According to my colleague’s husband, the definition of a veterinary professional is:
- a person qualified to play with puppies and kitties all day
While I wish this definition portrayed an accurate picture of my job, sadly, those days are few and far between. When your job opens you to the potential of being covered in animal excrement by 9 a.m. each day, you have to find the humor to keep your sanity. There are a few ways humor shows up in veterinary medicine. Often, we discharge all that pent-up sass by joking around, saying things others would find offensive, or pranking each other.
As the New Year is upon us, here are a few side-splitting stories to help you focus on the bright side rather than your animal-excrement-covered scrubs.
Sometimes you just can’t help it; the moment is too perfect. You know most “normal” people would never say these things out loud.
- “This would be so much easier to move if there were no dead bodies in it!” —A technician I overheard talking while moving the body freezer
- “Ahhhh, nuts!” —A technician exclaims (rather than swearing) while working at a spay and neuter clinic
- “All right, you thieves, who stole my poop?” —A doctor who misplaced a fecal sample
Have you ever been rushed over to help draw blood on a fractious cat? Picture this: You sprint into the room, ready to save the day. Your colleague is scruffing a cat through a towel with only the leg sticking out. You pull the leg gently to straighten it out, and it comes loose in your hand! You quickly realize there is no cat—that leg is from an amputation that had been performed earlier that day.
One tech played a prank on an unsuspecting kennel assistant, Mary. Mary had a little Lhasa apso, Maggie, who proptosed her eye while rough-housing with her bigger sister. The vet replaced the eye and sutured the lid closed, hoping to save it. Maggie came to work every day to get the sutures removed slowly. One day, the clinic did an enucleation on a different patient, so it only seemed natural to run to Mary cradling the eye and exclaim in horror, “Maggie sneezed!”
Extensive apologies were made to Mary after this particularly brutal prank.
This is when we use grim and ironic humor in a desperate or hopeless situation. We deal with death and graphic situations on a daily basis, and sometimes the only way we can continue to do our job is to find the humor in it.
A cat named Bread was well-loved by all the clinic staff. One day, Bread came into the hospital with a large tumor. Eventually, he had to be euthanized, and everyone was heartbroken. A kennel tech broke the silence, “Well, I guess Bread is toast.” A chorus of giggles sounded in the room.
One clinic uses enucleations to support team camaraderie. How? The surgery tech sends a picture of the eyeball to colleagues with a note that often says things like, “Eye love you!” or “Eye have my eye on you!” Now, no enucleation surgery is complete without copious amounts of eyeball puns.
Another technician wrote that he was the anesthetist for a cat named George Michael. He made sure to give him “careless whispers” throughout surgery. After the surgery, he said to the vet, “I’ll wake him up before I go-go.” When the owner asked if he would be OK through the surgery, the tech replied, “He’ll be fine if you just have a little faith.”
A patient presented with a lick wound on his foot. The affected limb was wrapped in duct tape. The owner said the dog wouldn’t stop licking his foot and it wouldn’t heal. The technician says to the owner, “I know exactly why it’s not healing.” The owner, confused, asks why. The tech responds with a straight face, “Because you’re using duck tape instead of dog tape!”
Ridiculous owner situations
We’ve all encountered owners who seem to live on another planet. In a universe where science and logic seem to have disappeared, strange requests from owners are the bread and butter of veterinary humor.
During recovery after a rock foreign body surgery, an owner insisted on placing healing crystals around her pet. After signing an AMA form, the owner aligned the crystals, which looked suspiciously like rocks, in the patient’s kennel in perfect positions to help with a speedy recovery. As the owner is walking out of the clinic, a loud “NOOOO!!!” is heard from the back kennel. (Don’t worry: The “crystal” was swiftly retrieved with our trusty endoscope.)
In a field with so many women, there’s nothing better than a great story about an attractive guy with his dog. In this case, the poor pup was suffering from a case of paraphimosis. The technician asked what was wrong, and the owner stated the pup’s penis had been stuck out for the past few hours. I have no memory of a more uncomfortable conversation than the one that ensued with this client. Suffice it to say, it involved lubrication, multiple glances at my feet, and… ahem… manual manipulation.
There are many professional requirements and personality traits those in the veterinary field need to possess, and an above-average sense of humor should be included among them. Sometimes, we have no choice but to laugh at the crazy situations we find ourselves in so we can continue to do the job we love.
Kristina is an Account Manager with VSS, a leadership coach, and a Certified Veterinary Technician. She and her goofy giraffe/dog named Wesson love to take long bike rides together. Kristina also enjoys drawing veterinary cartoons, photography, yoga, and traveling the world. Professionally, Kristina is passionate about the subject of leadership and well-being.