I’ve had so many jobs by now (at the venerable age of 21) that I tend to forget all about some of them. Every once in a while, I’ll drive past somewhere I used to work, like Applebee’s, and think “Oh, wait! I know that place! I hated that place! I should maybe forget about it again!” And then I do. On top of those jobs, I’ve had whole bunches of random volunteer jobs, that everyone said I should take so that in
THE MAGNIFICENT FUTURE WHEN ALL MY AMAZING POTENTIAL WOULD BE REALIZED,
I would have something to fill up that blank, glaring white of my resume. Nothing like random stints with the Civil Air Patrol, Youth Centers, Habitat for Humanity, and the “Stop Beating Up Your Brother” Club (my mother is the chairperson of that one—I still haven’t heard back concerning my proposed amendments) to solidify my ability to deal with paperwork.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a lot of volunteer work that I did feel was worthwhile. I’ve been a Big Sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters for two years now, I’ve worked at a homeless kitchen called Jubilee Café, and I’ve spent some time petting cute, bitty mammals at the local Humane Shelter. I’ve learned all kinds of things from these and other volunteer experiences, and these lessons will stick with me like old oatmeal sticks to the bottom of a pot:
--I will never procreate or adopt without some serious debate, and possibly monetary incentive
--I will never stop having to the sing the ABC song in my head when I try to file
--Homeless people lead really shitty lives, and are not always thrilled that you deigned to come down from your mountain of privilege to hand them a banana. Nor should they have to be.
--Though I may feel guilty for having been an ungrateful teenager, fear not! I will definitely pay for my crimes when trying to relate to a teenager who thinks that 21 is ooooold.
--Puppy breath will always smell nasty, but somehow its okay if you’re that cute.
--Volunteer committees are no more effective than other committees. And I hate committees.
--Helping people is good, I am a crucial drop in the bucket, yadda yadda…
It’s a good thing volunteering makes me feel good about myself, because it can require a hell of a lot of work and patience.
Anyway, enough with the disillusionment. The naïve shine has rubbed off of me to some extent, as I’m sure is the natural progression of things. I’m starting to realize which parts of my productive life are actually worthwhile, which parts actually make a difference, which parts will stick with me, and which parts are just bureaucratic bull. I’m also past realizing how important it is to buy food, so I’ve focused less on volunteer work lately, and more on money-making enterprises.
After I dropped out of the Ivy League (due to some serious mental reevaluations), I got a part time job at a vet clinic in my home town to stave off hysteria, and for some reason, I easily got past all the fecal matter and anal sac excretions and blood and placenta with barely a hitch, to becoming enthralled with the idea of becoming a veterinarian. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been obsessed with a career idea before. I’ve desperately wanted to be a singer, an actress, a secret agent, a journalist (until I found out how boring checking facts is), a psychologist, and a botanist, but this one is sticking with me. Good thing, too, because I’m far enough along my education path that I would probably spontaneously explode if I tried to change things now.
I’ve been working at my current clinic for a little over 2 years now, and nothing that’s happened has caused me to radically change my future plans, though I’m always adjusting them a bit. Be prepared to see many more posts concerning this place, because I never can seem to stop talking about it, even at inappropriate times (like mealtimes). Whether sobbing over the phone to my mother, or laughing with my friends until my face aches, there’s always SOMETHING I want to tell about.
To give you all an idea of what’s coming, I’ve decided to go ahead and spill two stories—one being close to the most horrifying, the other being one of the funniest. As is only fair, I’ll start with the sad one. That way, you can finish the post smiling, and not think me horribly morbid.
1. Alright, I’m Going To Hand You This Uterus, and…
Every once in a while, we’ll get a pregnant dog in who is just not moving things along like she should. Maybe pregnancy has just made her too sick, or maybe the poor thing just never was well-equipped for puppy-making.
I can’t say that this particular Chihuahua was just not a natural mother, but it was quite obvious that whatever had gotten intimate with her was a LOT bigger than she was. I’m saying, she probably had to be standing on a step-ladder for it to work. Anyway, when palpating the dog’s abdomen, Dr. Jarrett could only seem to feel one puppy, though this little Chihuahua looked like a balloon with a tiny head attached. It was pretty obvious from the get-go that a C-section would be necessary if we wanted either the mother or the puppy to survive. Personally, I was thrilled. I’d helped with a C-section before, and if you’ve never helped something so fragile come to life, you simply can’t understand how freaking awesome it is.
I was extra-thrilled because the veterinary technician, who would normally assist with surgeries, was gone for the day, this being an emergency call. That left me as the most experienced assistant. Having shaved and sanitized the dog’s abdomen, I focused on looking cool and confident while also making sure the dog kept breathing, as Dr. Jarrett made the incision and got to work.
It seemed like no time at all before Dr. Jarrett had a good grip on the uterus, but I could tell from her face that something wasn’t quite right. The mother had been in labor an awfully long time, and that didn’t equal good luck for the baby. Still, something had to be done. Without warning, I became a much more crucial part of the operation.
Dr. Jarrett: “Alright, I’m going to hand you this uterus, and while I’m getting the bleeding stopped, I want you to get the puppy out and in the air. Whatever it takes.”
You really shouldn’t tell me things like that. That kind of thing doesn’t usually phase me, though it should. There’s a reason “Bulldozer” was one of my nicknames.
