The first time I took Jack to his new specialist (that sounds just like a little person, right?) I was pleasantly surprised with the surroundings. Usually, at all the other vets we’d visited (even specialist clinics) there’s a din. Anxious people (just like myself), panting dogs, howling cats, a constant frazzled and panicked energy.
Jack doesn’t do well with that. He’s always been a very nervous dog and starts shaking uncontrollably the moment we get out the car at the vet’s offices. I bet he can smell the familiar “Hospital” smells where he’s had two knee surgeries and I’m pretty sure he’s affected by the nervous energy and emergencies that have gone before.
At the new specialist vet, we had to wait a month for an appointment. He only works by appointment and does not deal with emergencies. The first appointment is 1.5 hours long.
We arrived at his beautiful smallholding in the middle of Kyalami where there’s peace and quiet, a lot of space, an enormous garden, birdsong, and not another dog in sight. Just to be on the safe side, I fed Jack an herbal relaxant about 1.5 hours before the appointment.
He was definitely more relaxed than with any other vet visit, probably a combination of the relaxant plus the peaceful environment. The vet (Dr Eckersley) works in an airy huge office with one assistant to help with any tests. He has all the necessary equipment like an X-ray machine, sonar, microscopes and goodness knows what else.
The personal touch
Another incredible difference was that all the steel tables (usually cold, harsh and unfriendly) were covered with furry blankets so little dogs and kitties can have a far more kind and gentle experience.
We were surprised to find that Dr Eckersley expected me to be with Jack for every test.
First was the abdominal sonar. The steel bucket-like table where Jack had to lie on his back, also had the furry covering. I was absolutely delighted to see Jack drop off and have a little snooze as the sonar equipment glided over his tummy, exposing all the nasty truths about a diseased liver, a mucocele in the gall bladder and two enormous bladder stones.
Next was an X-Ray to test his swallowing. I also needed to wear the lead apron, and stand with the vet and his assistant, keeping Jack perfectly still.
Jack was treated with the utmost care, love and respect by both the vet and his assistant and I was so grateful that I could be there to see no torture was involved!
Then, the blood test. Oh boy. I can’t watch when my own blood is being drawn, I feel like feinting at even the thought. And here, I was asked to help keep Jack still so the vet could draw 4 tubes of blood out of the huge artery in his neck.
Contrary to my expectation, it was an amazingly easy experience. I was told exactly how to hold Jack’s front legs, while the assistant kept his head still. Jack did a tiny little warning growl but it was over within minutes and I couldn’t believe how easy it was.
Fast forward to our second follow-up visit about 3 weeks later. I forgot to give him the calming herbs until when we were just about ready to leave. During the check-up, Jack was relaxed and we didn’t need to do all the sonar and X ray tests again.
The blood tests. Another 3 vials needed and I thought, “Oh, this is easy – last time it went so smoothly.”
Perhaps it was the calming tablet I didn’t feed him in time. For whatever reason he decided to struggle more this time.
The vet’s not a very personable man – he simply loves animals but his manner with people is not the best. He kept saying “No, boy!!” and after about four tries to get the needle in, he lost his temper. I wasn’t able to keep Jack’s front legs still and by the time he was done, tears were streaming down my face, I felt like running away, Jack had blood dripping down his neck and the vet was cross.
My brave Jack got lots of treats to make up for the discomfort while they were stemming the bleeding. Desperately trying to dry my eyes with no tissue in sight, I tried to make light of the situation by saying “I need a treat too, please…”
It was met with silence, not a smile, not a grin or an ounce of sympathy. He was busy doing his job, caring for the animal and the people weren’t important in this equation. Or so it felt.
I don’t blame him at all – he’s an excellent vet with the most unbelievable reputation and he’s completely focused on the animal. Which is where I’d like it to be. (A small grin would’ve been nice though 🙂 )
No permanent damage was done except that I couldn’t face another blood-drawing drama! I told Andrew about it and asked him to please, please come with me next time because I simply can’t face it again. It’s difficult for him because the vet’s in the opposite direction to his office, by many miles, and it’s in the middle of the day.
Ask for Help!
Andrew made it simple. “Ask them to get someone else to help!”
Wow. Why didn’t I think of that?
Well, for one thing I usually think I don’t have a choice. I just have to suffer through it. I don’t often feel like there are other options available. In Andrew’s world, there’s always a plan to be made.
For another thing, both times I didn’t see anyone else around that could help. It just didn’t feel like I could demand of the vet to get someone else to help in my place. “What would he say?!”
I also had the thought that if I didn’t get over my silly sensitive fear, that I’d be abandoning Jack in his hour of greatest need. Fancy a Mom saying to her little child “Sorry I can’t be with you for that scary procedure, I’m just too scared myself.” I thought I just had to suffer through it or ask Andrew, who couldn’t really afford to take the time off. And that left me.
Back home, I tapped so much for that nauseating feeling of the vet getting angry, me trying to keep Jack’s legs still, hearing him whimper, seeing him trying to get away and not being able to.
The next visit was a month away and I was already sweaty and panicky thinking about a repeat drama. I phoned the vet’s office manager and asked whether there’s anyone else to help with this because I can’t do it. I really did not expect it to be possible.
She giggled (and of course I felt a bit foolish) and nevertheless said that there is indeed another assistant that could help and she’s making a note about it in the diary.
The relief on my side was enormous!
This morning was the actual visit. I took some calming herbal things myself and fed Jack the doggy version an hour and a half ahead of time so it would definitely kick in well head of time. We set off – me with a beating heart, and Jack relaxing in his lovely soft new bed.
When the time came for the blood test, the extra helper appeared from somewhere, like magic. I turned to the vet and said “I’m going round the corner because I feel feint when you do this.“
He giggled a bit (a friendly giggle) and said “No problem.” I stood around the corner, putting my fingers in my ears and imagining that Jack and I were on a beach somewhere. I didn’t want to hear any whimpers, growls or the vet saying “No, Boy!”, or any other sounds that would tell me he was in pain or discomfort.
Within a minute, the vet called out “All over!”, I came out from my hiding place and I could feel my nervous system relax.
I breathed huge sighs of reliefs all the way home. I made a huge celebration cup of coffee, gave Jack another snack for being so brave, and sat down with my coffee and a delicious muffin to celebrate that “we made it!”
I’m always looking for the learning in the challenging experiences.
What did I learn this time?
- Expect a great result
- Expect things to be easy
- Ask for help, even if I think shows a “weakness” in me
- Expect that help is available
- Expect that there are many more than 2 ways to handle any situation
- Expect that there’s another plan
- I do have a choice
- I don’t have to suffer through anything – there’s another plan that can be made, I just have to find it
- Relief feels wonderful!!
I can still feel the relief thinking about how easy it was this time. No stress, no drama, someone else took care of it FOR me. It’s not my strength to “be strong” in any kind of medical or surgical procedure where needles and other instruments have to enter the body or go through skin. I’m not good with it and yes, I do expect plenty of tapping could improve my feelings around it. Which I’m committed to do because life can be so much more comfortable when fears don’t drive our behavior.
In the meantime, I can ask for help. And the best part is – I can receive it too!
Where are you not asking for help, or expecting to suffer through something unpleasant? How would it be if you could change that?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!