In the background of my writing, there are these characters. These special spirits who hold up the pages in the background. This black lab is one of them. Helping us to understand the importance of the veterinarian’s job. The following is an excerpt from A Palpable Thrill, a story published in Pawprints on the Heart, about a heart stealing Cavalier King Charles. But it’s the black lab and his neighbours in the Ontario Veterinary College’s ICU who taught me of the importance of what I was doing as a veterinary student. It was bigger than the science and the studying… it was about helping to send these patients home.
My patient had been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and it was my job to see to her every need during her stay. The ICU at The University of Guelph’s, Ontario Veterinary College is amazing. They have extraordinarily skilled staff, dedicated interns, and twenty-four hour student slaves. The care in the hectic room could likely parallel the best human ICU’s. There were bells ringing, buzzers buzzing, oxygen flowing, interns flustering, students stressing and animals of all sorts, shapes and sizes resting, bleeding, or barely living. Each and every patient meant the world to someone, because they were willing to foot the considerable daily bill to save their family member by entrusting them with the best.
I couldn’t help but notice how ridiculous it might all seem. Bustling around the room were these elite individuals, focusing their energy and their very educated opinions -not to mention the owner’s great expense- to making pets healthy again. I tried to justify it all in my mind, as an extension of the human health system. These valuable creatures were emotional, physical and spiritual therapy for so many blessed humans. The black Labrador Retriever in the cage beside Miss Lindsay Scott, could boast of being able to get his retired investment manager owner to walk sixteen blocks each morning and night. Having been hit by a car, the dog had just returned from a four-hour femoral fracture repair surgery and his owner had driven seven hours to see him.
The Chihuahua, in the cage above the Lab, was not only the faithful friend to a forty-seven-year-old, recently divorced, dyed redhead powerhouse; but the woman also took great joy in telling anyone who would listen, how her little dog hated her ex-husband almost as much as she did. The little dog, now on intravenous fluids, had an immune-mediated disease and if he didn’t make it, then who would be left for his owner to complain about her ex-husband to? And when the huge St. Bernard, in the hydraulic cage at the end of the room, with blood pooled in the sac around his heart, was discharged after his surgery, his owners would take renewed joy, thanking ‘God’, instead of cursing, as they cleaned up his puddles of drool.
I paused at the door, reluctant to engage into this, foreign to most, world. The room was overcapacity with people and there was too much equipment jammed into the small space. The constant bustle and clamour resembled the most successful kitchen in Guelph. Every once in a while there would be a frantic cry for help, as a dog tried to jump off a table or a cat clawed the student who was attempting to flush a catheter. I exhaled and regarded my palm where I’d scrawled, ‘ICU #12’.