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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

You Get Used To It

One of my earliest appointments today was a pair of puppies for routine booster vaccines.  The boy was sweet and playful but the girl was very shy and skittish.  I had barely begun my exam when she suddenly started freaking out, trying to bite me and urinating all over the floor.  I was trying to keep her out of her own urine and she managed to graze me with her teeth.  It's not the first time I've handled such things, so it didn't phase me much (though certainly frustrated me).  I covered my wounds well, went to the back to get an assistant and a muzzle, washed my slightly bleeding scrapes and then went back to finish the exam and vaccines.  After we were done the client seemed to notice the long scratches and bit of blood and asked me if the puppy had bit me.  I told her that it was nothing serious and happens almost every day.  I had scrapes and a small puncture as well as urine on my pants, and I was brushing it off as routine.

And the thing is, I wasn't lying.

There are many things you get used to in the veterinary profession.  It's a daily occurrence to get urine, feces, pus, or blood on us.  Pretty quickly you realize that it all washes off and you can't be grossed out by it.  Multiple times per day I have a pet that needs to be muzzled or is otherwise a bit aggressive, including some who need to be fully sedated before doing even the most simple service.  If you got bothered and scared by this, you couldn't last long in the field.  We see dying pets, stupid clients, difficult decisions, and numerous other things that your average pet owner would be upset by or become nauseous over.  You get used to it.

One of my other cases today was a small hot spot near a golden retriever's ear.  The owner was pretty worried about it but in my estimation it was actually pretty mild.  This was only a couple of inches across and was scabbing over.  I've seen them where it's the entire side of the face and is oozing blood, pus, and other unmentionable things.  I was able to explain to the client that we could easily treat the case and it wasn't as bad as the thought.  I might have been a little jaded, but I've gotten used to so many worse situations that I couldn't be worried about this.

Many people have asked me over the years how I deal with the things I see and do.  When I first started being around vets I would indeed get sick at the sight of certain things and actually did pass out a couple of times.  So what changed?  How did I learn to handle these sights, smells, and experiences?  I hate to say that there really isn't any magic trick.

I just got used to it.