Congratulations on your new relationship! Partnering with a veterinarian is not without its challenges, but with some care and effort you can make things work. Here are a few pointers to help you maximize the bond with your veterinarian.
1. Veterinarians are omnivores – unless they are vegetarians. You’ll have to figure out which type you have. Start out by offering a nice mid-rare steak. If your veterinarian looks ineffably sad and turns away, you have a vegetarian. Eat the steak yourself and turn on fans to vent the smell of cooked flesh, then offer your veterinarian a nice pasta or salad.
2. Veterinarians can eat anywhere. Don’t be shy about offering food while they are working. They have the extraordinary capacity to eat a tuna salad sandwich while lancing a big cheesy abscess on a cat’s butt, or nosh on Timbits having just stepped out of a bloody surgery.
3. It’s hard to starve a veterinarian, but you can definitely induce dietary deficiencies by allowing them to try to prepare their own food. Left to their own devices, veterinarians eat take out and microwaveable food supplemented with cookies and chocolates brought in by appreciative clients. It’s important that you take your veterinarian out to eat at least once a week in a restaurant that has real chairs and no meals containing toys. You should be cooking for your veterinarian on at least 4 of the remaining 6 days. It should be able to forage for its own sustenance on the final two days, especially if you cook enough on “your” four days to result in leftovers. As noted before, most veterinarians can be trained to use the microwave, so reheatable food will give you a couple of nights off.
4. When your veterinarian gets home from work approach it carefully. This is when veterinarians are most likely to bite. Gauge its mood carefully.
- If its eyes are red and puffy be sure to approach slowly, holding out a glass of wine. Do not speak until it gives an indication of its current state of mind. If invited or if you deem it safe (sobs are a good indicator), approach and embrace it.
- If your veterinarian seems to be “full of snark”, wine may work but stronger spirits may be required. Give it a little time by itself to settle down before approaching. It is important to ignore the content of whatever it says during this time, and pay attention only to the tone. None of what it says should be taken personally. If you wait, the snark will resolve into something more manageable. If this seems to be taking a long time, approach your veterinarian from the side, without making eye contact, and offer high-value treats.
- If your veterinarian seems excited, approach without hesitation. This is when they are most receptive to petting and belly rubs. Be prepared, however, for a long, rapid-fire explanation of something that is a) gross, b) incomprehensibly medical, or c) beyond your capability to fix. Smile and nod, or say “Gosh, honey! Amazing!” no matter what it says.
5. Veterinarians as a species have a difficult time getting to sleep and staying asleep due to ruminative thinking patterns (in bed; many veterinarians can sleep well slumped in chairs or on a pile of blankets in a dog kennel). This seems to be the dark aspect of their perfectionism and compassion. Some veterinarians can be trained to minimize this trait. Meditation has been shown to help, and veterinarians are just bright enough to lean this skill (though they do tend to over-intellectualize the process, as they do with most things). If your veterinarian is amenable, meditate with it. Otherwise, make sure that you provide it ample opportunity to process its day before bedtime. If it is having trouble sleeping, it might need the help of someone skilled in the stresses that affect medical professionals.
6. Now that you have your own veterinarian, expect it to bring home some companions. It is rare for the veterinarian to limit itself to one or two pets. Expect any companion animals that it salvages from its work to be missing body parts, have an expensive disease, smell strange, or leak (urine, anal sac juice, or eye goobers). None will be normal, and this is normal for your veterinarian.
7. There are some phrases that should never, ever come out of your mouth. The term “real doctor” is the primary offender. This term should only be used dripping with sarcasm or with large air quotes, usually when referring to something that someone else said. If used otherwise, bites can result. Also be cautious when saying the phrase “playing with puppies and kittens”, as this is a known aggression trigger in some veterinarians, especially when used with the modifier “all day”. The reason for this aggression is currently unknown but studies are underway.
8. Despite its pedigree, your veterinarian may not be able to tolerate human body fluids that do not come from its own offspring. It may be able to clean up warm dog poop with a thin plastic bag on its hand or detect the presence of yeast in ears by taking a good satisfying sniff, but it will probably gag at the thought of adult human saliva or feces. Some veterinarians faint when they are asked to donate blood. This is a known species defect and should not be a reason to reject (or ridicule) your veterinarian.
9. Veterinarians are like field trial Labrador retrievers in many ways. This means that veterinarians are friendly, enthusiastic, food-motivated, and may be prone to swallowing golf balls. They are also very hard workers, motivated to please, and prone to fixation. While these may be seen as good traits, it means that veterinarians are predisposed to distress from overworking. Sixty hour weeks are not uncommon if the focus of fixation is maintained. It is your job as “vet’s best friend” to distract it from its fixation on the job. Offer more enticing activities, like biking, hiking, or chasing a ball. More sedentary veterinarians may enjoy a night at the movies or theater, dinner out (see point 3), shopping, or just spending time with you. Distract your veterinarian as much as possible and try to limit its working week to a maximum of 50 hours.
10. Prepare for public events with your new veterinarian to be uncomfortable until you become used to its peculiar habits. It may talk about gross things at meals, even in restaurants, and even when others can overhear. If it is with its own kind, expect this phenomenon to increase exponentially. It is not unheard of for a thrombus of veterinarians (a group of 3 or more gathered together in an aisle or hallway) to loudly discuss at least three of the following in a 2 minute period: feces, pus, erections, blood, brain tissue, necrotic tumors, penile discharge, gaping wounds, and vomit. Learn to tolerate the looks of discomfort on the faces of non-medical persons in the area; the joy on the face of your veterinarian as it out-grosses its companions will be worth it.
Having a veterinarian takes a lot of work, but the payoffs can be huge. They are often misunderstood, so study your veterinarian closely so that you can recognize its “normals” and be quick to act if things start to go awry. Good luck, and have fun!