There’s a First Time for Everything

By Kim Everson, DVM

Today as I unloaded my first shipment of veterinary equipment, I discovered my “rabies pole,” a heavy duty metal pole with a retractable cable “noose” on one end. This device is used (thankfully infrequently) to safely capture aggressive dogs (and other creatures) and keep them at arm’s length. Naturally I wanted to try out my new piece of equipment, so I called upon EdGrrr. (GrrrD, the spaniel, doesn’t often come when called; being 13, we debate if she’s actually deaf or just has very selective hearing.)

EdGrrr happily obliged my request, leaping and lunging at me goofily in a friendly impersonation of a crazed canine as I fumbled with the unfamiliar “rabies pole.” Finally, I lassoed the cable around his neck, snugged the loop and effectively restrained my dog. I lavished lots of love and praise on my willing victim and went back to unpacking. A little later I came across a neat little mad cat capture device that just begged to be tried …”here, kitty kitty kitty…”


Finished for the day, my thoughts turned away from outfitting my veterinary clinic to my blog. (I’ve made a pact with myself that I will write every Sunday if possible.) It dawned on me that while the pets of a veterinarian are lucky to receive expert care and medical attention, there’s a lot of unpleasantness that a vet’s  pets must also endure.

A lot of my veterinary “firsts” were performed on my own pets. The first penrose drain I ever placed was in a major laceration EdGrrr suffered after being hit by a car. GrrrD was one of the first canine spay surgeries I ever performed (the very first was Jada, a frisky humane society dog in veterinary school). I successfully performed my first emergency c-section/spay on one of my farm cats, Betty Bumblebee.

I’ve heard some of my colleagues can’t bear to perform major surgery on their own animals. Is it fear of screwing up? I’m not sure. For me, there’s something very comforting about practicing/perfecting my skills on my own pets. Naturally, I want the best for them, but there’s a different level of scrutiny on my work when it’s my own pet on the table — not lower, not higher, just different. Plus I then get to monitor their recovery with an intimacy that allows me to offer detailed advice to my clients when they find their pet in similar circumstances.

It’s not always misery for a vet’s pets. Sure they must submit for the vet student’s inexpert blood draws — practice makes perfect. But, like GrrrD, they also experience regular full-body massages as the veterinarian-in-training perfects her physical examination technique.

My animals share with me their daily physiological ups and downs: the bouts of diarrhea and ear infections, the grass eating (and stool eating), the occasional limp and odd barking in their sleep. The things that clients ask about frequently, sometimes with great worry. I am grateful to each of my pets that they enable me to share not only my formal medical training but also my personal animal experiences with my clients.

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