Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Ugh, new neighbors.  Let's see... No sign of a barking dog, no toys, no mattresses stacked in the front yard...

Hi! I'm your new neighbor!


We just moved here from... is that.... blood on your pants?



Among other things.


None of it is mine.

Ok... bye.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hoof Beats, Volume 1

In veterinary medicine, our version of the K.I.S.S. Rule is the Hoof Beats Rule.  The principle is simple: common things happen commonly.  So if you hear hoof beats, think horses; not zebras.

I have a special knack for finding zebras though, or maybe they find me.  Hard to say which.  It started in vet school with a pit bull named Peanut who had urinary stones.  That isn't an incredibly unusual thing, except that Peanut had the type of stones that show up primarily in dalmatians.  And so goes my career.

Greta was my most recent zebra.  Her owner, who is a very astute shepherd, called me late one evening telling me that Greta came in from the pasture breathing very hard and not interested in eating.  Sheep, off-feed, breathing hard - it doesn't take a genius diagnostician to figure that this is likely pneumonia.  I instructed her owner to take her temperature, start her on a broad spectrum antibiotic, and give her a pain/fever reducer.  If she wasn't improved in the morning, I would come out and see her the next day.

The next morning, the update was that Greta had not had a fever last night, and this morning her temperature had actually gone down, to a sub-normal range.  The breathing had not changed.  When I saw her, she was quite calm but obviously struggling to breathe.  My first concern was that this was severe pneumonia that she hid from us until it was too late. (Sheep love to hide illnesses and then just fall over dead.)

Stethoscope to her chest and my first thought was: wow.  Those hoof beats I had heard earlier were not a horse.  They were a herd of zebras.   The lungs were not the problem, her heart was.  Further exam revealed distended jugular veins, free fluid collecting in the abdomen, and edema in the legs.

Greta, at 4 years old with no history of illness, was in congestive heart failure. There isn't an easy way to tell  someone that their animal is dying.  Zebras causing the problem are more difficult because it leaves you without a complete explanation about how and why.  It's one of those completely helpless moments where all you can do talk about the components of the problem and why I cannot fix them.

I will remember Greta as one of my very own zebras.  I'm sure they will continue to run me down when I get a little too comfortable diagnosing those hoof beats. 

When the Boss is Away...

... the Associate Will:

  • Wake up early
  • Stay up late
  • See all appointments
  • Respond to all emergencies
  • Return all phone calls
  • Answer any and all questions
  • Keep up with the paperwork
  • Be polite to everyone
  • Show kindness to animals and people alike
  • Guide those that are clueless
  • Acknowledge jobs well done 
  • And last but not least, remember why she has never had a desire to have her own practice

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Saturday Night Scene

Saturday, February 23, 2013, 10:15pm
Thurmont, MD

I'm wearing mud-caked coveralls and muddy snow boots.  The clothes underneath my coveralls have been saturated and subsequently dried with at least 6 different types of bodily fluids today.  My nose stopped smelling myself hours ago in self-defense.

I'm standing at the computer screen contemplating dinner.  It needs to be something relatively healthy that isn't going to keep me up all night with heartburn.  No matter how badly I want a massive plate of nachos with all the toppings, it would just be a bad life decision.

In walks a large group of college-aged girls and they are all slutted up.  Short skirts, high-heels, and pounds of makeup. 

I'm so jealous.  I remember makeup.  And fun shoes.  And cute clothes.  And crazy nights with friends.

I trudge out towards the truck with my turkey and cheese sandwich.  The highlight of my evening is going to be making it to bed before midnight. 

I need a good night's sleep.  There is an antelope with a broken leg arriving tomorrow morning. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Cash and Kinklings

Throughout the day my boss leaves me voicemails with additions or changes to the schedule and I call her when I finish appointments so that she can keep track of me geographically as I move throughout the practice area.  Thus, if an emergency is called in during the day she can decide which of us is closer to go handle it.  Despite Verizon's maps and claims there are black holes, and sometimes messages are a little garbled.

Friday's message went something like this: "Julie, Mrs.Client's horse is colicking and I need you to go.  He is uncomfortable and laying down, but not rolling.  Apparently her kid didn't lock a gate last night and the horse ate a whole box if kink...*static static static* pretty aggressive in your treatment. Call her when you are on the way."

The horse ate a box of WHAT???  As luck would have it, my boss wasn't available to clarify the message and the owner's phone went straight to voicemail where I left my ETA.  Which was almost an hour.  An hour to do nothing but drive and think about what the heck a box of "kink" could be and why a horse would eat it.  I refrained from Googling the words "kink" and "horse food" together.  I don't even want to imagine the results.

