Checking In and Stepping Up

several people sit on the ground drawing vaccines

Every morning starts the same. But not in the way that you’re thinking.

It’s not a glum, meandering affair here in the morning. It’s active, lively. Vaccines are being drawn, paperwork is being prepared. Scattered laughter echoes in the high ceilings.

And before the doors open, we all come together. In part to go over the numbers for the day, sure. How many dogs for surgery, how many cats. How many vaccination appointments we’ve got on the books. It helps prep everyone for the day ahead.

a group of people stand in a large room talking
The morning meeting. Scott films to broadcast to folks working from home, and sometimes a dog wanders through.

But it’s also a chance to check in. We have a staff of 40, which means we spend a lot of time in our separate little groups when we’re here. Outreach, call center, the surgery folks, the runners and techs, marketing and administration; we each have our own areas that we’re focused on. So when we all come together, it really is a chance to actually see everybody and remember what an amazing crew we have here. 

After the morning meeting (which always ends with a cheer), the action begins. The front desk folks put on their headsets and start checking in clients, and the ordered chaos of the morning has begun.

This week we have three new employees training in different parts of the clinic: Theresa, Josie, and Josephine. Yes, we have a Josie and a Josephine. Technically we have two Josies, but they both have last names that begin with the same letter, so we can’t even use the old elementary school trick of using their last names to differentiate them. It’s just one of those things.

a woman sits at a desk looking over some paperwork
Josephine going over paperwork with a client.

Josephine is training to be a flex tech, so that she can fill in where needed. So this week she’s at the front desk, so she’s right in the middle of all the action.

“There’s so much to learn,” she tells me, and she’s right. There is a lot to learn, and you’ve got to remember it all at once. It’s a bit unnerving to be at the front desk and see all the people waiting through the front window. It can definitely be overwhelming for someone to see all the cars filling the lot.

Dogs are first, and out the window you can see them wiggling around in the cars, playing with their owners, sticking their heads out of windows. You know, the good stuff.

Josephine talks with client after client, not just doing the expected things like going over the health questionnaire and making sure the pet didn’t eat after 9 the night before, but also listening. Part of what we do at the front desk is make sure that we’re listening to everything the pet owner says so that if there are any concerns whatsoever, we can grab a doctor to ask questions and get their take on the best course of action. 

Josie with one of the many dogs for surgery that day.

Next is the running. That’s where Josie’s at this week, running pets from the cars back to the surgery area so that they can be weighed and checked by the doctors to make extra sure everything’s on the up-and-up and we can proceed with surgery. 

You can say this about it: you certainly get your steps in. Running out to the parking lot and back again over and over is a pretty physical job. It takes me a while to get a free moment with her because once the running starts, it doesn’t really stop. But finally I get to ask her what it’s like running pets.

“Sweaty and tiring, but also really nice because I get to see every pet that comes through here. So yeah, it is tiring, but it’s also extremely rewarding. A cute puppy comes through and I just melt.”

We definitely see a few cute puppies that morning. Melting commences. Not just Josie; me too. I’m melting all over the place.

Cats show up next, which are a little easier to run, because they’re all in carriers. So while Josie and the other runners start bringing cats from the lot to the cat room, I meander into the dog room to say hi to some of our dog friends getting surgery today and check in with Teresa, who’s handling recovery.

A woman handles medication bottles
Teresa prepping medications before surgery begins for the day.

She’s laying out the heated bed for the little dogs, who we take extra care with, because it’s easier for their body temperature to drop due to their relatively small mass. Then she lays out the mats for the bigger dogs. 

Surgery has already begun for the dogs, and as the doctors call for her, she starts bringing them in from the surgery suite and laying them out, covering them with a towel or blanket to help keep their body temperature up.

Recovery is one of the most important positions, because you’re in charge of making sure everybody’s doing okay after surgery. While everyone else focuses on the prep or the surgery itself, whoever’s in recovery is laying the dogs out on the mats afterwards, monitoring them constantly, patting them to encourage good blood flow, and making sure that intubated pets (like pugs and other brachycephalic breeds) are breathing well. It’s a lot. And, having done it when I first cross-trained in my early days with the company, I can tell you it’s a very physically intensive job, especially carrying the big dogs from surgery to the recovery room. 

Teresa admits this, for sure, but it’s not slowing her down one bit. She talks to the dogs in a bright, clear voice to help get them going.

“I see you wagging your tail,” she says to a dog responding to her voice. “You about to get up?” I don’t see the dog at first, but then suddenly there it is, a tail beneath a towel, thumping the ground again and again. His cute little eyes start looking around, and there’s a bit of confusion, you can see it on his face. It’s not uncommon; for many of the pets we see, this is the first time they’ve experienced anything like this. It can be scary.

This is part of recovery, too; helping them get acclimated to the unfamiliar sights and sounds going on around them as they wake up.

By the time check-in is over, surgery’s really rockin’, the Wellness Clinic team is up and running, and the day couldn’t stop now even if we tried. But that’s for the best; we’ve got dozens of pets in our care, and we love every minute of it, so bring it on! That seems to be the prevailing sentiment.

 And while every day starts the same, each day itself is different, filled with a huge variety of pets and people who love them. Tomorrow we will have a whole new batch of dogs and cats, each with their own personality quirks, likes and dislikes, and a family waiting for them at home who loves them very much. And that’s why we step up to always do our best; we all have our own pets at home, so we know that love. We’re all here to help your pets live their best lives by getting fixed and being up-to-date on vaccinations, so that you can spend a long, happy life together.

And that’s something that’ll never change.

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