“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Had you asked me when I was five, I would have said a dog. By 15, I was more sophisticated and predicted I would be a Veterinarian. However, now at 30 I realize I’m much more.
It’s 8am as I rush through the hospital doors and with a coffee in hand, I will have soon forgotten about my uneven night’s sleep with a cranky 1 year old. Before I can let the caffeine do its job, I am thrown into the thick of a packed day.
I work my way to the treatment area where we have a few hospitalized patients. My gear switches to Internal Medicine. Each patient is evaluated and medicated. While updating my clients, I manage to get down a few gulps of coffee.
By 9am, my first appointment is here. It’s Molly, a goofy chocolate lab who licks me head to toe. She has a terrible skin and ear infection, and my Dermatology skills are tested. Molly leaves the exam room happy and more comfortable. Her owner, on the other hand, shuffles up front to pay her hefty bill and gather all her medications.
Next is Sunshine the cat, whose mood reflects more of a storm. I try my best cat whispering skills, but Sunshine is on to me. She hasn’t been herself lately and is dropping food when she eats, causing a little weight loss.
Sounds like dental disease.
Since I value my fingers but need a proper oral exam, Sunshine has bought herself a ticket to sedation. Off I go, transforming into an Anesthesiologist. A full examination indicates a terrible mouth infection and loose teeth. Sunshine gets started on antibiotics, pain medication and is set up for dental x rays and a cleaning next week.
My morning is now in full swing as I meet Butch, an older but spunky pug who managed to upset his feline roommate. Now his right eye is squinting.
Time to put on my Ophthalmology hat. I examine his eye and diagnose him with a scratch on his cornea. Once spunky, now sulky, Butch leaves slamming into the wall, courtesy of his new e-collar.
A few annual “check-up” exams slip in and I feel like a general practitioner again. Thank goodness it’s almost lunchtime, I’m starving….
I grab the charts from my box to make phone calls and review lab results from yesterday’s workload. Once completed, I dash home to walk my dogs, see my son and eat a quick lunch.
As I return to work, I am met with a double hit by car. Now I’m an ER Doctor. After bloodwork and x-rays, the prognosis is positive – A broken bone and dislocated hip. They are sent home with pain medication, antibiotics and scheduled for surgery.
The afternoon is filled with annual exams coupled with a few sick patients requiring x-rays…
Good thing we were taught how to be Radiologists.
By 4pm, my feet hurt and I’m thirsty, but I compose myself. One of my longtime patients is here for euthanasia. Wyatt is an old boy suffering from prostate cancer. His body is tired, his owners are emotional and my heart aches with theirs. We spend a few minutes reminiscing all his good days while delaying the inevitable.
I have done this hundreds of times, but it never gets easier.
Now I’m a friend and support system as we say our goodbyes to Wyatt. It’s the hardest part of my job. We grow so attached to our clients and patients.
My tears are halted as I enter exam room 5 and meet Triscuit, an energetic newly adopted puppy. Her owners are first time dog parents and I morph into Pediatrician mode. We spend time going over prevention, vaccines and training. The half hour of bliss moves too quickly, and Triscuit is happily on her way home.
My day is winding down, and I spend the rest of the afternoon following up with clients, hospitalized patients and specialists.
When I finally get home, I become Mother and Wife. As a Veterinarian, I am so more than I thought I could be. If only I had mastered the art of being a dog.
Dr. Alexandra Saura is a small animal practicing Veterinarian in Westchester, NY.