I have a secret identity. Most people know me as Kari, mild-mannered and sarcastic Admin Support agent & part-time pet bather. Little do they know I am also Kari, Licensed Veterinary Technician. That’s right friends, I am licensed to save lives and remove testicles *
Friend: Say, would you by chance be interested in volunteering as a technician at the zoo for a day?
Me: OMFG HELL YES! I WOULD STAB A NUN FOR THE CHANCE TO DO THAT!** [ahem] I mean, yes, that would lovely. I would be delighted to be of assistance, thank you very much!
Friend: So…. I can put you down as a “maybe”?
The plan was to anesthetize all 5 of the zoo’s wolves, and completely vet them: physical exam, dental scaling, nail trims, ear cleaning, blood draws, vaccines, and a possible cyst removal from one of them. Tuesday was the big day; my awesome boss and coworker gave me the whole day off even though the other person in our department is on vacation all week. Have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE my job?
Monday I dug up all my vet tech things and cleaned off the 2 years’ worth of dust that had collected on them. Stethoscope? Check. Thermometer? Probably won’t need that but check anyway. Nail clippers? Check. I even picked out my clothes for the next day so I would have one less thing to worry about. Thank goodness I saved all those scrub tops! I was so nervous and jittery that even my headache medicine, which is supposed to make me drowsy, couldn’t calm my mind enough to let me sleep. It was like Christmas except in August instead of December and instead of presents Santa was bringing me wolves. BEST AUGUSTMAS EVER! Even if my family doesn’t get me anything for Christmas, I will be all set.***
Tuesday morning I donned my trusty superhero costume (ie, scrubs and comfy shoes) and headed to the zoo, with a brief detour to fuel myself with caffeine. We congregated at the zoo at 7:30 AM, gathered our materials, and waited out of sight while the vet, wolf keeper, and another technician**** gave the first wolf his anesthetic. I think the butterflies in my stomach were the size of pterodactyls. My hands were shaking, my heart was racing, and I thought I might cry from the nerves.
After Wolf1 was under, we moved him to the table we had set up in the holding area and got to work. It was a small room, and there were at least 10-12 people crammed into the room at all times. Needless to say, we were practically tripping all over each other, but it was AWESOME! We were a well-oiled machine even though some of the parts were a little rusty.***** The zoo’s technician had prepared detailed checklists for each wolf so we would be able to keep our notes on one place (easier to reference later when entering into the antiquated record-keeping software all zoos use). This also made very easy for us to see what else needed to be done without having to constantly ask.
I trimmed all the nails on the first wolf, then checked the list to see what was next. Blood draws. If you’re squeamish about blood, just skip the rest of this paragraph….Still here? Awesome. Anyway, I cannot remember the last time I drew blood from an animal; probably in December of 2009 when I did some bloodwork on my dogs. I LOVE blood draws. As frustrating as they can be, there’s a kind of a rush as soon as you see the syringe filling up, because you know you hit the right spot. And the wolves have beautiful veins. The first one, I was shaking so badly I thought I might have to hand it off to someone else. Then when I transferred the blood to the storage tube, I almost missed the tube because I couldn’t keep my hands still.
After that, it’s mostly a blur. I can tell you for certain I did nail trims on the first three wolves, brushed one wolf, gave a vaccine and an antibiotic injection, drew at least 12 ccs of blood, helped move at least 2 wolves, took a dozen or so pictures, and lost my pen 4 times. Somewhere in the middle of this I found my groove again and it was just like I had never quit and I thought to myself “God I’ve missed this!”.
The 4th wolf was mine. And by mine I don’t mean he belongs to me, I mean it was my job to monitor him throughout the entire procedure, from the moment he went down to the moment he was fully recovered from the anesthetic. Lucky bonus: my wolf also happened to be my favorite wolf, Orion! For the next hour or so, I was constantly listening to his heart, counting breaths, and cursing the pulse oximeter which was supposed to measure his blood oxygen level, but refused to work properly. I only managed to get 2 reliable pulse oximeter readings in the 15 or so times I recorded his heart rate and respirations. Argh! And then shortly after he had started to wake up, I realized that I should have given my camera phone to someone else so they could take pictures of me working on the wolf. D’oh!
After we were done and all the wolves had recovered from the anesthesia, we all went out for pizza so we could pat each other on the back and thank everyone for everything. When the head tech asked if we would be interested in doing this again next year we were all like “Um, DUH!”
It was really awesome.
When I got home my dogs proceeded to sniff me all over for at least 15 minutes. Even while I was walking from the door to my bedroom, there was at least one dog with its nose pressed against my clothing, sniffing madly. Then I sat down, closed my eyes “just for a minute” and woke up two hours later. As much as I have missed being a tech, it sure is exhausting. I love that I got to do something like this, but I am also really glad I have a regular, relaxing, non-demanding desk job to go to every day.
* From cats. Well, technically I think I could probably also remove testicles from certain farm animals but I can’t imagine a situation where I would be called upon to do that. Nor would I want to. Anyway my point is, you have my solemn vow that your testicles are safe from me.
** No nuns were harmed in the making of this blog.
*** Of course I don’t mean that; it’s called hyperbole. I will be sad if everyone else gets presents except me. Especially because Ian’s gift this year is going to be frakking EPIC.
**** This technician helped to hand-raise the wolves when they first arrived at the zoo as puppies. They all still know her and whenever I go to the zoo with her, they all whine and stand up against the fence in a futile effort to get closer to her. It’s so cute I sometimes forget that they are not dogs.
***** Obviously I mean myself.
As a bonus to those who read the footnotes, here is a picture of my patient, Orion. Please note the camera is not zoomed – this is how close I was when I took the picture.
He might be saying “Thanks for taking care of me.” Or he might be saying “You look delicious”. I’m glad I was on the other side of a chain link fence when he looked at me like that. Just in case.