Some stories from my internship

Warning: this is all normal stuff to see and experience at a vet clinic, but some of it may be somewhat disturbing if you’re not in this field.

First story: A lady brought in her poodle because he’d been hurt at the dog park and wasn’t putting weight on one of his legs. Incidentally, I have never met a standard poodle that wasn’t just the sweetest dog in the world; I may have to have one someday. We did muzzle him because his leg was obviously painful and we needed to take x-rays of it, but he was still so well behaved and gentle and friendly. He didn’t struggle at all, and we were able to get the first x-ray with no problem.

There were about four of us in the room, and when the x-ray image appeared on the computer screen, we literally all gasped out loud as if we were on a cheap TV show. Because this dog’s femur was broken cleanly in half, and displaced such that it formed a T shape and the head completely disarticulated from the acetabulum. The injury was bad, but actually not all that bad… but the x-rays were so dramatic that we spent the rest of the week showing them to every employee that hadn’t seen them. Someone from my school came in to visit that week to make sure everything was going well with me, and she too got dragged back to look at this dog’s x-rays.

In case anyone’s curious, the injury had occurred in the following manner: the dog park the lady often takes this dog to has some of those giant wooden spools used for holding big electrical wire or something. Normally, she told us, these things are quite stable, and the dogs sometimes even jump up on top of them without their threatening to tip. But in this case, two other good-sized dogs had collided with one of the spools at once, knocking it over onto her poodle and breaking his leg.

Second story: A different lady brought in a little dog (I was never satisfied on the breed; some kind of spaniel, I believe) that was breathing heavily and showing reluctance to walk. I happened to go on lunch just as they arrived, so I wasn’t part of the x-raying process. By the time I came back, the dog had been x-rayed and had blood drawn and chemistries run, and no specific diagnosis had been reached. It was still on the x-ray table on a blanket having oxygen administered by mask, and I was asked to relieve the guy that was holding it so he could go to lunch.

The doctor brought the mom back to say hi to the dog. He explained that we hadn’t found anything definitive yet, and the steps we were going to take next. She loved on the dog for a bit, mentioned that she was going to go run some errands, and left. The doctor told me that we were going to place an IV catheter in a few minutes and give some fluids in the hopes of getting a urine sample later (the dog’s bladder was completely empty at this point). Then he too walked away.

And then the dog dropped dead in my arms. Seriously. It was standing up, breathing hard as it had been, its face in the oxygen mask I was holding, and suddenly it stopped breathing entirely, stiffened a little, and collapsed.

Of course I called for help, and the doctor came immediately back. He sent me to see if I could catch mom before she left, so I ran outside… but she was already gone. What was worse, when he called her, her line was continually busy — evidently she’d gotten into her car and right onto the phone. He did eventually manage to get through to her, after he’d been performing chest compressions for several minutes, and she told him he could go ahead and stop trying to resuscitate the dog. By the time she got back to the clinic, the dog had been dead for quite some time.

We left her alone in the x-ray room so she could cry and cry over her baby; it was so freaking sad. When she eventually came out, she gave me a big hug and a thank you. I had done literally nothing for her dog besides hold it while it got oxygen (and died), but since I was the one she’d seen holding it, she felt like I’d been very involved. Well, and of course I was crying because she was sad. Some people seem to appreciate that (which is lucky for me, since I sure as hell can’t help it).

So that was the first time I’d had an animal die in my arms outside the context of euthanasia. It was an experience worth having, since I’m sure it will happen again.

Third story: I witnessed a tail docking, and it was, without question, the most horrifying thing I have ever seen. The puppies were too young to receive any anesthesia safely. MOST HORRIFYING THING I HAVE EVER SEEN. Seriously, AKC, can we stop recognizing this as breed standard anywhere? I can accept it, with strong reservations, for working dogs for health reasons. But these dockings, I believe, as many are, were purely cosmetic. I felt sick.

Fourth story: This one is way less sad, I promise. Near the end of my six weeks, a dog came in for (I think) a dental, and its name was Shunga. I saw the name up on the surgery board, and I couldn’t stop giggling. I couldn’t help remarking that I wondered whether the owners knew what the name meant and, if so, why on earth they’d decided to name their dog after old-school Japanese erotica.

Everyone thought this was pretty funny, and throughout the day, whenever the dog was mentioned by name, at least one person would laugh. Unfortunately, we never managed to figure out what the owners’ take on it was, though we came up with several clever ways to try to ask. Their last name sounded Arabic, if anything, so speculation abounded.

The other result of this, though, was that I got teased (perfectly good-naturedly) throughout the day for knowing what shunga was in the first place. Of course I explained that, while I have no moral objections to the art form, the only reason I’m familiar with it is a particular scene in a series I enjoy where a character gets teased about hypothetically purchasing shunga. (This is a Rurouni Kenshin scene, obviously, but I didn’t go into detail.) At one point even one of the doctors, who hadn’t been present for any previous discussion on the subject, came in and asked the room at large, “Hey, does anyone know any good Japanese anime porn websites?” then turned to me and said, “Oh, Robin, you probably do!”

Fifth story: One dog was back having his anal glands expressed. For those not familiar with this process, it involves sticking a finger into the anus and squeezing fluid out of the sacs just to the right and left of the opening. This fluid, if the anal glands are healthy, should be kinda gritty, and is often described as having the consistency of coffee grounds.

The tech that was doing this made some comment about the consistency of this particular dog’s anal gland fluid, then remarked, “I should be able to make that into a joke about coffee…” Presently, after a few moments’ thought, she sang, “The best part of waking up is fingers in your butt!” I thought this deserved permanent enshrinement in my journal.

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