Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Poo Soup, Pedicures, and Familiarity

Please note: this is another long one.  It covers the intimate details of my work.  Not for the squeamish of stomach.  

The first month it over with.

I'm through that terribly awkward and stressful time in a new job where you are new and know nothing.  When you feel like you spend more time being a hindrance than a help.

I'm starting to becoming a working piece of the machine that is a veterinary clinic/groom service/pet boarding service.

That's right, we're the whole package, baby.

*ahem* anyway.  

The first month is always the longest.  Time seems to drag on because you spend so much of it worrying and feeling anxious, and TRAINING.

But NOW is the time for routine and familiarity to set in.  To start feeling comfortable enough with the job that you know what to expect and what to anticipate.

I can finally start to get a feel how each of my days is going to be.

For example.  Thursday's are my LONGEST days.  Wednesday's one of my easiest.

But for a general view in a typical day in my job, keep reading.

And be prepared to be jealous (if you've got a strong stomach).

My typical full 7am to 6pm day goes as follows.

I arrive at 6:45 and am greeted by the symphonic sounds of shrill yaps, booming barks, and pathetic yowls.

Ah, what music!  

Usually the ward attendants are already there, giving the boarding dogs their walkies and cleaning cages, divvying  rations, etc.  

I flip on some lights, turn on some machines, clock in, and if I am lucky I have a fresh batch of stool samples waiting for me in the fridge!  Nothing like the fresh smell of poo in the morning to wake you up!

Want to know how to set up a fecal sample?  It's FUN!

Step 1: get some poo.  You can obtain this from the fresh, steaming pile the animal leaves behind on it's morning walk (lucky for me, this is obtained by the owners or the ward attendants).  OR if the owner fails to pick up their pets poop, we get to stick what we call a "fecal loop" (a long plastic stick with what looks like a big eye of a needle on the end) into the animals bum.  I mean really stick it in there.  Then give it a twist.  Pull it out.  And if luck is on your side, there will be a remnant of the pets last poo on the stick.  Yummy!

Step 2: Put the poo in flotation solution.  

Step 3: Stir and break up the big chunks so that you have a nice poo soup!

Step 4: Pour into a test tube (trying not to spill any on you!)

Step 5: Spin in the centrifuge so that all the poo pieces go to the bottom of the tube and any intestinal parasite eggs float to the top. 

Step 6: Dab the flat end of a small test tube into the top of the spun poo sample.  Apply a droplet of poo sample to a glass slide set with a cover slip.

Step 7: Look under a microscope and see what you can see! (This part makes me feel so cool and sciency!)


Back to my day.  

Groom animals and drop-off appointments begin arriving around 7am.  While I get things prepared for the morning (check supplies, catch up on laundry, etc.) I listen for a page from the front calling me to bring back an animal.

This is the easy part.  You go to the front and if the animal is a dog, have them hop on the scale.  HOPING that they stay still for long enough that you can get a body weight.  If it's a cat you get to pry it out of it's carrier in one of the exam rooms and force it to lay still on one of the smaller scales, all the while avoiding and claws or teeth that might hinder the process.  

Appointments start at 8am.  

For a routine check up I bring both patient (the animal) and client (the owner) into an exam room, check the chart, and then cart off the dog to the treatment room where we get a blood sample (sometimes I get to draw the blood myself!!!  *excited squeal*!!) and if we must, a stool sample.  If the owner REALLY want's to make my day, we do a doggie pedicure.  

Not as nice as it sounds.  

There are a great many different "holds" we are required to learn.  There are different holds for getting blood (from the neck, from the leg, etc).  There's a hold for extracting urine from the bladder of a cat with a needle.   There's a general restraining hold.  Then there's the hold for the nail trims (if the dog is an uncooperative baby).  You have to basically force them on their side, hold their legs, and put pressure on their head with your arm so they can't get around and bite you or the person trimming the nails.

Sometimes the dog whines, sometimes it yelps.  Sometimes is SCREAMS.  Like they are dying.  Pathetic.  And more often than not, the dog squirms like its fighting for its life.  

