Friday, March 8, 2013

Bourbon and Bandages

Today I ran out of Band-Aids. Actually, they were some off brand from the chain of drug stores. But I ran out of them, anyway. The last two days have not been a celebration of intact integument. Sorry. For those of you without medical training, integument means skin. Don’t mean to be huffy and disrespectful of those without a medical education. Far from it. You all know the joy of skin poked through with sharp objects, and torn asunder with similar implements. Of this is what I speak. So please pardon the big words. My skin has been rent full of holes, so I used up all the Band-Aids in the place. 

Yesterday, the penetrators were the usual six month old cat, immersed deeply in the brat stage of cat development, and a joy filled young pit bull who just wanted to love me to death.  The little kitty simply drove a few claws into my arm during a moment of indecision. And the joyous pit bull was merely overcome by the moment, because she thought I might pet her. The dog claws torn off a much larger piece of my skin, or integument, than the cat could manage. She didn’t mean to. But this put a dent in the Band-Aid box.

Today’s animals weren’t so well intentioned. When I first met the German Shepherd, she was only eleven weeks old, and she should have been delighted to meet some strange bearded man who approached her across the exam room table. But no, she wasn’t all that well adjusted, and she was pure freaky scared and dangerous at eleven weeks of age that I could not even pet her. I remember thinking that by the time she was a year old, I wouldn’t be able to enter the room with her.

And the little one, the Chihuahua mix…..well she nearly screamed when I tried to touch her when she was only eight weeks old. I remember wondering just what it takes to completely ruin a darling little puppy at this tender age. What horrors can you expose it to that will take an animal that wants nothing more than to love total strangers, and turn it into a cowering snarling vicious totally harmed puppy monster. So now that she is five months old and a huge nine pounds, she is actually a dangerous dog that should be killed for its own good, for the terror it lives every day is intolerable torture. But you cannot say a word, for we must respect the culture that destroyed her, because that’s the politically correct thing these days.

So tonight I sport five Band-Aids on my arms and fingers. I was wrong about the German Shepherd, for she did let me touch her, but when I touched her chest with my stethoscope, she launched into the air, wild eyed with terror and rage, and the left hand of mine on her collar held her tight. She raked my arms with her claws, and thus my blood tumbled to the floor as I auscultated her heart prior to admitting her for the anesthetic and surgery. The mop cleaned the floor, and the bandages stemmed the flow of blood, and we spayed her so thank the Lord she will never have puppies condemned by genetics and a mother’s teaching to a life of terror and violence. 

The Chihuahua cross showed up scheduled for a vaccine, but once here the man who translated the other language into English for my benefit told me that the puppy had been vomiting and now would not eat. So I thought some version of a physical examination was in order for this puppy. She now was five months old, and she trembled on the exam table. She squirmed when I touched her. Her tummy seemed OK, and so I thought a peek at her eyes and mouth in order. Well, that was not to be. My blood flowed again as the puppy’s claws tore into my wrist, and when I wrenched my arm free, I carelessly left my finger available for the sinking of those tiny teeth we call needle teeth. I might have mentioned to the owner that such behavior was a tad inappropriate in a puppy that should run unabated to any stranger for hugs and pets. But such was a waste of breath and effort. I did mention that I hoped the disease present was the self-limiting version, for if the puppy needed more care, it was going to die, for no one could help the nasty little, ah, creature.

So tonight I wear the five Band-Aids, and I wonder why.

Last week was one of those times you hate when you are the veterinarian. I spent the week telling wonderful owners of wonderful pets that we were dealing with incurable painful diseases, and the only thing of value I could offer was the quiet and humane ending of miserable life. We had too many such last week, and we thought we could not possibly cry any more.

So tonight, after stopping by the drug store for more Band-Aids and some more bourbon, I wondered aloud….. just what is worse, the killing of wonderful pets for wonderful people when that was all we had to offer, or the dealing with the dregs of humanity who have destroyed their animals with neglect and cruelty, whose animals leave me bleeding and hurt, and they could not care less. And I had no answer to my own question. 

So I opened and then destroyed the bourbon, and tried to type this. And I have no clue right now why I do this silly thing with my life.


  1. Somehow, I ended up being nominated/designated the "talk to people about their nasty puppy" and/or "they have a 6 week old chihuahua, help them keep it not-evil" technician at my work. It makes me so terribly frustrated.

    Just two days ago we finally got to neuter a 4lb bundle of vicious terrified 3 year old chihuahua. At the start of the morning the dog was lunging and growling/screaming at us if we so much as walked by the cage. After 30 minutes using a leash and the "you have no choice but to be near me" technique this dog was standing in my lap and sniffing at my face with no sign of fear or aggression.

    Sure, he still tried to bite when he was actually restrained, and first picked up, and whenever we did *anything* to him... but I could pet his nose in the cage, and hold him. In just half an hour.

