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The Arctic Marmoset
23/09

I turned up to my first long term locum job, all keen and eager to begin. The first day was madness, bedlam, chaos… And so was the next day, and the next. That’s just how the place was!  I would get up, and walk downstairs to work. We would all gather in the tea room, put on our consulting jackets, and fuel ourselves with strong coffee. Meanwhile, outside, in the waiting room, a hubbub would begin to make itself heard- dogs growling and barking, cats letting everyone know just how little they liked being in a cage, kids being kids, maybe a bird or two, boxes of gerbils squeaking, even the odd snake, perhaps a tiger cub from the zoo.

The time allowed for a consultation was five minutes… Five minutes to go out, meet the person, get them and their animal into the room, find out the history, get the animal out of the cage, examine the animal (or sometimes two, or even three- in the same five minutes), make a diagnosis, decide what to treat it with, tell the owner to do what they probably wouldn’t do anyway, sort out the drugs, get the animal, and the owner, back out the door, write up the case notes… FIVE MINUTES!

And on some days, we got double booked, even triple… or a calving came up, so we were one vet down… and on one memorable day, two calvings- so I was the only vet, with a sea of faces and animals crowding the waiting room, spilling out of the door, into the car park. Faces blurred one into the next, lunch dissolved into wishful thinking, and I filled the hospital cages to overflowing with pets that I thought needed better attention (much to the distress of the other vets, and nurses).

Bad madness!  I had been used to a leisurely 15 minutes for each client. It was a shock to the system, and the sad truth was that there was no way that I could do the job of an effective consult in five minutes, anyway. So I used the shotgun approach- take a (hopefully lucky) guess, and have them come back in two days. Then, if they were no better, Slap them in a cage out the back, and hope like hell I got ten or fifteen minutes sometime in the day to look at them properly. Mind you, my guesses got better, quickly!

They were a fantastic crew of vets, lovely people doing an almost miraculous job under the conditions. They liked to have some fun, play the odd joke! One particularly memorable one was played on a vet, let’s call her Sally…

There had been a very long haired guinea pig come into the clinic, sadly too unwell to survive; so with due kindness and compassion, Bob (another vet- no true names being used here, to protect the reputations of all concerned), helped the guinea pig off to whatever heaven guinea pigs go to. Sadly, his compassionate and reverent attitude soon evaporated- he took the earthly vessel, and laid it out carefully in the freezer, so it looked lifelike.

This guinea pig had masses and masses of long white hair. He then told the unsuspecting Sally that he had a most unusual and exotic case come in- a rare, amazing beast- the Arctic Marmoset!

“Would you like to see it?” he asked, oozing sincerity.

“Yes! I’ve never even heard of these,” she said. She was lovely, and didn’t have a suspicious bone in her body.

“Ok- because it comes from the arctic, it needs to be kept very, very cold. It’s not too well, and so we need to be very quiet opening the freezer. I have to go in every 15 minutes or so and crack the door open to give it some fresh air. So if you come with me now, and be very quiet, I’ll give you a look. No touching it though!”

And off they went.

He got her to quietly ‘sneak up’ on this wondrous animal with him, (so as not to disturb it-) three or four times before it all got too much, and he totally lost the plot.

I laughed ‘till I cried over that one.

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~ Sandi Wickman