adventures of beck

Friday, June 30, 2006

A sad thing.

Up until this day, I had only seen one animal that had recently been put down (the very sick cat) and then only briefly seen a few other animals who were already passed on as they were brought into the back to be put in the freezer. I had not actually seen the entire process of an animal being put down yet, nor had I seen any animals who had been put down for any other reason than they were already seeing glimmers of the pearly gates. Today, though the small white dog that had been on IV fluids returned. He had been adopted out, but had bitten his new owners. This was the latest of several attempts to merge him into a home, and it had ended badly. He was here to be put down. His carrier sat in the exam area while other animals were taken care of, and he sat inside it, casting a baleful eye on the world that he had failed to ever become accustomed to. It was a strange thing to consider, that I knew the fate of this dog in front of me. I knew that before I left, he would no longer be living. It finally came time for him to be put to sleep, and he was extracted from his carrier with as much care as was given to any cherished client's dog, even though he snapped his teeth and growled menacingly, struggling mightily to avoid the last muzzle he would ever wear. The techs were entirely reverent and careful, though it would be easier to be more detached, more clinical, to even make a joke, they did not. It was touching. First, he got an intramuscular injection of pre-anesthetic, pain number stuff. He slithered down to sleep and was breathing slowly. Then they pulled out what I dubbed in my mind "the killer needle." They injected it directly into his heart, which he did not feel, and withdrew a bit of atrial blood into the syringe before injecting it. The needle was left in and bobbed with every heart beat, but the dog could of course no longer feel it. Throughout, I rested my hand on his head and stroked his ears, wanting desperately for his very last memory of earth to be a happy one. I did not cry, and I did not feel the need to, but a sad heaviness settled into my chest, and I grieved that the poor dog could not find happiness in this world. Watching a dog you do not know be put to sleep, with no one who loves him around was not the same as watching your own animal be put to sleep. His temperment was foul, to be sure, but I would be truly crushed to see the perfectly friendly dogs with no health problems get put to sleep, as they do every day, with no homes. The alternative of course is starving to death or getting hit by a car, and that is what you need to put the situation into perspective sometimes. Injecting the med into the heart made it work faster, but this would be horrifying to watch in your own animal, which is why vets do it through the front leg instead.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Pragmatic Fury

"Can you help me get my cat out from under my car seat," questioned the woman with splats of blood on her shirt. "He got hit by a car last night," she further explained as one of the techs got the snare rope and a thick pair of gloves, " and he's bleeding. I didn't think he'd make it through the night." She and the tech then disappeared around the corner to retrieve the cat, while I tried to understand why you would wait until morning to get medical assistance for what you believed to be your possibly mortally wounded cat. Perhaps she could not afford emergency room fees? Perhaps she did not know the cat had been hit until this morning? Perhaps she could not leave certain human family members to fend for themselves? Perhaps she did no have a car? No.

"I'm very pragmatic about these things," she chattered, as her blood-encrusted kitty was laid on the stainless steel examining table. Again, "I'm very surprised he made it through the night." The techs were eerily silent to her chatter, and I realized that it was for the same reason I was speechless. They were afraid that if they were to open their mouths in any response, they would end up dispensing a sizable piece of their minds upon this strange woman. The kitty had some "road rash" on his noggin, between his ear and his eye, and a gash about 3 inches long on his side. He was fairly compliant, and a tech explained that he probably had a big concussion. Doc gave the cat a merciful pain-killing injection, and the techs set about cleaning and debriding his wound. 'Debride' means to remove dead tissue from a wound. Chattery woman piped up when she saw the gash, "oh, that must be why he bitched so much when I picked him up." My toes curled in my shoes at this last remark, and my fingernails dug into my palms. Bitched? Bitched? How about 'cried out in pain,' or 'whimpered?' Honestly. The woman skittered away when needles appeared, giving me a chance to test the water.

