veterinarian performing spay surgery

All of my coworkers giggled at me when I walked back into the surgery suite with a cup of coffee in my hand, and now I know why.

“You’re going to want a lid for that,” Erin chuckled.

I didn’t have one, so the only logical thing to do at that moment was chug it. But I quickly regretted it, and here’s why. 

I don’t really tolerate the sight of blood or bodily fluids or needles一basically anything you see on the veterinary side of things here一but I really wanted to immerse myself in the day-to-day of the surgery team to fully understand what it means to be a high-volume spay and neuter clinic (and maybe talk about how awesome they are, but just a little). 

I told Kiana, our lead surgery veterinary clinic assistant, to put me to work. After five hours, I was exhausted, both physically and mentally, and maybe a little queasy, but every single second was worth it. I learned so much, and the respect and admiration I have for this talented and compassionate team grew exponentially.

I started off the day thinking it was going to be easy, helping prep e-collars and vaccinations while the front desk was finishing up check in. The pets started rolling in, and before I knew it, everyone had split up to tackle the 50-some-odd pets on the schedule, which is a slow day. Erin and Teresa started prepping the dogs while Kiana administered the anesthesia, one of the most critical parts of the job. Surgery preparation consisted of shaving, vaccinating, emptying bladders and assisting the vets with intubation and placing catheters, all while monitoring the pets for any issues while under anesthesia. They hoisted dogs over 70 pounds on and off the table like it was no big deal. There was so much happening everywhere I looked, and eventually I made my way to the surgery suite.

As I mentioned before, I’m kind of a big baby when it comes to all of this, but I challenged myself to sit in on not just one but two spay surgeries. Dr. Andelson warned me to sit down if I felt lightheaded, but I was determined to see for myself the service that built this organization from the ground up. And the one that has saved tens of thousands of lives.

Once a pet was on the operating table, the vet assistants hooked them up to monitors and an anesthetic machine where they received oxygen and additional anesthesia if necessary. I got to help the techs scrub the incision area to make sure it’s sterile before proceeding with the surgery and even got to turn the gas on for a patient who was heartworm-positive, by the way. It’s a delicate surgery, but it goes to show just how trustworthy and skilled this team is.

It amazed me how Dr. Andelson and Dr. Michael were able to answer all of the questions I had while they were tying off reproductive organs with一something I never thought I’d say一such grace. I learned that dogs and cats carry offspring in their uterine horns and saw how fatty and slippery a uterus gets when a pet has had multiple litters, which is why those surgeries require more time and are much more intense. When I was ready to tap out of the surgery suite, Kiana had more plans for me.

This was hands down the most difficult part of my day: recovery. 

Recovery is a full-time, around-the-clock job that requires a lot of monitoring. I worked alongside Alex and learned how to take heart rates three different ways: by cupping the chest, finding the femoral artery in the inner thigh and the shortcut that looks easy but actually isn’t, a stethoscope. Each pet’s heart rate needs to be taken every five to 10 minutes, so when you’ve got seven to eight dogs or 10 to 12 cats recovering at the same time, you need to be on your best “A” game. You’re looking at a clock that’s going at a different pace than the heartbeat you’re trying to count. Dogs are barking, the vets are hollering that another surgery is done and it turns out you also have to be good at math, which I haven’t had to do since high school. 

I didn’t want to quit, but I kept thinking to myself, how in the heck do they do this every day? There’s only one way I can think of to describe it.

Beautiful chaos. 

dog recovering in e-collar from neuter surgery

This team doesn’t mess around. They’re efficient, beyond talented and the only people I would want caring for my pet in my absence on such a big day. Thank you for guiding me, teaching me and letting me be a part of an experience that has had an immeasurable impact on our community. 

It feels great to be able to say that I helped prevent hundreds of litters and improve the quality of life of pets in my city. I can’t imagine how that makes them feel every single day.

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