Walking a Mile in the Client’s Shoes

30 Mar
Lucas

Lucas

At my clinic, we refer to a lot of our appointments as “Upper East Side Problems.” People will bring their pet in for an “emergency” appointment, and it often results in something silly. A pimple on the nose, licking of the paws, not eating their entire breakfast, standing in the hallway looking off into space for too long. I sometimes think our clients have too much time on their hands and that they must spend a majority of their time staring at their pets, manifesting problems out of thin air. They then show up at our clinic in a nonsensical panic, complaining about how their pet is nervous about being in a new place. “Please don’t put Fluffy in a cage! I can’t bear the thought!” I have little patience for these people.

A couple of weekends ago, I was pet sitting for two of my favorite patients, Ellie Mae the pug, and Lucas the fat cat. I’m friendly with the owner, and she had warned me that Lucas has become a picky eater, lost weight, and been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I have stayed with them since the diagnosis, and it means that when he is dropping a deuce in the litterbox, he makes the saddest little kitten cries. It’s heartbreaking.

So I walk into the apartment on a Friday after work to be greeted by Ellie Mae who is making her pug squawks at me, letting me know that she is ready for dinner. But I notice Lucas hanging back a bit, sulking. Then I start to notice small drops of diarrhea everywhere. In the entryway, in the living room, the bathroom, and leading out of his litterbox. I text the owner to ask if that is something that has been happening. She texts back in a panic that, no, the diarrhea is a new development. I start texting the veterinarians asking for their advice. I’m hovering over Lucas, feeling his pulses, checking his mucous membranes for tackiness, testing his skin turgor, overall annoying him. I call the clinic and make an appointment and spend the night not able to sleep with worry.

In the drizzle-rain the next morning, I put Lucas into his carrier and bring him into work with me. I set him up in a cage and have the doctor’s look at him. As in multiple doctors. I want bloods. I want fluids. I spend most of the day hovering in the cage, petting the stressed out cat and telling him it’s okay. I have in a 24-hour period become the crazy clients that I find myself complaining about most of the time.

I’m an anomaly in the vet tech profession in that I don’t own any pets of my own. I would LOVE to, but my apartment lease doesn’t allow it. I also feel too irresponsible, too prone to spontaneously going out, too overbooked to give a pet the love and attention that it deserves. So this weekend of taking care of a sick animal that I have a deep fondness for was an important experience to have. Although I still stand by the fact that the majority of our clients have too much free time on their hands, I get the neurotic obsessiveness. It comes from a place of love and a feeling of helplessness when their pet is not feeling well.

By the end of the day, Lucas was doing much better. He was stressed and hiding in the cage (which shattered by heart), but the veterinarians and I rehydrated him and found some better food options that are more compatible with his delicate bowels. Later that night when I got into bed, he came with Ellie Mae and I. He curled up under my arm purring, and I knew that he was feeling better. And after a full day of worrying about him, the three of us slept soundly through the night.

Our post-hospital cuddle-fest.

Our post-hospital cuddle-fest.

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