Editor’s note: the following article is part of a series of articles The Ripple is doing entitled “The Day in the Life of.” The article is written in the first person from the reporter’s perspective.
While the staff in a veterinarian’s office often can enjoy the precious time with adorable dogs and cats, they also must endure the dirtier and more dangerous side of the job that many pet owners never have to see.
I had the pleasure of spending the day with Dr. Roger Holt and his staff at Yadkin Veterinary Hospital and seeing what it really means to be a veterinarian.
Our day began with a collection of sick animals that had been staying in the hospital or had been dropped off that morning.
A large selection of the animals Dr. Holt was seeing were brought in with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. One dog had most likely eaten something at the chicken farm near his home that caused an infection or intestinal parasite.
Another dog had just started a new bag of food that came from a brand that had recently had to recall products due to salmonella contamination.
Dr. Holt moved through these pets quickly, yet thoroughly, checking each one from head to toe and making sure that each dog got a little affection before returning to its cage.
The veterinary technicians Holly Hoots and Brandy Tucker then presented Dr. Holt with a more challenging patient. A black and white cat named Bella was presented as having probably been attacked by a dog. The extent of her injuries wasn’t really clear until Dr. Holt went to check her temperature.
After lifting a back leg, the staff learned that Bella was nearly split all the way up to the center of her abdomen; a sight that looked like something out of a horror movie. Several organs were exposed, and it was difficult to tell if the urinary tract or rectum were still intact while the cat was awake.
After a little pain reliever that doubled as a light sedative, Dr. Holt was able to examine the cat more extensively and realized that he would not be able to repair the cat with surgery without causing more problems than he would solve.
Dr. Holt called Bella’s owner and broke the news, a task that was clearly difficult for him despite his years of experience.
Once all of the in hospital treatments were finished Dr. Holt and I headed out to King Knob Farms in East Bend. During the ride we talked about what made him decide to become a veterinarian.
Dr. Holt said that he made the decision when he was about 16 years old. He had grown up working on a farm and really enjoyed working with the animals. He said he knew he wanted to work in a medical field and so he decided to combine his two passions.
Dr. Holt has always worked with a combination of small and large animals. When the time came and he was ready to start his own practice he decided he wanted to come to Yadkin County because it was rural.
He opened his first location on the land between the existing KFC and Taco Bell restaurants in 1981. He remained there for more than 20 years before expanding to his new location of Highway 601.
Our chat about Dr. Holt’s history ended as we pulled up to King Knob Farms. The unmistakable smell of cow smacked us in the face as we pulled up. Farm owner Wayne Smitherman met us at the truck and talked about the job ahead as Dr. Holt pulled on coveralls, galoshes and grabbed some shoulder length plastic gloves. I realized things were about to get very dirty.
Smitherman wrangled up the cows and started herding them in one by one. Dr. Holt’s arm would disappear as he checked each cow’s uterus to see if she was pregnant, in heat or having reproductive issues. Dr. Holt said that he was able to tell as early as 30 days if the cow was pregnant.
The cows seemed split between being oblivious to what was happening at their back end and not being amused in the least about the hand venturing into their nether region.
After 31 cows and surprisingly only one glove, Dr. Holt was finished. A total of 16 cows were verified as pregnant, each at different stages. After a quick tour of the calves on site we hopped back in the truck and headed back for the office.
When we returned, the staff was lined up to present Dr. Holt with questions and concerns regarding clients and their pets, and a gentleman stood next to a trailer at the back of the hospital waiting with his cow.
Dr. Holt handled it all with a calm demeanor, making sure that everything was under control before heading out to address the cow.
The cow was one he had seen recently due to a painful hoof. The owner said the hoof seemed to have gotten worse so Dr. Holt placed the cow in a special restraint that allowed him to look at the hoof more closely.
After cleaning it thoroughly Dr. Holt determined that the pain was being caused by a crack in the hoof that would have to heal on its own. The real work then began when Dr. Holt and the cow’s owner had to try to wrangle the very unhappy cow back into the trailer; a task that took the better part of an hour to accomplish.
Following the rodeo-esque moment Dr. Holt went back inside to see the remainder of his visits for the day; setting the leg of a pit bull that had been hit by a car and would require bone surgery the next day and tending to client’s with pets suffering from intestinal, skin and pain issues.
At the end of the 10-hour day we all were ready for a little time off our feet. My time with Dr. Holt showed me that while a veterinarian’s days may have several instances of cute and furry critters to nuzzle, there’s also the 500-pound heifer that would like nothing more than to stomp on your feet.
Evidently no job is perfect all the time.
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.