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BatGirl

I feel as if I have reached a milestone in my veterinary training.  Last week, I successfully completed my first dog spay.  There were many classes and much training leading up to this point, including an introduction to anesthesia and surgery course last year and our current junior surgery course.  In addition to watching countless numbers of spays and neuters while previously working at an animal shelter, I had assumed this would be no big deal.  I had a team of two other classmates, one working anesthesia, and one as a surgery assistant. I also had several professors and technicians as guides during the entire procedure.

I entered the surgery suite feeling totally prepared, but there is still the nervousness that comes from the life of another creature being in your hands.  This was not just any patient for me, but one I had gotten to know pretty well over the previous week.  The dogs and cats we spayed last week came from various shelters in the area and after their castration, would be ready to be adopted to a new forever home.  For the surgeon that week, the responsibility was two-fold: spay your assigned animal and care for them the entire week.  I had thought it would be pretty basic and maybe even monotonous: take the patient to go potty throughout the day, perform physical exams daily, and vital signs twice daily.  The wonderful animal caretakers were responsible for providing food and water for the animals.  It seemed simple enough, except for this one problem-I fell in love with this little dog.  I was tricked!  The care of this animal became more than just a babysitting routine that week, this dog quickly felt like my own.  Trips to go to the bathroom in the yard became opportunities to play with the other dogs and times for lots of head pats and scratches on the neck.  It was quite a sight to behold with each designated surgeon that week playing with their dogs in the yard and referring to them naturally as "my dog" or another name they had come up with.  "My dog" quickly became lovingly called "BatGirl," as she had unnaturally large ears for her body that stuck out to the side (coincidently the Rangers began competing in the World Series the day she was spayed, so her name ended up having two meanings.)

I found that I was not only glad to see her first thing in the morning before school, but I began to wonder how she was doing when I was not there.  Was she happy?  Did she get to relax much that day?  And most frequently, would she find a good home some day?  As one could imagine, my first spay was not just on any dog, but was on BatGirl, a dog whose personality I had grown to cherish.  I found myself like a nervous parent whose child was about to undergo surgery.  Yet I was not just the parent, but the surgeon too.

Last week I learned some important lessons.  Being a veterinarian is not just about knowing the basics of aseptic technique or ligating vessels properly, it is also having compassion and concern for each patient as if they were your very own BatGirl.