This veterinarian wears running shoes

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I enter and leave through the back door of the animal hospital every day, arriving early in the morning well before my staff. The office is peacefully quiet except for our two office cats and the occasional overnight patient. It’s a great feeling being in my humble little practice preparing for the day’s events, but first I head out for my run. I can squeeze in anywhere from 3-7 miles on these work mornings, and as the staff would agree, it’s best to let Dr. Flaggs run. I come back exhausted but renewed, with great ideas and new insights on cases. And then it’s time to roll!

And roll we did on this particular morning. I had four scheduled surgical procedures and a few appointments strategically nestled in between. It doesn’t sound like much, but I practice alone and I like to take my time and talk to people. I would have had just enough time to squeeze in a shower before my 9 a.m. appointment, if they hadn’t arrived at 8:30. And so, I very embarrassingly and dripping with sweat, walk into the exam room in my running clothes to evaluate my patient. I at least put a scrub top on.

I’m thankful for having understanding clients, and I will say that my canine patients especially like me when I’m through running. This particular dog was a great guy, despite suffering from some lower back pain. Sometimes back troubles aren’t an easy fix, even requiring a trip over the bridge to see a neurologist, but on this particular morning, I was able to get Scooter back on track and out the door with pain relieving drugs and strict orders for rest. Now on to the OR!

I was able to remove and biopsy two tumors and spay a dog before my next appointment came in: a dog with a complaint of lethargy and increased thirst. As I ventured into the exam room, the gentleman hit me with a litany of complaints: Rambo is lethargic, drinking more but only from the toilet, is vomiting some, has occasional diarrhea, has hives, sleeps more than usual but only on Sundays, won’t eat dog food but will eat cat food, and he’s barking at his wife more than usual. *sigh*

I thought the next question was a good one – “Sir, how long has all of this been going on?” The kind man answered, “Oh, about 5 years.” So, that appointment took a while, you know? But I got through it, and I helped the kind man and his dog Rambo, and that made me real happy. I don’t even think he noticed that I was in running shorts. I think Rambo did, but dogs are pretty perceptive.

As I’m heading back to the OR, I’m intercepted by my office manager. Liz is a great gal. She’s been with me 10 of the 11 years that I’ve been open over in north county, and she’s really my right arm at the practice. She tells me there’s an emergency in the parking lot and I have to get out there NOW! A dog is choking!

I run outside to find a dog in the back of a pickup frantically pawing at its face. My technician and I are able to discern that a soup bone is lodged around the lower jaw of the poor dog. I’m not quite sure how the dog did this, and he wasn’t offering a clue. The dog was not choking, but it was quite uncomfortable.

We carry the dog into the hospital and give it a quick sedative so we can easily and without pain or stress remove the bone. It was more difficult than it seemed for it was no less than a major physics equation for this dog to get that bone lodged around its mandible! I had to carefully cut the bone away from the jaw. And yes … I’m still in my running clothes. The dog recovered nicely. After one more surgery, I was finally able to take a shower right before my afternoon appointments started.

As I ventured back downstairs to the hospital from my cozy upstairs office, I mused about the morning thus far. I hadn’t done anything as glamorous as on animal planet, nor was it like the glory of working in a fancy emergency room or a referral hospital. But on this day I helped people in my community with their pets. I helped them through problems, relieved their worries, prevented unwanted births and removed a silly bone . . . all while wearing my running clothes. I’m proud to say this vet wears running shoes. Maybe it’s my super power?

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