Before I could work out my perfect phrase, a tech beat me to it. "Gosh, wonder how many lives you've got left, kitty?"

Doc answered, "well, he used up two-one for the original collision, and one for lasting through the night on his own."

So it was true. The woman had put the cat in extra danger by not getting him medical attention right away. I could have come to this conclusion on my own, of course, but to have a veterinarian say such somehow made the point much more forcefully.

The woman later went on to chatter about how she swore she had 'counted noses' last night, and how her other cat had also been once involved in a car collision. She cited this other cat's name and reflected on how it was 'never the same,' and 'walked funny.'

I longed to pose several questions to this ridiculous woman who thought she was so 'pragmatic.' I wanted to ask her how pragmatic she would be had she herself been struck by a car. I wanted to ask her what made her think that if one cat could so easily be struck by a car, why another could not? I wanted to ask what exactly she meant when she told her cat, in front of us, that she loved it. What kind of love is that, to not even care about another's safety and well-being enough to seek medical care at the time of trauma? There's a reason that Medics in the Army have red crosses on their helmets, and a reason the hippocratic oath tells doctors to "first, do no harm." It is for this same reason that sworn enemies have dropped eachother off at emergency rooms, and it is the reason emergency rooms exist at all. To leave your cat suffering through the night from unknown injuries is a condition even a hunter wouldn't wish on his prey. To call that love is blasphemy.

To round out the day, another woman and her husband brought in two rabbits, for "grooming." This grooming was needed because the rabbits were Angora rabbits (long hair,) and their excrement had become matted into their fur, creating a 2 lb ball of feces, urine, and fur that was causing the rabbits extreme agony. They had to be anesthetized, all of their fur removed, either through shaving or plucking. Their bodies were scalded by their own urine, the skin red and angry and swollen. The tissue pulled away in some areas beause it was so necrosed. These people, too, acted concerned and worried about their pets. They made me very angry and I wanted to throw the ball of feces and fur at them as they sat in the waiting room, wanted to shake them, to ask them that every day when they took a shower while their rabbit sat locked in a cage, why they would not clean it, give it a bath, not let it sit in its own filth, getting burned by its own urine. One rabbit's tail nearly tore away as we tried to pull away the fur, because his tail was so necrotic. It was very sad. But the people were not sad to realize their rabbits had been in agony, they were only worried if their rabbit would be ok, would survive. The guilt, the shame should have been crushing, to realize an animal had been in such pain, all because of your own neglect. But like someone very wise once said to me: you have to do the things you have to do in order to the most good for the most animals. Throwing balls of feces would have me removed very quickly, and that would not have allowed me to do the best job I could applying ointment to the rabbit's body, so that when he woke up he would most definitly feel better than he had before.

A side note: I also learned today from the cat's gash that animals have superfluous, loose skin so that when they are gashed or cut, the gash is less likely to reach their muscle tissue. Humans do not have this advantage. Animals are far more likely to survive a bigger gash without treatment than humans, because a gash of just the skin will bleed less, the skin can cover the wound better, and won't hamper their movement like a gash to the muscle would.

Friday, June 16, 2006


At 10:00am today, Gaurav brought Kayak in to be neutered. I had gone back and forth since I started at this veterinary thing as to whether or not I would watch my own dog's surgery. Pure interest in the surgery was completely out of the equation. The debate in my mind raged between being unable to handle the sight of my baby boy being sliced into with a scalpal and not being there if something were to happen. I previously delayed his surgery by a week because his tumor was but a little innocuous furry lump, and I was extremely concerned that his heartworm-ravaged heart would be unable to handle the stress of anesthetic. Five or so days after his originally scheduled surgery, however, his tumor decided to put on a show. It promptly grew a bit, lost it's fur, and eventually, broke open. Though I had a grand time bandaging my dog with gauze and tape, and generally babying him to excess, it was time to face the music. He needed that thing off his leg, and while we were at it, he could use a reduction in testosterone.

