MJ Wixsom: No days off, animals must be cared for

Published 5:42 am Saturday, October 29, 2022

Sunday morning 7:17 a.m, I roll into Guardian Animal’s parking lot.

I have a lot to do this morning. To be fair, I am not always in this early, but weekends often contain a fair amount of work for me.

At dinner Friday night with new friends, I remarked that I was looking forward to a two-day weekend.

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The guy said “Are you closed on Friday?”

“No, Saturday.”

Typically, Saturday mornings are a hectic rush of appointments for people who cannot get in during the week. (And a few major work ups that should have been in sooner.) We close at noon and are generally out by 1 p.m., but it still means that I only get a day and a half off at best.

Even after we close, there is a lot going on at Guardian Animal Medical Center.

The same staff who works Monday through Friday also does the weekend schedule.

It needs to be that way, because the staff needs to know what is going on to be able to do it on their own. Every staff member is told that their schedule includes some weekend duty.

When they are hired, they all say yes, but when the reality of weekend work comes, many leave.

I have had some say that it costs too much to drive in or they will work week days but not weekend, but that never works.

Animals must be taken care of on the weekends also.

Medical cases still must be checked, have IV fluids recorded, new IV bags added and IV lines flushed.

All hospitalized animals get their behavior and attitude graded as good/lethargic/poor. Their activity is monitored and recorded. The pulse rate and character, heart rate and rhythm, capillary refill time and respiration rates are monitored and recorded.

Any changes are reported, so that I can direct medical treatment as necessary and contact the owners if it is bad enough.

Some cases, like continuing IV fluids are fairly routine and the experienced staff immediately knows when the animal is not doing as it should.

By the time that they are qualified to come in by themselves, they can change a twisted IV line, complete a fecal parasite exam, update an IV pump and evaluate the patient’s condition.

Training is a six-step process. There are four phase trainings that progress from new employee safety through cage cleaning and animal and personal safety.

Then there is a specific testing process of items to be checked off in competency.

Finally, orientation and rules review is done by the doctor.

Only after complete trust is gained, is a key card and alarm code given out. This process takes a minimum of three weeks, if the employee has experience and up to six to eight months for a new hire.

Some people are never trusted to do animal care by themselves. If we don’t trust our animals with them, we do not leave your animals with them.

Some cases are not routine. Some cases are not things that I can delegate.

Yuki got his leg tangled in an airline cable. A subtle change in treatment may allow him to keep his leg.

That means that I will be checking Yuki this morning.

Often there are patients that are too critical for me to go without seeing them, so I will be in.

It is my job.

It is my duty.

Staff knows that they will not get in trouble for calling me, but will always get in trouble for not calling me.

All boarding animals are fed and walked twice a day.

Their appetite is graded as GREAT/Good/marginal/not/NPO (nothing by mouth).

Whether they drink or not is recorded on the treatment book. Same with urination and defecation.

Many times, we are better at accessing pain than owners and that is noted and recorded on a scale of one to ten also.

Often, I also will be in with the employees that are qualifying.

It is common for me to meet them early on Sunday mornings to be available and check over their work.

All wildlife and adoption animals must be fed on the weekends.

We receive no money from the state or government for that, but still pay employees to make sure all animals are taken care of.

This morning I am in extra early to write my article.

The hustle of a busy practice is not very conclusive to writing.

I am in early because I want to drive to Dayton to a seminar this afternoon.

I didn’t write my article yesterday afternoon, because I had to run to Sam’s for supplies.

I didn’t write it Wednesday because of patient care and I worked on accounting that had built up.

(Although, sometimes accounting needs as much quiet as writing does.) Although, I do not enjoy crawling out of bed early, I do enjoy the solitude of early Sunday mornings.

I have my really excellent coffee and the hospital to myself.

Well, until I hear the door and Haley is here to do kennels.

I welcome that sound also.

Sunday morning 8:35 a.m.: Yuki pees outside my door as I check his leg.

Catie will do additional hydrotherapy after she cleans up the urine.

I submit my article, empty out and leave for Dayton.

MJ Wixsom, DVM MS is a best-selling Amazon author who practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center in Flatwoods, Ky. GuardianAnimal.com 606-928-6566