Under COVID-19 rules we are meeting our clients and patients in the parking lot.
We are masked and gloved, a precaution that gives new meaning to “hot” in the Valley summer. We check the patient in and leave their owner outside. Social distancing is meant to safeguard your and our health. We take it seriously.
So there was a time when wearing a mask into a store would get the cops called on you. And rubber gloves (no fingerprints!) would definitely have landed me in the slammer and throw away the key. Honestly, for a while I worried that my patients would take one look at me and, say “Who IS That Masked Man?” and…attack.
Don’t tell the Lone Ranger, but nobody really looks at you that closely. Certainly not the dogs.
On Day One, I lost some jewelry after an earring flipped off while removing the mask for a quick breath. On Day Two, I stopped wearing make-up because it melted onto the mask.
By Day Four, I was marching into the parking lot, carrying my daughter’s Hello Kitty umbrella to keep my hair from bursting into flames.
I have learned things I didn’t know. , First, dogs really don’t care if you’re masked and have blue hands. Or if your hair hasn’t been cut and highlighted in over two months.
Second, the dogs’ owners, our clients, are also wearing masks that fog up their glasses just like me, so they can’t tell if I don’t have highlights and besides, they’re in the same boat.
Also, veterinary medicine is a contact sport. No question about it. A physical exam requires up close and personal contact. In order to focus on what you are looking at, the pet must stand still. You try it on a moving object. If the pet feels standing still is optional, the exam will necessitate the hands, arms and sometimes entire bodies of our staff. Owners get involved. More arms and body parts.
The smaller the animal, the harder it is to make it behave. Too much force and you might squish something. We’re supposed to stick our fingers in mouths to look at teeth, bury our head next to the jaw to peer into an ear, thump and probe and palpate all sorts of body parts and orifices – many places no owner has gone before.
We are not always welcomed in these endeavors. We certainly cannot be six feet away and do our job. Our staff cannot be six feet away and help us.
In human medicine, I hear they’re trying out telemedicine with some success. Short of looking at an X-ray or a picture of a mild skin rash, that isn’t going to fly in veterinary medicine. We have to touch the patient.
We need to pull, probe and palpate the animal. We try not to roll on the floor with our patients, but occasionally they make the offer irresistible. Like the pit bull who thought getting his anal glands checked out was just monkey business and he threw himself into a 360 degree crocodile roll.
I suspect social distancing works better for dermatologists than surgeons.
Social Distancing is hard. Yes, I work for my patients, my reward a wagging tail, a cat purring, knowing I have truly helped an animal to feel better. But a big part of the enjoyment and job satisfaction comes from interaction with my clients. Trading stories of our pets, our lives, trading recipes, bad jokes and vacation tips.
Now there isn’t much time for that. It’s harder to connect from behind a mask. I swear, I don’t hear as well when you’re wearing a mask! Must be I lip read a little. Who knew? Can you see my smile? Sometimes as I’m talking the mask starts to suck into my mouth. Ewww.
This is not sustainable. I miss you.