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Friday, December 19, 2008

A Matter of Perception

When my wife and I were dating, she would sometimes come on emergency calls with me. I was working for a practice where we handled our own emergencies, sometimes having to go out in the middle of the night. Luckily, this wasn't too often, as I never liked cutting into my private life to traipse off in the wee hours. There were several times that my wife (well, not my wife at the time) would accompany me.

Though my wife loves animals, she never had to worry about the illnesses and injuries they sometimes get. She also doesn't have a strong stomach, and can't easily handle "gross" things. This little quirk made it interesting on some of these emergency calls. Keep in mind that after-hours calls were never something simple or routine. They were usually poisonings, injuries, or sudden and serious illnesses.

One of these calls was because a basset hound suffered a bad laceration. The wound was long, deep, and bloody. It needed to be cleaned and sutured, which would require sedating the dog. The owner agreed to the treatment, and I started getting things ready and gave the dog its sedative. Once the dog was unconscious, I started to clean the wound and explore it more. It was a pretty ugly laceration, but one that would respond well and heal with proper treatment.

The owner had a little girl with her that was about six years old. My wife-to-be had taken one look at the bloody dog and quickly turned away. She decided to occupy the girl's attention while I handled suturing the dog. At first that was working well, but then the girl became curious about what I was doing to her dog. She wandered over to where I had cleaned up the wound and was beginning to sew it up. My darling future wife looked in horror at the gaping wound and the needle passing through the torn skin, and tried to guide the girl away. But the little girl was having none of it, and moved closer in obvious fascination. She spent the next several minutes watching with close interest as I fixed her dog, while my girlfriend avoided looking anywhere near the treatment table.

After 10 years being married to a vet and after two children, my wife has a bit more tolerance for things like this, and doesn't immediately run away if she comes to visit me while I'm doing surgery (though she still doesn't want to watch). However, I'll always remember that little girl, and how she had a higher tolerance for blood than an adult woman. It was the same thing being viewed, but each perceived it in a different way.