Blogger's keyboard cramps after a long day of Shar-pei-induced stress
People sometimes ask me why I keep this blog. What would motivate anyone to wake up early or go to bed late just to write something alternately pedantic and soul exposing? Here’s my secret: If I hadn’t forced myself to start writing things down, I might not have the chance to rid myself of daily demons that would otherwise plague me. And I might have progressed to the deadening burnout common to mid-career veterinarians—a state I’ve always feared to emulate.
Today’s workday was a timely reminder that the words I compose in the wake of a seemingly endless day are typically self-indulgent. They’re penned to purge rather than proselytize. In short, I need you, my readers, more than you need me. But you’re smart—I’m sure you’ve already figured that out.
It’s been about an hour since I arrived home—really late and dangerously underfed—after performing after-hours surgery on an emergency pyometra (a toxically infected uterus). And I’m feeling mighty low. The patient made it OK—not to worry. But I’m not exactly feeling quite right after the ordeal—and neither is she, I’m sure. Still, it was one of those “I’ll-never-forget-that-case” situations where my stress level was way beyond it’s normal plane.
Lola is one of those patients I’ve known since she was a wrinkly Shar-pei pup (need I say more?). Her mom was one of my “eccentric ones.” As the years have gone by I’ve learned to accept her owner’s personal deficiencies as part of the landscape—and I’ve managed to work around them (sort of). While I never managed to convince her owner to get Lola spayed (anathema to her personal cultural code), I somehow managed to gain her trust. So when Lola’s “period” became obviously effusive, she easily accepted that her dog required surgery.
I’m feeling rather low, for starters, because I failed Lola—I should have somehow managed to convince her owner—long ago—that it would all end in one night on the surgery table in a nerve-wracking emergency surgery. I did try—I have witnesses, even. But I didn’t manage it. Maybe I was too nice. Perhaps I didn’t make my point sharply enough. I try to read my clients and tailor my approach to each one’s needs, but this client—not the normal read—has defied me at every turn.
Lola would come in frequently (she’s a Shar-pei, after all) for skin issues (never definitively dealt with), eye issues (her inverted eyelids were never corrected surgically as I’d begged her to), and more recently, crippling arthritis (exacerbated by Lola’s severe obesity) She has liver enzyme elevations and probable Cushing’s disease, too. She’s a classic Shar-pei train wreck.
I’d have liked nothing better than to keep Lola in-house for a few weeks to get her comfortable. Her owner’s personal health concerns (increasingly obvious at each subsequent visit) were clearly no match for Lola’s spiraling decline. If I won the lottery, I can imagine treating Lola to a month at Spa Sunset Animal Clinic to get her skin, eyes and weight under control—and get her spayed after a sensible amount of weight loss. If only.
I could yell and scream about Lola’s owner’s obstinacy. I might have sent her packing long ago in a stalemate ultimatum. But I always felt I could fix her. And that’s probably where I went wrong. It’s possible—just possible—that a firmer stand might have altered the outcome.
You see, as a vet, we have pets and clients we fall for for no particular reason. They just move us in unseen ways to work hard for them. I always saw Lola and her owner as one of these pairs. It’s something I can’t explain. My techs and receptionists have no idea how I can put up with her BS—but I do. Because I know I’m working at this client’s limits and I confidently believe no one else could get further with her. Ego, again.
I always knew it would come to this—a dramatic, last minute salvage procedure. Now that I have her here, I’m planning to keep Lola as long as I can. I left her tonight in a haze of morphine-dosed pain. But I’ll be back in the morning with renewed vigor after writing this post. I’m sure of it.
I once read that writing should not be therapeutic. But this author was someone tremendously gifted, someone whose every line exists as a beautifully crafted gem. I lay claim to no such talent. Therefore, I reason I’m free to write what I need to in order to sleep well at night. Thank God for blogs.