Grand times. once that is all done and dandy, the dog goes back into the room with it's owner and the doctor follows.  Then you get to check the stool sample for any intestinal worms!  And find other important things to  do, all the while still taking back groom dogs and drop-off appointments making sure to write them up on the giant dry erase board so the doctors know what they still have to do.

If there is any down time between morning appointments, the doctors have you bring up a drop-off appointment and you do all that you can with them until the next appointment shows up.

If drop-offs get finished and there happen to be no appointments, the the DA's have the wonderful task of giving selected boarding dogs a complementary bath!  I've got dog bathing down to a 5-10 minute science!  

The idea is NO DOWN TIME.  No time wasted.

After morning appointments, around 10:00 or 11:00, the doctor who isn't in surgery does all the drop-off appointments with the help of me or one of the other DA's.  That can involve anything from helping shave a dogs hot spot to getting a urine sample for a complete urinary analysis (it's fun, you catch the pee in a ladle!).  

Sometimes I get to help hold a dog for an X-Ray!  I get to wear a lead apron and gloves and all.  And then I get to process the films in a dark room with the red light and smelly chemicals.  Yeah, I'm awesome.

Some days we have dentals.  Yep.  That's right.  I'm now a dental hygienist.  BE JEALOUS.  Because there is no better smell than the reek of rotting dog teeth.  It's a VERY distinct smell and one they should not make into a scented candle anytime soon.

Basically dentals go as follows.  We put the dog or cat under anesthesia (so we don't get our fingers all bit off and everything).  First we scrape off all the tarter.  Sometimes there is very little and this is easy.  Sometimes it's like hacking off a thick protective shell that the dog has developed around it's teeth.  Gross.  But very satisfying as you chisel it off.  Then you "scale" the stains and remaining tartar off.  This is a tool that uses high frequency sound waves to blast the stuff into oblivion.  It's VERY hot and very damaging if you get it too close to the animals gums.  I was terrified to use it at first!  THEN, you get to use the oh so nice looking pokey tool (that's the technical term for it) to get under the gums to check for residual tartar build up, mobile teeth, or pockets in the gum line.  There is a lot of bleeding and it makes it a little unnerving...but you have to convince yourself it's normal.  Then it's the doctors turn. They check the gums themselves and *shudder* extract any really bad teeth (like a fractured canine...we see that in cats a lot).  Seriously, I don't get squeamish around much.  But teeth extractions?  I can BARELY WATCH.  Drilling?  Fah-ged-ah-boud-id!

After all that's done it's a good old fashioned polish with close to the same stuff they use on people.  I imagine it tastes always does.

You know where these animals get off easy?  The fluoride treatment!  No sitting there for 5 hours with those trays of the nastiest tasting goop in creation sitting on your teeth while you gag as the stuff runs down your throat.  Nope.  They get this foam that you rub over the teeth and it sits there for as long as it takes for the animal to wake up.  JEALOUS.

Now that I feel comfortable doing them, dentals are kind of fun.  But I've only done maybe 8 now and I have already seen some REALLY nasty mouths.  How the owners let it GET that bad, I don't know.

Same thing with ears. I've seen some ears that will keep you up at night.  And guess who gets to clean them out with cotton balls?  That's right.


If you are helping in surgery you get to prep patients-wash and shave surgery sites, mask them for anesthesia , hold their mouth open by the lips so the doctors can insert the tube to inflate their stomachs, move and monitor the patient, help keep things running smoothly and making sure things are clean and sterile.  

Today I got to use the thermal-cautery unit!  It look like a pen and has a hot little tip that you apply to nicked vein or artery.  Ah, the smell of singed innards...

It was kind of scary.  I had no idea what I was doing.  But I did it.

After you spend the surgery watching them cut into the animal and remove what they need to remove (be it testicles, ovaries, tumors, etc) you clean up.  That parts isn't that exciting.  

PHEW!  Now it's just the end of the morning.

I get a 45 minute lunch-I bought this new awesome Star Wars lunch box.  All metal and vintage looking.  BEST $7 I've ever spent.  

