published: Sunday, August 30, 2009
Must love dogs ... and cats and hard work
First a little housekeeping.
This column is becoming -- actually already is -- an occasional feature.
The reason is that Highlands County is evolving, facing challenges as it does so. There are new ideas, special events, unusual happenings and all kinds of stuff going on in the street.
Countless decisions are being made, the public is taking action, and new policies are being formulated; all while new businesses start and old businesses fade.
Which is the long-winded way of saying we reporters are busy.
But, neither my editors nor I want "Tuffin' It With Tuffley" to disappear altogether.
So, when you (and sometimes I) least expect it, I'll get to have an adventure and take you along with me.
For example, on Oct. 24, I will be walking the time prediction 5K organized by Chet Brojek at Highlands Hammock State Park. The run/walk benefits his friend Joe Jenkins, who is living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's) disease. My fellow writer, Trey Christy -- who regularly places in 5Ks around the state -- will be having a separate one-on-one competition with me.
Now to today's story.
Recently, I had the pleasure of spending the day at the Sebring Animal Hospital, a place where the patients can't speak.
What an experience.
Typically I'll spend three or four hours at a work site. It's all the time I can afford.
But the subject proved to be so interesting, the different things being done so fascinating, and the people so friendly and able to answer questions that I stayed eight hours and even then had to pull myself away.
Here's the bottom line: If you like animals, can multi-task, aren't afraid of hard work and messes, are curious, can pay attention to detail and people when they speak, are physically strong, patient, caring, firm, brave, self-starting, and have an imagination -- well then, you just might make a good veterinarian's assistant.
In Dr. Larry Jernigen's hospital, which he carries on after his dad, Dr. William Jernigen, there are two waiting rooms -- one for cats, one for dogs. Behind those, and the office, are a line of examination rooms. Behind them are the treatment room and the surgery.
I only entered an examination room once. I was rushing to clean up after a dog.
It had become clear that this was a shadow assignment -- the work needing special skills and involving live mammals, so when a call came over the intercom -- sounding just like a grocery: "clean-up in room two" -- I leapt into action, glad of something I could do. Only by the time I got there, the dog's owner had already taken care of the mess.
Instead, I spent my time mostly in the treatment room, and the surgery.
I am pleased to report I didn't faint or get sick.
Jernigen spayed a cat, removed a fatty tumor from Jack the black lab, and pulled my dog's tooth.
What surprised me was the lack of blood. I expected it to gush. Instead, it was a thin layer of shiny red over another layer of yellowish white.
And Jernigen didn't make long deep cuts, which I had also expected. He cut with a blade that looked like an exacto knife and made short, shallow cuts, one layer at a time.
It was the assistants who got the animals ready for surgery. They gave injections of tranquilizers and antibiotics. They shaved the animals and applied antiseptic. Then, when it was time for the animal's procedure, it was the assistants who administered the anesthesia and inserted the intubation tube used during the operation.
Dogs received the anesthesia through a cone-shaped mask. Cats were placed in plastic bins with the medication piped in.
The assistants trimmed nails, cleaned teeth, checked feces and administered inoculations.
At one point the treatment room was stuffed with a pack of seven blue tick hounds, in for their annual check-up. They were tested for parasites like heartworms and were given their shots.
I have to say these dogs were friendly and cooperative, really lovely animals and no trouble despite their number. But keeping track of which one was which was a real challenge, because superficially they all looked exactly alike.
Which brings me to perhaps the assistants' most important function -- keeping track of the paperwork.
When they weren't helping Jernigen, or injecting animals, or handling dogs, or lifting cats, or doing laundry, or mopping floors, or stocking shelves, or sterilizing instruments, or talking to owners, or answering phones, or calming nervous patients, or working the microscope looking for intestinal parasites, the assistants were filling in forms, writing reports and recording treatments.
In the entire eight hours I was there, nobody stopped for a minute. The women were on their feet, constantly moving.
I stole a minute every now and then, using the excuse of writing my notes, to sit down on a stool.
In my own defense, I worked at a handicap. My allergies blossomed with the extravagance of roses. Just leaning over made my nose pour like Niagra Falls. I spent the day with a box of tissues tucked under one arm, producing gales of sneezes which came and went with the fury hurricane bands.
The vast number of veterinary assistants are trained on the job. In Florida there are only one or two schools which even have a program. The closest is St. Pertersburg Junior College.
While it is always helpful to understand the theory behind the practice, this is a practical occupation, filled with physical tasks. Learning on the job is a fine way to go.
My thanks to Dr. Larry and his impressive staff: Karen Catarelli, Diane Ferrell and Sue Pollen who man the office; and veterinary assistants Angie Catarelli, Ann Durbano, Missy Gillian, Chelsea Longabaugh, Kathy Root, Tiffany Tolentino and William Watson who were all there that day and made the assignment a pleasure as well as fun.
NfkGtUZiusbML (by: I found mlyesf nodding my noggin all the way through. - 9/10/2012)
I found mlyesf nodding my noggin all the way through.
QEKlKdHvOi (by: You ralely found a way to make this whole process easier. - 10/22/2011)
You ralely found a way to make this whole process easier.
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