Not the Hospital I was Taught About in Vet School
Some days I just want to be a vet. Yet more and more, the knowledge and skill, the sharpness and the urgency of day-to-day vet care, are becoming something foreign to me. I’m still proud of knowing how to take care of animals. And I hope I can still do a fairly reasonable job of it. But working on individual animals, for one problem at a time, is so alien to my now daily fare of looking at the health and welfare of groups and large populations of animals. So this weekend’s duty as the “on call” vet for our Medical Center was an eye-opener.
Our hospital treats shelter animals, our own and those of our partner shelters in the region, as well as the pets of more than 6,000 low-income clients in the Capital area. And this weekend we were slammed. I got a call to review cases by one of our staff vets the day before and I have to say, my heart sank at the number and complication of the cases our hospital was treating. The cases I needed to look at the next day! These were no simple shelter animal cases. But ours is no simple shelter hospital.
There were two animals with back fractures, both sadly paralyzed. There were a cat from a crime scene in Baltimore with extensive burns on his back, a dog with a rare form of infectious anemia, and another in kidney failure. Then there were two puppies in insolation who were acting like they didn’t know they had parvo (thankfully). And finally, a terrible broken femur in one of the sweetest dogs you could ever meet. This is not the traditional shelter hospital I was taught about in vet school.
But it is the whole reason the Washington Animal Rescue League exists: to care for the broken and homeless, the disadvantaged, the ones with have nowhere else to go. And, in spite of my trepidation at walking into all of that, I was proud of what our hospital does. And of the staff who do the job of caring for these poor animals every single day. This is what we’re here for. And what is going to, finally, change the way shelters are run. And more importantly, up the game for what we as civilized human beings will tolerate in our standards of care for the most disadvantaged and forgotten of our animal companions. This is true rehab, giving a second chance to animals, and many of the people who love them. They truly would not have been given this chance anywhere else.