Anyone who’s been to a veterinary clinic in the last couple months knows that things are different. You walk up to a door to find that it is locked. Maybe there is a sign saying “Call us at 867-5309! We are not having clients come into the building at this time.” Or maybe the sign just says “We’re Closed.” COVID 19 has brought about many changes, the locked door and curbside appointments are the changes that are visible to you, the client. On the other side of that door we too are struggling in an unprecedented situation.
For Martensville Veterinary Hospital, it all started mid-February when Dr. Stewart came down with a cold; A cold that landed her in the hospital with a diagnosis of acute myeloblastic leukemia. Still reeling from this, the clinic headed into the uncharted territory of being an essential service during a pandemic.
Within a month of this news, our doors were locked and signs were up asking people to call us once they got to the clinic. We were no longer having clients come into the building and “curbside service” as well as “telemedicine” were added to our vocabulary. The new normal was four phone lines blinking, waiting to be answered. As soon as one became available, the phone would ring and it would be four blinking lines again.
A few days after locking the doors, our team was split into two. Doing what we do, social distancing between team members is impossible. This was to ensure the clinic could remain open if someone fell ill. The thought was should one team fall, the other would be there to keep the clinic going. It makes perfect sense, but sense doesn’t make it any easier.
Short staffed, we trudged along. Down a vet due to cancer, and another due to leave, until, in the beginning of April we welcomed a new veterinarian, Dr. Page (welcome Dr. Page!), into the clinic. This helped to take some of the workload off of the shoulders of Dr. Lange, who had suddenly found herself as our only veterinarian.
Throughout April and May we started to notice things about the appointments that were being booked. Many were new clients. Normally this wouldn’t be an oddity, except we started hearing daily from people that they had tried to get an appointment at their regular clinic, only to find that they had closed or they were too busy to see them. When they called other clinics, they had been turned away. Would we also be turning them away? We scour our already packed appointment book trying to find time to see their pet, often sacrificing our lunch breaks to get everything done.
We were also seeing a huge influx of two types of appointments, puppy wellness and medical exams. Both have to do with people spending their days at home. What better time to get a puppy than when you’re stuck at home! You can devote the time to training your new companion without having to worry about accidents in the house while you are away at work.
Spending time at home has also given many people the opportunity to notice things about their animal companions that they may have missed during the hustle and bustle of pre COVID life. We started to see a lot more pets that had problems. Some were minor; ear infections, skin abnormalities, scooting. Many were not. Sadly, this increased the amount of humane euthanasias we were doing as well.
Saying goodbye to a pet is never easy. Not for you, and not for us. At Martensville Veterinary Hospital, we’ve tried to keep euthanasia appointments the same as they’ve always been. It is sacred, the process of saying goodbye, holding your pet close, telling them you love them one last time as they take their final breath (My eyes are watering as I write, and reread this). Right now every euthanasia we do we put ourselves at risk. We don’t do it because we have to. Some clinics aren’t allowing clients in the building for anything, euthanasia included. We do it because we care. We do it because some things shouldn’t change.
In two days we did eight euthanasias. All of them were medically justified. All of them weigh on us. Some were pets that we’ve seen for years, some were only seen a couple of times, and some we had never been seen before. We don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many we’ve done in the last two months.
Through it all we are smiling, we’re educating, and we’re continuing to do what we do to the best of our ability despite overwhelming difficulties and self-risk. It’s not just us at MVH, it’s all of the vet clinics that remain open. Your veterinary teams are heroes. Every time you take a moment and thank them, you too have helped. Behind their smiles, they’re struggling too.