During the night before his surgery, I woke up a few times, my stomach in a knot. At 5 am, I woke up so fidgety and anxious that I thought I might throw up. When I tried to eat some breakfast, I could barely force it down. I gave up and took Kayak for a short walk. I didn't want to take him for a long one because then he would be thirsty, and I had been instructed to remove his food and water. After our brief frolic outside, Kayak looked for water, and finding none, crawled back into bed with Gaurav.

Once at the clinic, I could think of nothing but my dog. I was brieflyl able to focus on a few other patients, but my mind was clearly somewhere else. A few of my tech-friends took notice, and I told them my dog was coming in. Finally able to connect my anxious demeanor with an event, they assured me that he would be fine. This in fact did make me feel better.

He and Gaurav arrived and Kayak was weighed and injected with the pre-anesthetic. In a situation reminiscent of the chocolate lab that I over-empathized with, I felt slightly dizzy as Kayak became more disoriented. When he finally relaxed completely, closing his eyes, and they flipped him over to shave him, I was struck with a twinge of instantaneous horror. For the slightest nanosecond I was frozen between wanting to hug him and wanting to hid my face. Then, catching on that I was the only person (besides perhaps Gaurav) who was having a tiny freakout in my head, I relaxed. In retrospect, though I had relaxed, I was not thinking objectively yet. My process thinking had gone completely out the window, and I had no idea what to do next with an anesthetized dog, even though I had seen many before. What I was supposed to do was to roll him over on his back so we could shave his fur. I instead nearly took him directly to the operating table. But I realized I was totally clueless before I did that. Then I just stepped back and let the techs take over. I redirected my attention to obsessing about his breathing, perfusion, and heart rate. The removal of his testicles was interesting. Since he had had them for quite a while, they were pretty well entrenched, and didn't WANT to be removed. Gaurav looked slightly horrified during the process. After Doc stitched his castration incision, a tech scrubbed his leg. The tumor removal was VERY cool. I've seen the inside of my dog's leg. How many people can say that? Well, I suppose just about anybody with a weimeraimer has seen their dog's insides at some point. Or at least their remote has. But I digress. After Doc cut out the tumor, he showed me how close a REALLY big artery was to the tumor. He said that the could feel it pulsate. That was also pretty neat. The techs were really great through the whole thing, they kept telling me that he was fine. After his leg was stitched up, he started to come out of it a bit, whining and moaning. It was the worst noise ever to hear. Since he had yet to go get his teeth cleaned, they gave him a little more anesthetic to keep him under. His teeth weren't that dirty, and while the tech was cleaning them, I clipped his nails. Because I was feeling so bad about his moaning and shivering, I completely forgot that he even HAD dewclaws, until the tech pointed out that I had forgotten them. My anxiety level at this point was reaching a fever pitch, because Kayak was shivering and twitching and moaning and whimpering and it was horrible to see him like that. I just wanted him HOME. NOW. But I had Doc microchip him while he was under, and then they put the bandage on his leg. Then we finally got to load him in the truck. They loaned us a blanket to wrap him in. Halfway home I dashed back to ask for pain meds, I had totally forgot, and there was no way I wanted him to be un-pain-medicated. Once home, I carried him in to the center of the living room floor, and layed down next to him. I then proceeded to spend about 5 hours dozing on the floor with him, comforting him as he woke up and whimpered and looked around, confused. I adjusted his blanket and took it off him when he started to get hot and cry. We had gotten home around 1, and around 4:30 or 5, he tried some unsteady steps, but soon fell asleep again. Around 6, he had managed a few short distances, and was attempting to be velcro dog, following me everywhere. I finally got some food down into my own turmoiled stomach at this time, and we settled in to watch some T.V. By night-time, he jumped up on the bed with us to sleep, and the next morning, he was back to his normal personality, though a bit tired and sore. He's doing great now, but he got really tired chasing a rabbit the other day. He even had to sit down afterwards to rest and catch his breath. I'm thinking he'll be all set in a couple weeks.