I go outside across the parking lot under a tree in the grass.  I sit, eat, and read.  It's only 45 minutes but it's nice.  

Back from lunch.  Deep breath.  

Now comes the quiet time.  The doctors are calling clients back about their pets and then going to lunch so there are no appointments.  The DA' s get to check in the mail (meds, supplies, vaccines, etc).  All the stuff that comes in.  We label it and put it away.  Oh the joys of inventory!

We do Heartworm tests if it's Monday, Wednesday, or Friday (this REALLY makes me feel like a scientist!  There are pipettes, timers, droppers, solutions, blood spinning, etc.  I actually really like doing it).  The only part I don't like is then calling all the owners back to let them know the results (which have always been negative since I've been there, thank goodness!).

If need be, I pull up vaccines.  Just another example of an activity that makes me feel super doctor-y.  You use a syringe with the needle and flick out the air bubbles and all that.  Man.  It just doesn't get any better.  Unless you accidentally stick yourself, which I have totally NEVER done.

I check over things.  Walk dogs if I have time.  Make sure the exam rooms are ready for afternoon appointments.

Then the afternoon is basically the opposite of the morning.  Instead of dogs coming IN, dogs are going home looking all pretty and stuff.  This is my favorite part of the day.  They are all SO EXCITED to leave and see their owners!  It's adorable.  Appointments are usually the same (sometimes something EXCITING happens and you get diarrhea'd on by some insane dog that thinks you're there to murder it, other times things go smoothly).

All the while sweeping, mopping, fecal samples, blood work, general cleaning, and laundry are going on.  And we begin to prepare to shut down for the night.

On a good night we are out of there between 6:00 and 6:15 pm.

If an emergency comes in like a dog with a gaping wound from a dog fight or a cat with a fish hook up it's nose, we're there longer.

It happens.

We take out the trash, clean all the fecal loops and fecal sample test tubes, used syringes to be saved for later use in less sterile things, counters, etc.  Turn things off, and then head out.  If it's Thursday we get to carry out any euthanized pets to be "disposed of".  I'll let you figure out what that means.

I think that's about it.  That's what a long day in the life of me is like.

Working where I work is great.  I'm learning all these new things and I've barely scratched the surface!  Don't ask me questions, I'm no the doctor.  Though I do know a FEW things now.

Everyone there is pretty relaxed and fun to work with.  We help each other out and things run smoothly most of the time.

Sometimes, when things go wrong, we get a lecture from Dr. Mo.  He's known for his lectures.  And tangents.  But he's a funny guy who likes his country music and sometimes wears a camo bandanna to surgery.

Working with Dr. Mc is like working with the most encouraging and validating best friend ever.  100% positive reinforcement.  And she laughs at your jokes like they are actually funny!

The only thing I don't do often is work at the front desk.  That's because that actually requires that you have knowledge to answer peoples questions.  Which I don't have yet (and everyone else knows more than me).  I'll get there.

But I'll take stool samples and urine analysis over answering the phones any day.


Okay.  Time to end this post.

This was the right call.  I knew that I waited for a reason.  And while I still get paid hourly, this is a full time job.  One that I enjoy.  One that is giving me valuable experiences.

One that I hope I get to keep after my 3 month evaluation in June.

Who would have thought I'd end up here, right?


Peeser said...

How often do you work a long day? (I.e. do you work 7-6 EVERY day? Because 11 hours five days a week is a LOT!)

You know, the part about having the hold the animals down for a pedicure reminds me of when I have to trim Tonks' claws- I have to sit on her in order to keep her still; otherwise, she'd twist her paws trying to get away. (Of COURSE I don't put my full weight on top of her- what kind of person do you think I am? :) Unfortunately, I can only get her front ones done because I can't reach her back claws from that position, and she won't sit still any other way... Oh well.

It sounds like a lively place to work! I'm glad you got this job, and I hope you continue to grow into it and enjoy it! :)

("Poo soup" makes me think of Homestar saying, "You smell like pea soup...")

Jeanne, the mom and grandmom said...

This was GREAT! Thank you for taking the time to write about this since talking about it at dinner won't happen thanks to squeamish stomachs :)

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