My First Job in Veterinary Medicine

By the time I had my first job in this wonderful profession I already knew it would be my life’s work. I began working as a kennel attendant at a hospital in upstate New York. I couldn’t believe that I finally had a foot in the door. It also made me realize how little I knew but that was only a challenge, not a disappointment. Some of my current behaviors with animals are very natural now but as I reflect, many were learned at The Aqueduct Animal Hospital. The occasional bite or scratch is your badge of courage in veterinary medicine. I endured my share. Most of course were preventable with a bit of common sense and training. Sadly, as I started out I had precious little of either. 

If my parents were alive today they would recall a list of many doctor visits during the early part of my tenure at Aqueduct. I think one of the most unusual came at the expense of my eagerness to please the owner and again a total lack of common sense. I was paid to clean and Dr. Rapp was pretty darn picky when it came to the cleanliness of his hospital. We often joked that he would step over a three foot pile of garbage to point out a spot on the wall. I didn’t mind the cleaning but was eager to assist with a patient whenever he would ask. I was told by other staff members that the best way to get the chance was to come running if you ever heard him call. I took this quite literally. One afternoon I heard a call on the intercom for an assistant to surgery prep. I took off like a rocket. As I ran around the corner I had the misfortune of running into a technician. To make matters worse, she was carrying a handful of used syringes with their needles out. Most people will never experience this and I can not possibly do justice to the pain of having seven needles inserted into the palm of your hand. After the pain subsided I am not sure which was worse, my embarrassment or the horror of the technician holding the syringes. I can say for sure that the doctor who treated me had a first that day.

During the afternoons at that time, Dr. Rapp would schedule a series of short patient visits to draw blood for heartworm testing. This meant having an assistant with him for a couple of hours to hold the dogs while he drew the blood. I always wanted to do this. It would be good experience but mostly it would allow me to wear a white coat for the first time. I finally got my chance. Dr. Rapp asked me to go get a white coat and bring the first patient into the exam room. I called a young lady in with a huge white German Shepherd. I was pretty sure she thought I was a doctor due to the white coat. When she asked what I was going to do when I got out of high school it was a bit deflating. Dr. Rapp came in and prepared to draw the blood. I took hold of our patient and he had another vision for the afternoon. My training that day would have benefited me more for a rodeo career than becoming a veterinarian. In my strain to please Dr. Rapp, the back of my coat ripped out and I was covered in sweat by the time we had seen one patient. He asked me to send someone else up with a jacket that fit and I returned to cleaning spots on walls. If you see me today, you will notice the lack of a white coat. I just can’t handle the memory.

Blog Category: