The veterinary profession is unique. Nowhere else, in my line of thought, are employees expected to be so versatile as to deal with a crying grieving owner one second and an over excited family filled room of newly minted puppy people the next. No other profession requires a professional skill of discussing anal glands to elderly people, or explaining what a bulbous gland is to a mom with her kid in the room. No other profession requires such frequent discussions of excrement and what it means, and I doubt there are many other non-animal related professions that leave such smelly impressions on their workers. As a result, Veterinary employees have to develop a sense of humor that many would find crude. And so goes the next story.
No ma’am, there is nothing wrong with your dog, he is just “happy.”
There is no more awkward conversation (well maybe one) between a vet tech and their client then the one that starts something like this:
Picture a lovely, well dressed, pearl wearing lady sitting primly in the exam room with her favorite toy red Pomeranian named Edward.
Are you ready for this? Here comes the conversation.
“Hello Mrs. Smith, it’s nice to see you and Edward again. How is he doing after his sneezing fit last week?” She answers how embarrassed she was that she overreacted, but was just so worried. You (the tech) continue “So what can we help him with today, I see you have a concern about some lumps on his belly.”
This is the part where Mrs. Smith picks up Edward and describes something you have heard a couple hundred times. It is at this point you fight back the pumpkin grin, and ask her to show you.
Mrs. Smith says “I think Edward has cancer. I want all the bloodwork done, and x-rays too. I took him to the groomer, and after I brought him home, I was petting him, and these lumps, these… Where have they gone?” (She is looking at his groin area, he is on his back, like it was holding some treasure now missing.)
At this point, you (the tech) know, you just know, it is not cancer, it isn’t a hernia, it isn’t even an unusual occurrence, and you begin to start your search for an explanation…
“Okay, Mrs. Smith, let’s back it up a little. You never noticed these “lumps” before? (She answers no) Well, I think I have good news for you, but it may change the way you look at Edward.” You judge her expression and consider the approaches using the following list:
- Are there children in the room?
- Does she look like someone who cringes at the word penis?
- Could you just blurt out that “you pet him and he gets happy” line and hope for the best?
- Maybe you should just call the Veterinarian on in. Do they owe you one?
- Is there another (maybe new) tech around who gets embarrassed really easy? This is a great introduction into saying embarrassing things to nice people.
Okay, let’s go for happy, she looks like a fainter. :::deep breath:::
“Mrs. Smith, Edward is a male dog, and he gets kinda haaaaappppyyy when you pet him.” You look at her, she looks at you. You know it didn’t hit. Continuing on “umm, ok, male dogs have a special gland called a bulbous glandis that expands around the reproductive tract when they get excited.” You look at her again, no bueno. Oh man, time for direct approach, the s word is gonna happen here. “The lumps you see are your dog being sexually excited.” Baablam. She got it.
Mrs. Smith (after a moment of silent soul searching): “You are telling me I am making my dog horny by petting him?”
You (the grin is full force now, the struggle for professionalism was lost): “yes ma’am, there is nothing wrong with him. You may not have noticed it before, but his new hairdo is a little more … revealing (grin, grin, grin). If you would like I can have the Veterinarian in to confirm this, or we can just call this a tech appointment and call it a day. Grin grin grin…..
After she very carefully (conspicuously only holding his front end) removes Edward to the floor, she brushes her outfit off, composes herself, leans in and whispers (there isn’t any else there in the room, it’s just one of those things) “is there a surgery to have those removed….”
You discuss this a little more (the answer is no, do you want to consult the vet?, you aren’t going to give him away are you?) and close out this appointment. You go to report your findings to the vet who has already heard and is visably and audibly enjoying the discomfort of the conversation, and continue on the rest of the day; during which, every time another tech finds a lump they ask you if you can explain what a bulbous glandis is again.