I think we were both too wrapped up in the situation to even consider the fact that I wasn’t wearing surgical gloves. I know I sure didn’t give it a second thought. Working as quickly as she could, Dr. Jarrett cut off all the attachy bits and plopped the uterus in my bare hands. Setting it on the towel, I tried to find an easy way to get inside it (was there a latch?) before panicking and
RIPPING IT OPEN WITH MY BARE HANDS.
Have you ever watched that scene from “The Patriot” where Mel Gibson completely destroys the soldiers who messed with his family? When I was little, I watched that at a sleep-over with the sound turned off, so that the subtitles said things like “Hack..Slash…Grunt grunt…Gurgle…” Over a decade later, and I’ve still not forgotten that. The same sorts of noises were running through my head, as I tore into that uterus, intent on saving the tiny life inside.
No one has ever made the mistake of calling me “delicate.” At least not in seriousness.
Anyway, I got a firm grip on the slippery little slime ball that is an unborn puppy, and pulled it, with a triumphant exhale, from the devastated remains of the womb.
It was dead. Very Dead. It had been dead for quite some time. In fact, it was beginning to decompose, or at least the cushioning material around it was. It stank like I’ve never before smelled, but I didn’t barf, and I didn’t get faint. Dr. Jarrett saw it in my BARE HANDS, and then saw my expression.
Dr. Jarrett: “…Oh.”
Dr. Jarrett: “Maybe you should—“
Me: “I think I’m going togowashmyhandsNOW.”
Dr. Jarrett: “Good idea.”
I washed my hands, went and found gloves, and as calmly as possible, returned to the surgery room. We sewed up the dog, and she lived, to the joy of her large, manly owner, who snuggled that little Chihuahua like his long-lost offspring.
As horrifying as it was, I have to consider that one a victory. The mother lived. The owner obviously loved her to pieces, and we were able to give him back a relatively healthy dog. I may have had rotten puppy on my hands, but I now know that at crunch time, I would not hesitate to do just about anything that seemed necessary. Dr. Jarrett no longer has to ask me if I’m going to be okay when she starts cutting into an animal. She knows I will be.
2. He’s Been Puking Up These Weird Grassy Bits…
Okay, so that last story was sad, and I’d feel bad for writing about it, but those experiences make the better ones even more awesome.
Saturdays are a horrible time at the vet office. We’re only technically open until 12:30 pm, but so many emergencies seem to happen between the hours of 8 and 10 on a Saturday morning that we’re hardly ever on schedule. A lot of those emergencies are sad, or at least just stressful, so you take the rare “hilarious’ emergency as the gem that it is.
One morning, we got a call from a family with a German Shepherd-mix puppy, panicked because he was vomiting randomly and careening off of walls, while crying in the heart-breaking way that only puppies can. We told them to get him to us immediately, and when they arrived, it was no wonder they were so distressed. This poor baby was a mess. His head rolled about crazily as he moaned and howled. When they set him on the floor, he staggered around the room, crashing into chairs and people and walls. Basically, he was not a happy camper, and when you added in the hysterical owners, I was glad that he was our only client at the moment. Face heavy, I helped wrestle him onto the examination table while the owners huddled in chairs behind me, and Dr. Jarrett rapidly checked his vitals. Looking at her face only lowered my hopes even further.
She was in full professional mood, face blank and stiff, like she always looks when she has bad news. I held onto the puppy tighter, petting him and whispering reassurance as fast as I could, feeling my throat go tight. She asked all the basic questions, like if he’d eaten anything weird recently, or if he’d acted this way at all before today. He’d been fine, they said, normal and bouncy and they just couldn’t think what might have happened to him.
“He did start barfing up some dried-grass looking bits, though! Does that mean anything?” they asked, hearts in their throats.
Dr. Jarrett, with this really weird eyebrow quirk, pried open his jaws as he writhed around, and took a deep whiff. Without changing her expression, she told the owners that we’d have to feed him charcoal (to isolate whatever toxin he might have ingested), put him on an IV, and just wait to see what happened next. They tearfully left, and I lugged him into the surgery room.
Nearly in tears myself, I asked her if she had any idea what he might have eaten. Dr. Jarrett, her face more relaxed, grabbed him again for another sniff.
With a look that I can only describe as nostalgic, she said the last thing I expected to hear.
The look on her face told me that I had no reason to doubt her knowledge of the smell of marijuana. She did live through the 80’s, after all.
We didn’t do any tests to prove it without a doubt, but apparently, you see this problem fairly often in a college town. We never did tell the owners what we actually thought it was, just warning them to be more careful, and I’d bet you twenty bucks there was some kid in that household thanking his/her lucky stars that nobody ever found out about their pot stash in the backyard.
But why, you might ask, if he was stoned, did the puppy not laze around and ask for some Cheetos? Well, how would you react if you didn’t know you’d been drugged? All he’d done was eaten some grass (uncontrollable giggle) and then horrible things had started to happen with his balance and he’d gotten a tummy ache and…whimper.
We let him sleep it off in one of our kennels, leaving a hefty helping of kibbles in case he got the munchies. He was fine the next day, and the owners were probably happier for not knowing.
Update: I fixed a couple of words in this blog. If you didn't notice that they were wrong, yay for me