Monday, June 05, 2006

"We don't put that in the job description."

Today was very out of the ordinary. Both vets were working and many many patients came in. We were booked solid when the day started, and many more people showed up with everything from emergencies to accidental appointments to the wrong vet office. A surprisingly large number of big dogs were getting their anal glands expressed (one of which was a lovable "Newfie" or Newfoundland Dog- read the breed profile here if you like: In between all this expressing of anal glands came a Wheaton Terrier who needed chest xrays. We fired up the xray processor for him and took a couple graphs of his chest. We were comparing them to old xrays to look for signs of pneumonia. I don't think that Doc found anything significant. Wheaton terriers look like they are fat, but it's actually just a lot of fur. Very poofy. Speaking of poofy, I had a chance to check on the older Golden Retriever, Puffy. He had recovered from his castration just fine, and barked his fool head off to prove it when I went back to say hi. Coda was already gone when I went to look for him. I hope he finds a good home.

We had several dogs today that were just an absolute pain in the butt for nail clippings. The first was a Rhodesion Ridgeback cross who was quite obese. Dogs are very strong when they are afraid, and I was glad to have a muzzle on her. Her and quite a few after her required 4-5 people to restrain the animal in order to clip nails. When several people are holding an animal, we are in very close quarters to eachother (the techs, I mean) and so people end up leaning into eachother, an elbow on a back, a head under an arm, and it's a big people pile. I imagine if techs really didn't want to touch eachother, it would be hard to hold an animal, but luckily, we pretty much cuddle right into eachother, and the person in back, holding the dog's butt sometimes rests their head right on the dog's back. I think it kind of all locks together to make a stronger hold than a bunch of techs who don't want to run into eachother.

It was while we were in the middle of trying to squeeze in two quick exams on a Jack Russel Terrier and a Shepherd Mix that our biggest emergency yet (that I've seen) came flying through the door on Doc's heels. A man was carrying a Miniature Pinscher, and had blood all over his hands and down the front of his jeans. See a "MinPin" here:

The MinPin had been doing his job, being the family watchdog, challenging a couple stray dogs in the yard. The only problem was, the dogs weren't being threatening, they had actually been invited into the yard by the MinPin's owners. The people were attempting to help the strays find their way back home, and had put them in their fenced yard in order to keep them around so they could find their owners. So, the MinPin escaped into a yard containing two stray labradors, and one of them grabbed her and shook her. He shook her hard enough that on the xray, even I could tell that one of her vertebrae wasn't where it was supposed to be. The blood on the man's pants turned out to be part his, and part the MinPin's. The MinPin's blood of course, came from her bite wounds from the lab, and the man's blood came from the bites he received from the injured MinPin when he attempted to move her. Both the husband and wife owners of the MinPin were of course, very very concerned and upset. They talked to the dog, trying to comfort it as we tried to take as hasty xrays as we could manage. Doc ended up referring them to a surgical clinic, which he called ahead to in order to get them in right away. I heard him say that it would be a very close call, or hopeless. I very much hope that those two good samaritans get good news from the surgeon at the center. I have read that small dogs can only stand to lose a few tablespoons of blood before they are in danger, while a large dog can lose up to a pint. I imagine blood loss will be a big concern for this doggie.

Next up to bat was a BIG eared shep/mix who was pretty scared. Dr. R. took blood from her front leg instead of her neck because he said that she was a nervous dog who wanted to be able to see what was going on, and that tipping her head back might freak her out more than getting her blood from her leg. He was totally right, she didn't even notice the needle in her leg, but she sure noticed every noise and movement in the room! An interesting thing about frightful dogs is that when I am holding them for a procedure, and then I relax my grip some when the doctor is done with the procedure, the dog begins to struggle a lot- like as if my relaxing of my grip must mean that it is all over, and now they can escape. It is interesting because they don't struggle at the height of the procedure, when 4 people are holding them, tightly, but they struggle when everyone backs off.

