I have been a large and small animal veterinarian for 17 years now, and for all of those 17 years I have taken call. I don’t mind taking call- I enjoy being able to help clients and their animals when the need arises, even when it’s at 2 o’ clock in the morning. Sometimes I make the mistake of predicting whether or not I am going to be called out though. Let me explain- there have been times when I look at my schedule in the morning and deem the day slow and therefore appropriate to schedule evening plans with my beautiful wife, Heather. Let me tell you a story about how that sometimes work out.
One sunny morning as Heather and I were getting ready for work, I checked my schedule for the day and saw that it looked pretty easy. I was going to be on call in the evening, but the last few nights had been quiet so I wasn’t expecting anything this particular evening either. As we were headed out the door, I asked Heather if she would like to go to dinner after work.
She looked to me as if she were unsure and said, “Tonight? I thought you were on call again. You know how it goes when we make plans when you are on call.”
To which I replied, “I am sure it will be okay, but I will check in with you this afternoon. How does Mexican sound?”
Skeptically she said, “Ok. Mexican sounds fine. Talk to you this afternoon.”
So, off I went down to the clinic, where the day breezed by. I saw some puppies that I had delivered by c-section a few weeks before for their first puppy vaccines, worked on a horse’s teeth out in the barn, and did a few vaccine and wellness appointments. Overall, it had been a great day at the clinic. At 4:30, I called Heather to tell her that the schedule was empty for the rest of the day, and that I should be by to pick her up in an hour.
At 4:40 my receptionist Holly called up to my office to tell me there was a client on the phone who had some questions about her goats.
I spoke with the client about the sick goats and before I knew it I was in my pick-up and on my way to Middleton to examine the sick caprine (that’s vet speak for goats). When I got to Middleton I quickly called Heather again to tell her where I was and that I might be a little bit late.
Just as the sun dipped below the horizon, and I had packed up my supplies with a feeling of satisfaction from doctoring the goats and giving their owner a detailed home care regimen that would result in happy, healthy animals in no time, I called Heather again.
“Hi honey! I am just leaving the client’s farm, and I will be by the house in 30 minutes to pick you up.”
She replied, “Do you still want to go? It’s after 7:30 and you are working tomorrow aren’t you?”
“Of course I still want to go, I am starving!” I said.
Again, with just a hint more skepticism in her voice, “Ok. See you in a few.”
As I pulled into my driveway, my cell phone quacked (my ringtone is a duck quacking, and I am positive everyone around me loves to hear it as much as I do) and it was one of my large animal clients who had some questions about a bull that wasn’t doing too well. I spoke with him for 15 minutes or so about what do. He didn’t seem to think I needed to go out to his place, so I gave him a few pointers and headed in to get Heather.
Honestly, as I walked in the door, I half expected her to tell me to forget about it, as it was now a quarter after 8. But, there she was gathering up her purse, ready to go. We decided to take my vet truck to dinner, mostly because I had parked it in the driveway right behind where Heather’s car was in the garage. Heather opened the passenger side door and was met with a seat full of dirty coveralls, medication bottles, and papers. As she transferred the mess to the back, she jokingly said, “Don’t worry- I will take care of these.”
I replied, “Thank you, I’m sorry I didn’t get that stuff put away. I was just…”
“Brent!” She yelped. “WHAT is this?”
“Oh, that. That’s goat poop I need to drop by the clinic for a fecal analysis. I’m sorry.” I felt awful, I really should have had that in the back, but I hastily tossed it on the console as I was leaving the clients.
20 minutes later, we were seated at our favorite Mexican restaurant and had just given the server our order. I was just about to dig into the delicious chips and salsa that had been placed on our table when we arrived when my cell phone started quacking again. I listened carefully to the message, took down the person’s phone number, and called her back.
As I hung up the phone Heather asked, “Should we ask for our food to go? Do we need to head down to the clinic?”
“No,” I replied, “She has a lab that is whelping, but it sounds like things are going okay to me. I told her to call back if she has any more concerns.”
The waitress brought our food and we ate our dinner without interruption, save one long-time client whom I know very well that was also dining there who stopped by our table to offer up some kind words. He said something along the lines of, “Thanks again doc for fixing up my old dog and how on earth did you convince her to marry you?”
We paid our tab and headed back to the truck. Yawning, I asked Heather, “You want to watch a movie when we got home?”
She asked, “Do you think you will make it through a movie? Your day has been a bit busier than you expected.”
“I’ll be fine, but I do have to stop at the clinic and check on a kitty that is hospitalized first. Do you mind driving, my cellphone is quacking.”
By the time we got home it was nearly 10:30. We got settled in on the couch and fired up Netflix to see what was on.
Heather stopped on a comedy that had just been released, and said, “This looks good- do you want to watch this? Brent?”
She tells me my only reply was the soft sound of my snoring.
Being on call is a very important part of being a rural, mixed practice Veterinarian. At Snake River Vet we are very proud of the fact that there is a veterinarian available 24 hours a day almost every day of the year to help our clients and patients. I am so lucky to have a wonderful and supportive wife that patiently sticks through evenings like the one I just described. Moreover, she is a willing (and cute) makeshift technician when middle of the night calls turn out to be involved and extra hands are needed. It’s not easy being a veterinary spouse, but Heather takes it all in stride.