How Can I Wear This Many Hats with Only One Head?

I get the question every once in a while, “What it is like working in a mixed animal practice where one minute you need to work on a cat, the next you have to work on a goat?” I respond to those folks that it always keeps things interesting because you don’t know what is coming next. My morning from this last week illustrates how this crazy swing from one extreme to the other plays out.

I arrived at work ten minutes to eight with the expectation I had a few small animal appointments in the morning. I could drink my coffee, snarf down some cereal, read up on the cases coming in, and catch a little cattle industry news before I needed to get rolling. You know, start the morning routine.

Jake's Morning Routine

Actually, I never get to do this routine because the day changes so much in vet med. This picture is entirely posed for the purposes of the blog.

However, right before I arrived, we received a call from a rancher with a cow that was having trouble calving. He said he was en-route to bringing her in when he called. Unfortunately, the definition of “en-route” means different things to different people. While I take it as actually being in the vehicle traveling down the road, I’ve found some think it means  pulling on their boots to go load up the cow.

Thinking it was my definition and not his, right away I opened up our cattle working facility and got the obstetrics equipment ready. One key component of this is the plastic OB “rain suit” I put on to try to stay clean from the gallons of birthing fluids and other icky things that a cow expels during the calving process. This means in July I’m wearing non-breathable, plastic clothing from head to toe. Not exactly comfortable.

Expecting the rancher to arrive at any time, I waited outside. As the minutes pass by I can feel the sweat rolling down my back in the summer heat. He most certainly ascribed to the latter form of “en-route”. Deciding I could wait in the A/C just as easily as outside, I went inside the clinic just as the 8:30 appointment rolled in 25 minutes early. This illustrates how scheduling at a vet clinic can be similar to herding cats–you never know which way things will go.

This appointment was a Shih Tzu named Sweetie Pie that needed vaccinations. She had just been groomed the day before, so she had a pink bow in her hair and a fabric flower on her collar. She came in with her elderly owner and the owner’s daughter.

Seeing that I was the only one not in the middle of something, in my rain suit, overshoes and ball cap, I stepped into the exam room to vaccinate the dog. She was a nice little dog and the appointment went quickly. The elderly owner said she needed to go out to her car to get her purse to pay, so her daughter helped her out. This left me standing in the lobby holding the fluffy little dog with bows and flowers while wearing my plastic calf-pulling outfit. The contrast was quite a sight to behold.

Jake in OB "Rain Suit"--Sorry about the duckface

This is not the white coat and tie most doctors wear to their clinic, but it works for my job! Sorry about the duckface–couldn’t help myself.

As the owner came back inside, the rancher pulled up with the cow. I handed the dog off and went to the cattle barn. We ran the cow in and started to extract the calf. Now my suit came in very handy as the funky smelling slime of birth covered me from my chest down. The cow bellowed loudly as we carefully worked the calf out.

In the air conditioned clinic, the clients from my previous appointment were startled by the cow’s bellow. “What’s going on out there?” the owner’s daughter asked. “Are they hurting that cow?”

Our vet tech looked up from the invoice she was typing and told them, “Well, she’s giving birth right now and they are trying to pull the calf out.”

The elderly lady shook her head. “Oh, I completely understand.”

In the end, the calf was successfully delivered and is now happily frolicking in his pasture. The cow ceased her earth-shattering bellow once we got the calf out and is doing just fine. And now the pet owners are educated to the fact that the birthing process hurts in all species. Mixed animal practice–it keeps you on your toes!