Vet Tails Excerpt

Vet Tails Excerpt – To read more about my adventures, read Vet Tails available as a book or e-book from
As vets we are trained to handle many different situations but as I learned early on as a student, it is impossible to know everything about everything. One of the most important things that we have to master is knowing where to find the information that we need when we need it, and when it comes to handling difficult cases and the sometimes difficult people who come with them, having a good mentor can make all the difference.

I was very grateful to have found this in my boss Rose who ran a tight ship and was even known by one of our clients as “No nonsense Rose”. Rose was an excellent teacher and very good businesswoman, taking a lot of time and effort to impart the great knowledge which she had accumulated over many years to all of her employees. Rose had a fail-proof approach for just about every situation which she would thoroughly explain, always ensuring that covered every single possible aspect, and she would go over it tirelessly with her staff until she was 100% certain that they understood. When we encountered a difficult situation and Rose wasn’t around we would phone 0800 ASK ROSE to get some words of wisdom from her which would always tide us through.

During the warmer months we routinely saw many pups come in with parvovirus, a deadly disease which can generally be prevented by vaccination. Parvovirus can remain in the soil for years and so a property that has hosted a sick pup can present a risk for any visiting dog that is susceptible but young growing dogs are the main victims. The pups are very ill and unfortunately many of them belong to people in lower socio-economic areas without the financial resources to help pay for their care which is often intensive.

Previously the SPCA would subsidize the treatment of these animals, but things were getting tighter and the SPCA was no longer in a position to financially subsidize the care of animals that were owned, which left us in a sticky situation. Sadly we couldn’t help save all of these animals and even if we could, they’re generally not in homes where they receive a good standard of care and inevitably they would be back with further ill health which is a vicious cycle…

Rose lecture no. 54 outlined: “… owning a pet is a responsibility. If they can’t even look after their own kids, they shouldn’t have a pet…” and Rose lecture no. 106: “If they can’t pay for the consultation and the dog is really sick, then it is kinder to euthanase the animal.”

One Saturday, I examined a pup that was very sick with parvovirus. The owners seemed like really nice people. They had no money but loved their dog and wanted to do what they could to help it and so they had spoken to the SPCA who would on this occasion subsidized $50 worth of treatment. For this amount, all I could do was to give the dog a few injections and send them home with a syringe and some electrolytes to get into the dog in the hope of maintaining its hydration. Even this pushed the amount spent to over $50. I told the pup’s owners that I wasn’t supposed to provide treatment in this situation (vividly remembering Rose lecture no. 106) and that I trusted them to come and pay the rest of the bill on Tuesday as they promised that they would. Later that day, they returned as the pup had deteriorated and we ended up with no other choice but to ease this pup’s pain and suffering and to put it to sleep.

The following Monday at our weekly vet meeting, Rose brought up the SPCA having to restrict its funding and us junior vets had a repeat of “lecture no. 106” to conclude the topic. That day we received a letter from the SPCA outlining exactly what they could and couldn’t subsidize and Rose hung it up on our notice board for all of us to read.

Later that day, the inevitable transpired; Rose saw what had happened with the pup that I had treated on the Saturday and said, “Liza, take a seat” and she patiently went through lecture no. 106 again.

Tuesday came and went and the “really nice people” didn’t pitch up to make payment as they had promised to do. This really aggravated me as I had now had lecture 106, three times over the last couple of days! And so I decided to phone them and they told me that they had forgotten but would be in on Thursday to sort it out.

Of course Thursday also came and went with no sign of them and so from then on I had no choice but to work according to the recommendations of my boss outlined in lecture no. 32 “Don’t trust anyone…” and lecture no. 65 “Being nice to these people gets you nowhere….”!

For some of our clients who were new to our practice and had no credit history, Rose had a policy to keep their treated animals in hospital until their vet bill was paid. Unfortunately Rose found no other way to help these animals with their owners not being honest and taking financial responsibility for their care. One such cat was called Teepee who had originally come in with an abscess which we had fixed with some surgery. His owners had delayed picking him up for a few days and lived in a nearby area that was known to be “a bit rough”.

The day finally arrived when Teepee’s owners came to fix up their bill and pick him up. We were always very careful to make sure that cats going home were in carry cages so that they didn’t run off as their owner took them out to the car. Teepee’s owners insisted that they didn’t need a cage and carried him out the car. Teepee jumped at this opportunity to escape perhaps thinking “No way am I going back to that rough neighbourhood, I’m out of here!” and he was gone.
Teepee’s owners spent the rest of the day looking for him – all the kids, the father, the cousins and some other extended family and friends but to no avail.

A few weeks later we saw that Teepee had moved into the house next door to our practice and from where, in the evenings, various aromas of curries wafted over… Teepee had changed to be a different kind of Indian!