Without warning our homeless cat went crashing, mouth wide open, into the cage door. She clamped her freshly operated jaws around the bars and howled. It was horrible. In the blink of an eye, she had not only completely undone the surgery; she had created yet one more jaw fracture.
Veterinary hospitals are staffed by good people with generous hearts. But tragedy can be frightening. I untangled our painful, agitated, and delirious patient from the cage door. Doing my best to comfort her, I looked up at what seemed like a hundred glares. Our attempts at helping this injured homeless cat had gone badly. I championed her cause and I was being held responsible for the failure. Later that afternoon, aided by more pain medicine and sedation, our kitty slept-but she looked worse than ever.
Among the young and passionate members of our nursing staff was Bruce. A natural leader, this tall handsome fellow had just finished his undergraduate degree and had recently been accepted to veterinary school. As I was charting “No Name’s” most recent calamity, I looked up to see Bruce, Martha, and a cadre of six other staff members standing in front of me-confrontation style. Dr. Gilman, who had also worked hard for this cat, was in the background. Clearly, they’d been struggling. They hadn’t signed on for this kind of duty. And in no uncertain terms, they demanded euthanasia. Nobody was having a good time.
Despite our cat’s compounded problems, I still knew we had a winner. The unknown was the staff. Half of our group was united by the strength of their own convictions. They were threatening to walk out rather than stand by as I made the case, again, for turning this disaster into a success.
I told my people that our work was not finished. Fear and pain were clear realities, but those were not good enough excuses to quit. I’d been patching broken pets together for as long as some of my staff had been alive. I told them that I needed them to have faith.
Next week: In the end, Faith wins.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a Facebook Live video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Post pet behavioral or physical questions on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.