Sometimes I find myself writing about Vet Tech life in a humorous light. Today, isn’t really one of them. I’ve been faced with the real challenges of working in the veterinary field with one hit after another at work. These last two weeks weren’t about puppies, kittens, and vaccinations. We’ve had surprise after surprise, after surprise, and a large side of human induced, too many women in one room, drama. That’s the reality of veterinary medicine. It’s not fun and games, it’s a lot of hard work, and it’s a lot of teamwork, and it’s a lot of communication with people. In the end, being a Vet Tech isn’t so much about what you can do for the animals, but what you can help their people with to make both their lives better.
I spend a large portion of every vet tech day working with animals who do not want to be there. Sometimes the owners are the the culprit, sometimes it’s a bad experience, sometimes, we don’t know what’s going on. This rather frustrating problem causes 90% of the backlog in our clinic appointment schedule. That and that most owners don’t know that there is something wrong with their pet until we see it for shots. Occasionally we get a true emergency, or some other issue that requires a lot of time, but most issues are related to ears, skin, and eyes. Oh, and fleas. We have a lot of phlebotomy to do on a daily basis, and for the most part, animals don’t mind. The ones that do, well, they really do mind, and are not shy about letting us know. I’ve held, in the air, a 70 # dog before, just so we could get .2 cc of blood for a heartworm test. Dogs also have a tendency to poop, pee, and release glands when they are unhappy. Cats cause less grief than most chihuahuas, but when they do, everyone knows it. Claws, teeth and screaming do not make it easy to draw blood when they don’t want you to.
In surgery, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected. A simple neuter might have swelling that wasn’t anticipated, a spay, might have a bladder full of stones. The last two weeks brought us a dog with mammary cancer that wasn’t found until the time of spay, a spay with erlichia and anaplasma both, who bled extra much, and a young dog, who looked really old, who had a normal spay with a bladder full of 3 4″ sized uroliths that had to be removed.
Just today, I found two dogs with heart murmurs that were previously undiagnosed and then had a cat someone thought was spayed that was most definitely pregnant. Life is full of surprises! I know those people were a little shocked! Working in a military clinic has it’s own set of issues, as we deal with emergency PCS visits (that’s moving overseas and need shots, microchips and exams now!) and Military Working Dogs who have full rights to come in at any given moment in case of injury. When the MWD’s come in, if we are needed, the regular clinics stop, and we care for them until the problem is resolved.
On the people side of things, most employees in veterinary clinics are female, and some weird convolution of type A personality. Only, just like our patients, we live in a hierarchy. Someone is always the bossiest, and someone else really wants to be. That’s all before we get to personality. All of us are different, and not everybody clicks. Add into this that no one in a vet clinic really feels like they are recognized much for their hard work, and you have a perfect storm of emotion and randomness that would confound Jane Austen. All of this and we haven’t made it to the client yet.
Our clients are so varied that sometimes your head swims trying to figure out how to get something across. We see everyone from 99 to 18, all different ethnicities, educational levels, and with different moral standards for animal care. Some of our clients don’t recognize that vet techs are anything more than animal holders, some clients think they are the vet tech. Some clients just want a consultation from the veterinarian on something they already know everything about. It’s a guessing game, no, a people game really. They are the keepers of these pets, it’s our job to teach them, and theirs to carry it out.
Finally, the point I’m trying to get across, is that life as a Veterinary Technician is a frustrating, tiring, physically and emotionally tiring job, but it’s one you do for the joy of seeing well cared for pets, happy owners, and the resulting wonderful bond between people and their pets. It’s not something we do because we “like dogs and cats” or because pets are our friends. We do it to make things better for everyone, both furry and human.
Take a minute tonight to reflect on why you got a pet, make sure they are healthy, and remember to thank your Vet Tech next time you got the Vet’s office.