Of course, some dogs DO struggle when 5 people are holding them. And some dogs require the tight grip of 5 people, even though they weigh only 40 lbs. And one dog particular, when she is scared, and laying on her side, and 5 people are holding her, and one is clipping her nails, and I am holding her back legs, standing behind her, well this dog decides it might be a good time to empty her anal glands. All by her self. All over me. On my neck, on my scrubs, on my t-shirt, on both my arms, and all over my watch. And just in case you haven't had the pleasure of smelling anal gland juice, let me describe it for you: the worst poop you've ever smelled, magnified by 10. On me. But to thanks my lucky stars, and to look on the bright side, I'd like to point out that it didn't get in my mouth...though it got very close. I smiled and said "well, it's all in the job description." But Doc shook his head and said, "no, we don't put THAT in the job description."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Puffy and Coda

Today I got to hold a very squirmy 6 year old golden who needed to get neutered. He got his anesthetic shot and took forever to get sleepy. Even when he did, he just got sort of drunk. He was still pretty darn awake when doc put a syringe in his vein to make him sleepier. Today for surgeries doc didn't start catheters, he just left needle syringes in the veins. I wonder why. He was a super cute dog named Puffy. He was seriously wound up.

Then I had to go get this barky boy black puppy-dog (who was a BIG puppy.) His name was Coda, and he was a rescue dog too. He was also super squirmy, but he eventually fell asleep on just the pre-anesthetic, although barely.

There was a really big strong Staffie who came in because he had to get the tip of his tail re-bandaged. He was so muscular. A nice dog, but didn't really appreciate vet visits.

But the next patient a German Shepard, so disliked vet visits, that his owner had to hold him. This is a good idea for dogs like him. I doubt small dogs would be at all soothed by their owner's presence, but a lot of the big dogs are.

Sox-the-extra-cute-cat cuddled with me for a bit. Sometimes I want to take him home- he needs a home. But our home is pretty full right now...

The Tumor

Ok, coolest surgery ever today. This big black lab came in a with gigantic tumor on it's front, right leg. The owner said it had grow FAST in a week, which I have since heard could indicate it was a mast cell tumor, and a malignant one at that because this was the second time the tumor had grown back. The dog started licking it before the anesthetic took effect but after we had taken off the bandage. This caused it to bleed a great deal, and we had to compress the wound. During surgery the dog had to have a tourniquet on to reduce the amount of blood lost, but there was still a TON of it. There was even some spurters! Doc had to sew a lot of them off. The tumor was about the size of two ping pong balls when Doc finally got it off. And, since it was so big, there wasn't enough skin to cover it. Doc had to sew some big stitches across the wound, to hope the the skin would grow back across slowly. One of the techs bandaged the wound after I cleaned up all the blood. We also showed the wound to the owner after we cleaned up blood but before we bandaged it so she would know what it looked like. I thought we could have prepared for that a little better. Sometimes veterinarians can be very very clinical.

I brought bagels.

Today I was told by a tech that I was a "volunteer who actually did work" as opposed to other volunteers who only worked in the treatment room (the coveted spot) and didn't do "float" (lots of cleaning.) I try to do a mix: cleaning up shit in the morning, watching entire surgeries a little later. Treatment room is cool too, but I am really addicted to surgeries. Treatment room is a lot of nail clipping and and giving shots and drawing blood. I haven't drawn blood yet, but I really want to try it.

In "ISO" (Isolation Room) there was a fuzzy black puppy who got spayed. She was whining and barking and howling and screaming, because she was lonely. I went in and held her for a little while and she fell asleep. I tried to sneak out but she woke up a few minutes later and was at it again.

We vaccinated the vet's dogs today, really big dogs. One of them REALLY didn't want to be on the table. He kind of scared me, so I was happy to turn his leash over to someone else who gets paid to risk their face.

