Ethology of the veterinarian, part III

This is the third and perhaps final installment in this series for novice owners of Homo herriotus pollulus (the common small animal veterinarian). The first article, The Husbandry and Feeding of Veterinarians, and the second, Ethology of the Veterinarian Part II, were eye-opening to many, if the volume of email the author has received is any indication. Here we hope to further enlighten the (as yet) uninitiated.

Greeting rituals. Interactions with animals outside of the workplace take on an atypical form. Veterinarians might perform a verbal acknowledgement of an animal and perhaps pat or stroke it, but will then use this activity to mask a covert inspection of the teeth or palpation of the ribs, or both. Your veterinarian may then incautiously advise the animal’s owner that the animal has “rotten teeth”, or is “obese”. Your veterinarian may learn that this conduct results in social marginalization, but will continue to perform the greeting ritual regardless. It appears to be a hard-wired behavior.

“Hidden” paraphernalia. If you are cleaning up after your veterinarian and come across needles and syringes in its pockets or find them in the lint trap of the dryer, do not panic. It is not a “dope fiend” and is not “chasing the dragon”; it simply ran out of room in its hands to hold everything it needed at some point in its day. If your veterinarian repeats this behavior, you can attempt to train it to empty its pockets before leaving the workplace. This training meets with variable success and requires continual reinforcement.

Pen hoarding. If the problem is pens rather than needles and syringes, the problem is more serious. Controlled studies show that veterinarians cannot be trained to leave pens at the workplace. Don’t even bother. Enjoy your new office supplies.

Scars. Some of those new to H. herriotus relationships may be alarmed by the amount of physical damage evident on their veterinarian, particularly on the medial forearms. You must keep in mind that your veterinarian works every day with animals who suffer its interference with varying degrees of patience. Some love your veterinarian and would never harm it. Others tolerate your veterinarian only as long as it does not step over a certain line, the location of which, in the case of cats, changes from instant to instant. These patients come armed to the fight, and human skin is no match. Expect more battle scars over the years.

Inability to watch nature shows. Your veterinarian may not be able to tolerate the sight and sounds of gory animal death. To you, the footage of a lion eating a gazelle is a fascinating window into the life of a carnivore; to your veterinarian the gazelle is an injured animal that needs fixing. The tension of not being able to relieve the suffering may overwhelm your veterinarian’s nervous system and cause grief. Observe your veterinarian for signs of distress when watching this kind of programming, and consider changing the channel to a more soothing choice like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, or an MMA match.

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