Thursday, October 24, 2013

Puppy Cries and Floppy Cats: Memoir of an Aspiring Veterinarian

I never imagined I would be content to sit and clean the coagulated blood off surgical instruments with a toothbrush. As I picked up each one I recited its name in my mind. I practiced closing and opening the ones with locking mechanisms, taking turns with my left and right hands. I thought to myself, by the time I’m in vet school I will be a pro at this.

            Volunteer work at the low-cost spay/neuter clinic was at times mind-numbingly dull, and at other times a welcome reprieve from my busy and demanding life. On occasion I would have the opportunity to do something more involved, and these times made the slow days more than worth it. Otherwise I just tried to assure myself that each hour of experience here brought me one step closer toward the goal I have been striving for since I was five.

            I had filled a small tub of warm water with scrubbed instruments. Now it was time to move these into a machine that would vibrate them at a very high frequency. Then they are soaked in a white solution, dried, sorted, and made into “packs” that are sterilized in an autoclave. I take a small break from this task to say hello to a husky who has been howling in her kennel the entire time I’ve been on duty. The whole building is permeated by a backdrop of crying dogs and puppies. A technician catches me during my break and asks me to “go out and spin the breathing tubes.

            I carry a laundry basket full of long, forked tubes into the chill autumn air. They are floppy and ridged like the bendy part of a straw. I pick up one at a time and spin them in large circles to draw the water out of them. They “sing” as I do this, making a sound reminiscent of a wet finger sliding around the rim of a crystal goblet. I carry them back inside and hang them on a towel rack.

            The rest of my shift is easy, but busy. I fold and store clean laundry. I scrub out, rinse, and dry tracheal tubes. I start another round of surgical equipment on their cleaning cycle. I wash out a couple kennels of dogs that have gone home. The clock turns quickly and soon it is time for me to leave. Perhaps next week I will be allowed to watch a procedure or help with the patients in the recovery room. This room is filled exclusively with cats during my shift, all waking up slowly and steadily, and then carried back to their kennels while still floppy from sedation.

            When I arrive home I am greeted by a big black dog brimming with enthusiasm, who can’t decide if he’s more excited about the fact that I’ve returned or all the interesting smells I’ve brought with me. I shed my scrubs. My ears and throat itch, as I am unfortunately allergic to both cats and dogs, but this doesn’t deter me. My boyfriend has a delicious meal ready for me, by the end of which I am quite sleepy from my allergy medicine. I curl up on the couch in a nest of pillows and blankets, and my dog lies at my feet.

            I dream of the day I can call myself a veterinarian.

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