That, my friends, is a kinkling.  If you Google the word "kinkling," all the results are about Frederick County, Maryland.  Seems they are a Shrove Tuesday tradition in this very narrow section of the world.  Basically it's a big-ass, deep-fried doughnut.  Seriously, this thing was 2 inches thick, bigger around than my hand, and heavy enough to be used as a blunt weapon.  The local volunteer fire department made 320 DOZEN of these things and my client brought some of the extras home to feed the ducks.

Cash is a well known medical trouble maker.  He's one of those horses you wish you could bubble wrap, just to slow down the injuries.  Cash pushed open an unlatched gate and ignored 200 pounds of horse feed to eat a banana box full of kinklings.  I kept calling them kinkles (and the owner kept laughing and correcting me).  The picture is of one surviving kinkling that she had inside so that I could remember the day I thought the horse ate a box something kinky. 

Fortunately with some pain medication and a heavy dose of mineral oil, Cash made a full recovery.  Maybe he learned his lesson, but I'm sure I'll be seeing him again soon.  Hopefully not for a case of the kinklings though. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Flock Ewe!

 It's sheep season.  I'm not a huge fan of sheep, because a sick sheep is a dead sheep, which does not leave a vet feeling good at the end of the day.  In addition to general maladies of sheep, they are reproductive nightmares.  Seriously, I feel as though I've done almost nothing for 3 weeks other than treat pregnancy toxemia and put sheep lady bits back where they belong. 

Toxemia happens in late pregnancy when the ewe decides to stop eating, sending her body into a super negative energy balance.  Treatment involves IV dextrose/fluids, calcium supplementation, and force feeding.  Oh, and lots of cursing (under your breath while working on the sheep, in the truck as you drive away, after the owner calls late at night with another question, ect ect) because none of those things are easily/quickly accomplished.

As if that wasn't enough, the ewes also have a fun little trick where they push the walls of their vagina outside their body.  Like this:

To fix that, I have to put on a prolapse harness that puts pressure on their rear end to keep all the lady bits inside the ewe, where they are supposed to be.  Like this:

Assuming all these hurdles have been successfully navigated, the ewe will eventually deliver lambs.  Maybe on her own.  Maybe with a bit of help. Or maybe she's one of those delightful genetic disasters that require a C-section. But I digress.  After delivery, there is one more thing she can do to ruin someone's day/night.  She can prolapse her whole uterus. Just like this:

 After she does that, someone has to put it back into the sheep.  Turns out that I'm someone. Then her lambs grow up, become sheep, and make more sheep.  It's a freakin' circle of hell... I mean, life.  Circle of life. 

*I'm aware that not everyone may find the title as funny as I do, but I've been giggling since I thought it up 3 days ago

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vets Are People Too

When I see clients out in the real world lots of time they don't even recognize me until I say hello. When they do they are very awkward, like they don't know how to process me out of context.  I have no idea why.  It's not like I'm going to yell at them for going to the movies instead of staying home and cleaning the barn.

Anyway, Zoo Man saw me at the grocery store today.  I was shopping, he was having lunch in the deli.  He called me over and we exchanged some pleasantries.  Then he proceded to tell me that he almost didn't say anything because he wasn't sure it was me.  In his words, "I was thinking, that girl looks kind of like Julie would if she ever had her hair down, but she's a lot smaller than Julie... holy shit, that IS her."  I decided to interpret that as I look better (or at least slimmer) when I'm not wearing three layers of work clothes.

So for any clients past, present, or future who may read this, here is a little bit about me when I'm not being your vet.
  •  I read a lot.  Keeping with family tradition, I'm a total sucker for romance novels (but no, I have not and do not intended to read the 50 Shades books).  I also read popular fiction and am working slowly through a book about wine.  I hardly ever read veterinary stuff other than skimming some magazines; I got enough of that kind of reading during vet school, thank you very much.
  • I had a bad bout of insomnia once so I taught myself how to knit.  When friends make babies, I make them baby blankets.  Then I use the extra supplies to make baby hats/booties/clothes that I donate to charity.
  • I hate reality television.  I love syndicated sitcoms. 
  • I like to cook, but I wish more recipes were written for 1 or 2 servings so that I didn't have eat the same thing for a week.
  • I like yoga.  I hate running.
So, if you see your veterinarian out in the world, remember that they have lives completely separate from the exam room or pickup truck.  They don't live in lab coats and coveralls.  So get rid of the shocked/guilty look and say hello.  We know you are people.  Remember that we are people too.