Speaking of risking my face, I had to get a dog out of the back and bring him up for the rescue people to pick him up. He was a jerk, and to prove it, he lifted his leg in the treatment room as I was trying to walk him. You could tell he had some problems.

I talk about the jerk dogs, but there are a great many sweetie pies as well. There were two for the rescue leagues that I got to bring up. One was a shepherd mix, and the other was a little dog. They had both been momma dogs.

I was talking with a tech about the satisfaction of being a "nurse-type" figure around animals vs. being a doctor. It is very nice to be a helping, warm, comforting figure to the animals. For instance, today I "rocked" a kitty cat while Doc was finishing up the charts before the kitty went back to see his owners. He didn't like being on the table, so I picked him up like I would my own kitty-cat, and rocked back and forth on my feet. It calmed him down a great deal, and he didn't jump at all the noises anymore. At the same time though, I want to do surgery, and most of all I want to KNOW what is going on with the animals. I want to understand the parasites, and the tumors, and the blood flow, and most especially the heart and kidneys. I also loved the bone surgery. I love being a kind figure, but I want to DO more.

Going on a Testicle Hunt

Today was a very busy day. Early in the day, a "Weagle" came in to be neutered. He was a Weagle because he was a cross between a Welsh Terrier and a Beagle. The problem with neutering him was that only one testicle had descended. Once Doc removed that one the regular way, and closed that incision, we had to go looking for the other one through a new incision in the Weagle's abdomen. Doc fished around and found a vas deferens, were no vas deferens should be, and lo and behold, a small immature testicle was attached. The Weagle was put in a cage to recover, looking like he had been castrated and spayed all at once. Poor Weagle.

Then a bucking bronco came in to have his nails trimmed. He was actually a Great Dane, but one of the techs had to sit on him on the floor like a bucking bronco in order to allow Dr. R to trim his nails. We tried it first with the enormous dog standing, but he had to much leverage, and escaped his size XXXXL muzzle. He was absolutely terrified of having his nails clipped, and had the muscle to make this sentiment known. Let it be known that one of the greatest tricks you can ever teach a dog is to allow a vet to handle him- nail trims, checking teeth, cleaning ears, touching all over, and getting poked with needles. Of course you can never train a dog to appreciate an injury being handled, no dog likes that, but to train a dog to allow normal examinations and handling and grooming is more awe-inspiring than the greatest agility runner. After all, dogs LIKE to run. They HATE their feet being handled. In the case of a dog as big as this monster, it would have been prudent to train him when he was a smaller furball than he is now.

An Austrailian Cattle Dog came in for a checkup, and he was not only friendly, he had the softest fur ever! He was a very cool dog. Check out the breed profile at

I took one dog out of his cage so we could clean the poop off his butt. He crawled into the clean towel box and curled up because he didn't like being out and about. It was so cute. We cleaned off his butt and he was all set.

We also neutered the world's cutest chocolate lab puppy. I took him for a walk in the morning, and he was jumping all over me. FYI- it is impossible to walk two bouncy puppies at once. It will only result in entanglement.

We got to do some x-rays as well, on a Shetland Sheepdog with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament.) The Doc showed me where the dog's bone had built up around the joint in an attempt to stabilize the knee, but it was resulting in limited mobility for the dog.

The most different thing of the day was a cat with a blocked urethra, who couldn't pee. Feline Urinary Tract Disease causes crystals to build up in the bladder, which result in painful blockages. To treat it, we anesthetized the cat with the just one sedative shot and the Doc squeezed it's urethra like a zit. He let me feel the crystal paste. Then he squeezed a bunch more out- like a HUGE zit, and then pee started to flow out. It was a relief to look at, and there was a LOT of pee. This is what my first cat, 'Frankie' had. The vet said that it can become a chronic condition that it can be difficult to improve the animal's quality of life. When the cat was coming out of his sedation, he was meowing and trying to escape his cage, and acting really drunk. It was odd.