Life Tests on a 13 Hour Shift Day

The only thing I’ve wanted my whole life is to be a vet. I can’t remember saying that I wanted to be anything else with as much enthusiasm. And here I am, working at a kennel, gaining experience, and waiting to see if my dreams will take shape.

I came home this weekend after taking a mental health trip (my second in a row), ready to brave the 13 hour shift that will plague my Mondays through at least the rest of the month. Can’t say work wasn’t ready for me. A sweet little black cat was sitting in treatment ALL DAY…that was set to be euthanized at some point. I thought, “Alright, test #1. Don’t form a bond. If you are, don’t be the one to do paw prints.” (We do paw prints of deceased pets to send in the sympathy cards to the owners.)

The day was going alright, until I came back and the other member of kennel working with me asked if I got a page about the other euthanasia. Aaaaare ya kidding me? Take a peak in the room. Can’t move the dog myself. Need help. Blah. Got the paw prints all done. On with my day.

Later, I see the same co-worker, leading a vet assistant towards the back talking post euthanasia procedures. That makes 2, with a third (the previously mentioned cat) on the way.

Of course, my day wasn’t just going to ease up on me. Another cat that had been in treatment most of the day and was even sedated for acupuncture…was soon to be next on the “Heaven Bound” list. Ugh. I volunteered to take care of it because my day wasn’t going to get any more insane right? WRONG.

The owner of the hospital crouched down by me as I was cleaning out a cage and said that after this client was done (she was getting a lesson on giving sub-cutaneous fluids to her super cute, old cat), he was going to euthanize the cat that I’d been (pretty much) forced to stare at all day. And he wanted me to do paw prints. Alright. I could handle that. I’d been in that creepy position twice already today. Would you believe me if I told you it gets more intense?

The cat had already been sedated, and the client and vet tech were taking too long. I got one of those “Come here” finger wags and my heart started pounding. Then the dreaded words “I need you to hold off the vein for me” accompanied “Have you done this before?” Nope. No I had not. I was so nervous (not only to have been asked to do this by the owner of the hospital, but about the event itself) that I held off the vein wrong and tried not to giggle like a lunatic from being so uncomfortable. Test #394: DO NOT CRY. I got an explanation of how the drugs would affect the poor kitty before they were injected, perhaps to ease my nerves by giving me something to expect. He was kind enough to say something that I needed to hear: part of the job is to alleviate suffering.

This poor kitty was in her teens and had a thyroid issue. She was originally set for a thyroidectomy, but the costs/needs afterward would be too much for the elderly owner so, the plan changed.

I miraculously stayed composed as this cat passed on. Did the paw prints. Kept composure. Honestly, I was talking to her, saying how much I hoped she’d enjoy kitty heaven, feeling marginally insane at the end of a long day. I still haven’t cried. Can’t deny that it’s probably still on its way. I was so exhausted that I fell asleep around 11pm and woke up at 5 something with one of my kittens in my arms. Sweet little bugger.

Funny how an animal can change your life so much. If I get to where I want to be, there will be countless animals changing my life. Who knows how many crying pet owners I’ll have to look in the eye? I’ve resigned myself to the fact that, I will probably be that vet who cries with the owners. Every loss may be one of my own. None of this would be out of weakness so much as empathy and respect for someone’s decision to end their animal’s suffering. We often forget that aspect of life. It doesn’t last forever.

With this day of tests, no matter how exhausting and crazy, my mind hasn’t changed. Here’s to another day of challenges!

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