    I spent some time talking with the owner, but it was obvious that she didn't want to work with the dog despite how horrible it must be to live constantly terrified like that. It was in one ear and out the other, even though the dog bites *her* at home too.

    I wanted to steal the poor thing. A few months in my house and I could probably undo much of his problem. He'd likely still need to be muzzled for treatments, but I could at least stop the active pre-emptive aggression. :/

  2. This week I euthanized one of the most wonderful, gentle horses, a member of the family. I also wrenched my back and am sporting a huge bruise on my thigh, shaped like half of a hoof, all from attempting to vaccinate a horse old enough to know better. This, after spending ten minutes petting the horse, talking to the owner, and even offering Killer a couple of baby carrots as a peace offering.

    At such times I think of James Herriot aka Alf Wight, lying on the ground after being kicked across the barn, looking up at the trainer, who was examining the horse's feet for damage.

  3. Because people like me who understand and want the best for their pets need you and appreciate you.

  4. Sorry for your angst:(
    I hope I'm one of the "good clients" but regardless, the stories I read here remind me to thank my vet for all he does. Your empathy does not go unnoticed and I speak from experience when I say "your" (as in VBB everywhere) care and compassion helps us more than you will ever know when we face the most grim of options. I send to you (all) my most sincere appreciation and gratitude :)

  5. Yeah there is NO trusting a GSD or similar breeds. The chihuahua thing is a local phenomenon, part breeding part cultural. When I work in a strongly urban area the chi's were uniformly awful whereas at my current job in a semi-rural/ ex-urb area we rarely have issues. For all the non-vets reading; it really helps if your dog is socialized and disciplined enough that I can perform a meaningful physical exam ( ie. your beastie sits still, reacts when I find an uncomfortable spot not just creaming maniacally because I touch him). I am going to get the dog treated regardless but many times it will be cheaper ( reduced numbers of x-rays and tests since the P:E narrows the search) and more effective (I'm not sticking my hand around your vicious Chows face to hand feed it) if your animal has some manners. Moreover not every veterinarian is as commited as me and some will refuse to treat. Seriously people there's nothing to do about cats but TRAIN your dogs. As for cats I have gotten faster and more adroit at the art of cat wrangling over the years and the last time a feline caused significant bleeding was a true feral about a year ago. And where I work really sick kitties frequently have an IV line or even PEG tube to aid administration of drugs. Then again another place where friendly animals save you money, if it will endanger my staff to pill your critter then injectable meds will be the order of the day.

  6. There is no getting away from the idiot owners and their psychotic pets. The best way to deal with the truly dangerous dogs and cats is to simply fire the owner as a client. Let them try to find veterinary care elsewhere. The dollars brought in by that one client would be far less than the potential medical bills when something goes wrong. And heaven help the hospital and the entire staff should it actually be the veterinarian that gets injured and can't work! And don't even mention potential lawsuits if it's the idiot owner that gets injured!

    Save your blood, sweat and tears for the pets belonging to owners that at least have some sort of clue. Yes, you are still going to come across the occasional fear-biting GSD, pocket-piranha and aggressive 12 week old Chow, but if the owner doesn't have a brain like a sieve, they can at least be taught how to put a muzzle on their pet and understand that their beloved Cujo will behave better for their vet visit when taken into the other room away from them for just a few minutes.

  7. Yeah it turns out firing clients isn't really a menu option at refferal clinics (not the one I work at at least). Occasionally there is a giant dog that can't be handled safely in-patient but more often we get on with it. We deal with a well run feral cat sanctuary (not how I would spend my personal fortune but to each their own) and with sedation, patience and some skillful staff we get it done with minimal loss of blood. Aside of the inevitable feline tantrum most of our patients are at least handleable so dealing with the odd truly malevolent canine is tolerable. And really most cats and microdogs can be covered with a towel and then safely restrained, just doesn't facilitate a good exam when it comes to that. And no Suzy I'm not cavalier about it because I leave the heavy lifting to the techs. When I hear stupidity ensuing I make it a point to lend a hand in restraint and most of the time I'm working with just one tech so there is no hiding from it.

  8. We just moved and our 10 year old chow had some issues immediately after the move - the new vet was amazed at how sweet and lovey she is.

    She's doing better now, on low-dose steroids and frequent monitoring for an auto-immune disorder. And the vet still loves her & her kisses. Or at least that what she says.

    Keep on doing it - some of us out here appreciate it!

  9. I've had a lot of talks with owners about fear in the veterinary office. I always offer free "friendly visits". Just schedule them and I'll come out and work on desensitization with you. It'll take 10 minutes of your time once a week and then decrease as they get better. I can't imagine how I could make it easier but so far only one person has taken me up on it.

    And puppy classes are so expensive! We'll just train her at home. Look, she already knows sit! Sit! Sit! Siiiiit.....