In case some of you didn’t already know, for my action project, I have been volunteering at an animal hospital for the last couple of months. In this post, I will share with you what I have been doing, some of my successes and challenges I have had, and what’s happening next.
Starting out, I was mostly doing cleaning tasks such as doing and putting away the laundry, washing dishes and surgical instruments, cleaning counter tops and kennels, shredding old papers, and taking out the garbage and recycling. I still continue to do those things as they’re simple tasks that take a lot of time off the hands of the vet techs so that they can attend to the animals and clients more; however, I have learned to do more demanding tasks over time as I became more and more experienced and comfortable with the clinic and how things worked. Soon enough, I was helping hold cats and dogs when they were getting treated by the vet, and to do so, I had to learn on the go how to properly hold them depending on what the vet needed to do, which is one of my first successes. For example, if they simply need to take their temperature, I wrap one arm under their stomach and the other under their neck, and it’s important to keep them in a secure hold in case they try to snap at you or the other person when doing any sort of treatment or checkup. Another success for me was being able to interact with clients. For example, there are times when the clinic is super busy with appointments and answering calls, so to help lessen the load for the vet techs, when the vet was finished with his appointment with a dog that I was helping him out with, I brought the dog outside to the owner and exchanged leashes. (As the pandemic grew worse in Canada, we stopped allowing clients into the building, only important exams and surgeries were allowed, and we had to use our own leashes which we sanitized after each use.)
Finally, the most exciting success that I have been a part of is a neuter surgery. Of course, I can’t do this on a client’s pet, but one of the vets was gracious enough to allow me to help her neuter her own dog, and I was able to learn a lot from this surgery. Before the surgery started, we had to weigh him, calculate the dosages he’ll need based on his weight and then pull the correct amount into the syringes. I used a stethoscope to determine his heart rate, inserted a thermometer into the anus to check his temperature, held his mouth open to place the tube for oxygen and anesthesia down his trachea, and pushed out the vein on his arm so the vet tech could easily insert the IV fluids and a drug. There may have been more things that I’ve forgotten about, but that’s the gist of it. For myself, I had to do a thorough scrubbing, starting from my fingertips and making my way down my arms, and using a special scrub, soap and technique. Without touching anything else, I then put on gloves, a gown and a cap. The surgery could then begin. I won’t go into too much detail on what happens in the surgery because it is quite gross and I don’t think some people want to hear too many details about what a neuter surgery is like, but I participated in a lot of it including the main part of removing the testicles, and I learned how to do a surgeon’s knot. While it may seem like this is helping me more than it is helping them, there are still several things that I learned in the pre-surgery part that I can now help out with if needed. For example, sometimes someone will want help with inserting a needle into a vein but everyone else is busy, so now I am able to help them hold the animal and I know how to pop the vein up for them.
Here is a couple of pictures from the surgery:
However, I can’t be successful without facing any challenges. One challenge I have faced – that the whole clinic has faced – is an overwhelming amount of business after the pandemic became worse in Canada. Everyone was panicking and ordering lots of food, which resulted in massive orders that we had to deal with, and a lot of phone calls the vet techs had to make to let clients know that their food arrived, as well as answering calls from people wondering why it was taking so long. Therefore, to help overcome the huge waves of food orders, I started spending a lot of my time opening boxes and checking items off the invoice list, then flattening all of the boxes and taking them out to the recycling so that they didn’t continue to clutter the clinic.
Another challenge I have faced is the inability to fully practice social distancing in the clinic. It’s a rather small clinic, so it’s hard to keep our distance, especially when there needs to be at least two people to work on an animal since one person needs to hold. However, we have been taking extra precautions. For example, we walk back to back when we need to get past each other, I wash my hands frequently, and I have helped wiped down things that are touched often including doorknobs and handles, keyboards, computer mouses, and phones.
Moving forward, I am going to continue volunteering at the animal hospital and helping them out in any way I can because I am really enjoying what I am doing there, and I think now is an important time to help out in your community if you are able to and aren’t putting anyone at risk (my mom already works at this clinic, so me being their doesn’t really increase my family’s risk of getting covid-19 very much), whether it be by doing essential work or by staying home. For me, I am spending most of my time at home and doing schoolwork, but I want to keep helping out the hospital at least once a week for as long as I can as they continue to be an essential service.
Thanks for reading!