My very first job out of vet school is where I met Dr Jen Heller. We went to the same vet school, but she was 2 years ahead of me, so we never really knew each other during school.
During my fourth year I was pregnant with my son, Connor, and that sealed the deal for me of going right into private practice instead of an internship. I knew there was no way I could do the internship thing with an infant, and really preferred to just start being a vet anyway. Jen had a friend in my class who told me about an opening at her job, Steinbach Vet, in Blue Bell, PA. She helped me set up an interview, and after touring the hospital, Jen and I carpooled to a lunch spot with her boss to have a more informal interview. During that car ride I told Jen I was pregnant, which she laughed about as I was being hired to replace someone who was going to go out on maternity leave that summer. Whoops. I will never forget at the end of the interview when he was about to offer me the job and I said, ‘Wait, before you offer it I have to tell you something, because I feel like I need to be truthful here.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Damnit, you’re pregnant, aren’t you?’ I laughed and said yes, and he said the job was mine anyway because we would figure it out and he felt like I was a good fit.
Working at Steinbach’s shaped so much of the vet that I am today, as well as Jen! It was so fast paced and intense – as a new graduate I was thrown right in seeing 15 minute appointments and we were often double or even triple booked! It was a HOPPING hospital, and had some pretty amazing veterinarians working there who provided great mentorship for me as a baby vet.
I was given a surgery day pretty much right away, and our boss would sometimes come back and time how long it took me to do a spay. No pressure there at all. As stressful as it was though, I gained wonderful experience and had to step out of my comfort zone to keep up, and it made me a better veterinarian for it! Unfortunately, I only got to work for about a month before I had to go on bed rest and then ultimately ended up having an emergency c-section to have Connor, so I didn’t really get started there until late summer/fall of 2010.
That fall, I had one case that will stick with me forever – it was this adorable little dachshund who was about 7 years old and presented for vomiting. His owner was worried he had eaten a peach pit out of the trash, and sure enough there was a very suspicious looking ball in the stomach when we took some xrays. After talking more with the owners, they elected to move forward with surgery, and that afternoon we prepped him to go in and fish it out! This was my very FIRST abdominal exploratory to remove a foreign body, and I was super nervous. Luckily Jen was working that day, and she kept coming back to check on me as I nervously got started. Honestly, she talked me through the entire thing – doing an exploratory surgery is not something you really get to practice in vet school, so a lot of it is on the job training, aka you see a case that needs it and you figure it out as you go!! Into the stomach we went, and there was the pesky peach pit, as well as a full size, intact tooth pick that the owner didn’t even know he had eaten! Dogs really do sometimes make the worst life choices! I took them both out, patched him up, and spent the next week stressing out over how he was doing until we knew we were out of the woods with him. He did wonderfully, and went on to live a happy, healthy life. I can’t say for sure that he didn’t continue to make poor life choices, but at least we know we fixed that one.
Since then I have done many many other foreign body surgeries – dogs really do like to eat things they shouldn’t. Just this week I removed a giant sock from a 6 month old puppy, and assisted with removing 9 tampons from a very old pup (14 years old!), who was definitely old enough to know better. My favorite story of all time though comes from vet school when I was on my emergency rotation working night shift, and the resident and I saw a dog who had eaten underwear. We induced vomiting and the crazy beast vomited up 8 crotches of underwear – yes, just the crotch. All different colors and patterns – it was something to see, that resident fishing through vomit and laying out underwear crotches at 3am.
Being a veterinarian certainly has some fun stories and experiences. As difficult as it was at times rolling with the crazy schedule at Steinbach’s, I’m so glad I worked there – I made some wonderful connections and that is also how Jen and I met and became the friends and partners we are today! Everything definitely happens for a reason, and that job led us down the path of friendship, rescue, and ultimately practice ownership, that I am so glad we took.