Man at the vet with his cat

Today’s client did me a favor: He let me know when he was about to hit the floor. And I love him for it.

It happens every once in a while. Although I’m always careful to warn clients that I’m about to brandish a needle — and I do my best to hide the deed — clients still have a way of losing their ability to hold an upright pose when things get gross or needles are on the loose.

And, to tell you the truth, it’s mostly men who suffer from wooziness.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of my father slumped in a chair, with his head in his hands. I was four years old, and I’d accompanied him to the vet hospital with our maimed Siamese cat, Marsha, a notoriously scrappy outdoor kitty who’d wormed her way into our hearts by delivering a litter in my bassinet.

On this day, Marsha had been acting unusually quiet and cool, and she was sporting some crusted blood on the fur near her tail. The vet, best known for his quick way with a scalpel and rock-bottom prices, explained that Marsha had an abscess that needed to be lanced. Without warning, he sliced open her skin and let spew forth a veritable gush of blood and pus. As the malodorous mix flowed onto the exam room table, my father hit the exam room floor.

Needless to say, it’s my experience that you never know who's going to pass out, which is why it's not a good idea to attempt anything gross or smelly in front of any client without describing what you're about to do first.

When it comes to the gut-wrenching tricks of my trade, clients most often take issue with blood collection. Sometimes just the sight of a syringe is more than enough for select owners.

I've had my share of really stupid mistakes, like unwrapping a bandaged wound in front of one gentleman who ended up in a pale-faced slump against the wall. There’s also this gem that I can’t resist revisiting: A veterinary surgeon I know almost fell out of his chair when a life insurance nurse came to take his blood. “I’m OK with needles — as long as they’re pointed away from me,” he famously said.

Hmmm. There are just some things that we’ll probably never understand. But at least we can recognize the value of extending certain human courtesies — like letting your vet know that you’re likely to succumb to the sight of a needle.

So be a good citizen and “man” up — the way today's client did — because the last thing that I need is to hoist a man (and his ego) off the floor. My job’s hard enough, you know?

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