In my attempts to fulfill the needs of my clients, the practice grows in mysterious ways. One of my newer clients has 5 pets: two dogs a cat and two snakes. Because she liked my bedside manner, she asked if I would be the veterinarian for her snakes. How could I say no?
It is kind of like when someone asks you to attend church services with them. You say yes and more often than not the subject never comes up again. I figured the same thing would happen with the snakes.
Most owners of exotic pets take pretty good care of them, but things do happen so I was sure I would see them…in time. Because I am one of the few veterinarians in Fort Lauderdale proper who will see snakes and other exotic pets, word gets around. Like in that old commercial for the hair shampoo, she told two friends, who told two friends, and so on and so forth. As a result of word of mouth, in a very short period of time I gained 5 monitor lizards, 3 snakes, and 2 birds as patients. The lizards and birds were no problem. The snakes were another matter.
I guess it is that primal, instinctual fear as a prey species we all have as humans. . Snakes do give me the creeps. Not to the point I am in abject, irrational, get that thing away from me fear, just a feeling of, “…gee that is neat. What an interesting pet. NO! I mean no, I don’t want to touch or hold him.”
Now having 3 snakes in your patient census is much different from having 3 snakes on your appointment book. But the reality and hope of every veterinary practice is to have those animals in your patient census appear in your appointment book and in time it does occur. When it did occur it was not just any snake, it was Juda
Juda is an 8 foot long, 20 year old Boa Constrictor. As with most things, anxiety and apprehension increases with the size of the concern. With a 3 foot long snake I can get through the moment by imagining I am doing something else like handling wiggly spaghetti. When you are handling an 8 foot long snake the only thing running through your mind is ” $&@!, I am handling an 8 foot long snake.” Juda had a mass on her tail that was growing rapidly and causing her discomfort according to her owner. So on top of the anxiety of handling an 8 foot snake, I was dealing with a geriatric 8 foot long snake. This meant in addition to my primal anxiety and apprehension which are self-imposed, I had to deal with a geriatric animal with all the medical probabilities and possibilities that accompany older animals. On top of those factors, she was going through a skin shed and the caps over her eyes, which should be clear, are now cloudy and impairing her vision, making Juda one grumpy snake. Things just keep getting better. What is a vet to do?
People come to me because they and their animals need my help. To give them my best efforts, I have to put my personal feelings, anxieties, and fears aside. It is not about me. It is about the patient and the client. So I take a deep breath, put on my white doctor’s coat, and do my thing. It has always served me well to remember medicine is medicine whether I am treating a dog, bird, non-human primate, or a snake. The key is to develop a plan of action and treatment regime that is medically sound and considers the nuances of the species I am treating. It is so much easier being an effective doctor when you put aside the inconsequential issues.
Juda is doing well. After a few diagnostic
procedures and test, I diagnosed she had an abscess. She is currently on antibiotics for a couple of weeks and will soon be having surgery to resolve the abscess. Despite all my self-imposed drama, Juda was a great patient and an exceptional experience professionally and personally. My view of working with snakes has changed for the better. In short, I touched a snake and I liked it!