leave at precisely 5 so why don't you try the local ER?

    But that's *not* us. I prefer to think of that sort of behavior as the sort reserved for...I don't know...wretched excuses for human beings who trash people they don't know on the internet?

  6. 1. I have never had a bad vet. My family has always had pets and always had good vets. My current vet loves my cats. He is so sweet and so good with our cats. He has a dog and a cat and a dove who live at his office. It's clear he loves animals. I wish they liked him as much as he likes them, but they don't appreciate the car ride or the shots and Shirley doesn't like the mask.

    2. People can be real jerks online. I write for my local paper as a community columnist. I no longer read the comments on my pieces because people are so vicious. I have been shocked at how hurtful a mean comment from a stranger can be - it feels like someone has punched me in the stomach. So now I don't even look at what others have to say. Don't let the jerks get you down. I can tell you are a good, caring person who tries to do the right thing.

  7. After reading all this, some people wonder why I'm Grumpy ER vet. hah. Then there's Dr Grumpy MD too.

  8. Assholes on the internet come in all ages. Much like assholes in real life, in fact. Most of the biggest trolls, stalkers, bullies etc I've come across have been people old enough to have adult kids.

    Sometimes I wonder whether it's correlated with inexperience on the internet, because assholes of all ages seem to be less likely to be able to do basic stuff like paragraphing, or less aware of social norms (or the idea that what you do on the internet in different areas can be connected by people).

    Maybe they're ignoring those rules rather than unaware of them? Or maybe they're just idiots.

    So they're just assholes. It's nothing to do with you, and if it wasn't you it'd be the girl at the check-in desk, or the guy serving them at the restaurant, or the friend their kid brings home. Life for them is all a defensive mess, and a line of excuses. Not your problem, it's theirs.

  9. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I read what you read. I wasn't impressed with the original post, but some of the commenters were scary and clearly in need of help I'm not qualified to offer. I hope none of them ever walk into my exam room.