The summer evening emergency farm calls were my favorite. By this time I could drive and it was totally okay to work late. Nothing made me happier in those years than an emergency prolapse, DA, or laceration that needed a stitching.
I would throw on the navy blue, short sleeved coveralls and slip my feet into the black Tingleys that were always found laying by the back door of the clinic. A quick phone call to my folks and we were off.
Climbing into one of the Toyota vet trucks, I usually had to push either Clem or Cooper over–I was taking over the co-captain or rather the dog position. Those looks were so sad.
As the sun was setting, with the windows rolled down, I could hear the crickets chirping as we pulled out. Wind blowing in my face, down country roads we went, over the hills and dales of central New Hampshire. The roads were lined with stone walls and old sugar maples, the summer evening’s air was light and sweet with the fresh smell of a meadow or a passing by of a pine grove.
It seemed that we always had to stop for the cows to cross the road at Silver’s Farm. I didn’t mind, my heart welled with so much happiness to be in that truck on those evenings that I could have burst. Oh how I loved it…
We would arrive at the farm, pulling in to the dusty dirt driveway. Parking by the milk house, the hum of the milk pump broke the natural music of the summer evening. Usually my job was to go to the milk house and grab a bucket of warm, soapy water. Always giving the boots a squirt of iodine, I would quickly scrub them with the long handled white brush before following farmer and vet into the barn. I never wanted to miss any of the details that the farmer was telling the vet about our patient.
I watched, I listened. I fetched things, I washed things, I held things. I always worked through in my mind what the problem was and how it would be treated. With a knowing glance from the veterinarian I could tell which way the evening was going to go. Then I would look to the farmer. The story was told with our eyes, and we would wait for the doctor to speak. Comfort, relief, reassurance: maybe it was for the farmer? Maybe it was for me? In my heart there was always a feeling that everything was going to be okay, either way. Your animal is safe now in the hands of your trusted friend, your veterinarian.
After the emergency was dealt with, the treatment carried out, and instructions given, we headed back to the truck, via the milk house for a good washing.
There was talk of milk prices, ringworm, corn and what was going on around the corner at the neighboring farm… no matter how much of a hurry we might be in, there was always talk.
As we pulled out of the barnyard, my mentor and I would understand each other through our eyes. Conveyed in that look was a knowing; it was an easy call, it was a tough call. Sometimes it took moments for us to talk about it, sometimes talk was immediate before we even left the barnyard. I loved the conversations after a call. I listened and learned.
For me, it wasn’t just about the diagnosis, the solution, or the presentation. It was about the people, the setting, the time. I just didn’t know it then…
As the sunlight glowed from below the horizon, giving off the very last light of day, I could hear the hum of a distant mower stop. I could feel the song of the crickets and peepers in my heart as they chirped when we drove through that wet, low lying area. The air was always heavy and cool in that spot. I shivered as I looked out at the horizon when we came up over the knoll. I saw Kearsarge in the distance, and maybe in that moment I knew, deep in my heart, that this style of practice wasn’t long lived. We were on the cusp of change…and that change would not include me.
What was in store for me, I had no idea…and I certainly had no idea it would involve writing!
What I learned from my days at the clinic were invaluable. Beyond the details of pilling a cat, drawing blood and reading a fecal, I learned how to work with different people and their personalities. I learned how to hide my own bad day and keep carrying on through the work. I learned how to care for pets and I learned about the value of caring for their humans.
Those connections are still deep within me, in the depths of my soul and I carry them with me every day on my journey.
Thank you to those that “grew” me up in my first job at RVH–Brad, Ann, Donna and Angela, Sylvia too. The vets who walked in and walked out during that period and a couple of vet techs too. And lets not forget my 2 favorite vet students–we shared some funny memories with each other…you guys made it!
Ahh, to think… what could have been.