Skills By Association
Jennifer E. Miller
"I have a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you." -Liam Nieson, Taken
Recently, I was informed I have skills by association. Our cat, let’s call her Dasher, unfortunately, has kidney issues. While she is already on special kidney food, she lost weight over the holidays. Upon taking her to the veterinarian's office, he decided to place her on medication. He also suggested giving her subcutaneous fluids to maintain hydration and to keep her little organs functioning longer.
"Subcutaneous means injection, right?" I asked.
"Yes. But if I remember correctly, you said your sister-in-law is a veterinarian?"
"You can handle it, then."
There. I have been awarded skills by association. My sister-in-law is a veterinarian; therefore, I am qualified to stick my cat with needles. Mind you my sister-in-law lives three hundred miles away.
Dasher's vet seems confident I can do this. "Lots of other pet owners do it, too. It's a breeze!"
[Vets] have a very particular set of skills. Skills [they] have acquired over a very long career...
He scribbles something, probably illegible, in Dasher's chart and says a tech will be in shortly to show me the ropes. Barking and yipping is heard as he opens the exam room door and shuts it behind him. The room is quiet again except for Dasher's faint little meow as her beady green eyes stare up at me.
...Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.
A nightmare. A nightmare. A nightmare.
The trance is broken by the click of the door. The technician, a short blonde-haired girl, walks in with an armful of supplies. She sets them down on the counter and begins speaking rapidly.
"Ok, so the doctor says Dasher is to get fluids. You'll give her..." she checks the chart that had been tucked under her arm. "...two cc's of fluids twice per week."
She whips out one of those bags full of clear liquid that looks like it should hang from an IV rack.
"See this tube? It connects to the bag like so." Blondey proceeds to demonstrate.
"It opens and shuts like this." She moves a wheel-type clamp over the tube.
"Now the needle goes on." Out of the jumble of supplies is a roughly two-inch plastic green and white tube. She removes the white bottom section and shows me how to attach it to the end of the IV tube. The green portion is the needle cover and she pops it off. What I see resembles the sharpened lead to a pencil without all the wood around it.
"Ok, so what you do is pull the scruff of the cat up a little and--"
"Whoa! I'm supposed to jab her with that thing?!" I exclaim.
"Yeah," she answers nonchalantly. "So you insert it--"
"Wait. I was thinking this was going to be more like inject her with a skinny little syringe."
"No. As I said, you insert it like this under the scruff." She stabs poor Dasher who was unaware an encounter with a fat needle was coming. She didn't like it. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.
"Now you open the flow by pushing the wheel clamp back." Blondey said.
The fluids seeped through the tube and under Dasher's skin. Pretty soon a bubble formed under her skin, which is normal, I am told.
Blondey had me try poking Dasher a couple of times to get the knack of it. She said this is a two-person job and make sure to have a helper, and reminded me to use a new needle each time. I was out the door officially crown as the family feline needle stabber. A.k.a. the most dreaded person of the household.
In a few days, it was time to administer fluids to Dasher again. I set up the station by hanging the IV bag on a Christmas stocking nail above the fireplace. T assists me by holding the feline. I can do this! I can do this! I can do this! I tell myself.
I get everything ready as Blondey showed me. Now for the moment of truth. I’m ready to stab Dasher with the needle. I pull up her scruff with my left hand. With my right, I gently insert it under her skin. She tenses up a bit and gives a low growl. I hold the needle in place with my left hand now, and use my right to open the wheel and let the flow down the tube. As soon as it hits her, she yelps and wiggles free. The needle goes flying and spews fluid in a tiny river that goes everywhere except into Dasher. I quickly clamp the wheel back to the close position. The carpet, myself, and T are wet.
"Why did you let her go?!" I demanded.
"What am I supposed to do?" T said.
Your job wasn’t that difficult, I thought to myself.
After an FBI manhunt, er cathunt, we locate Dasher and bring her back to the needle station. This time, we place a towel down on the carpet. I grab cat treats from the pantry and present Dasher with a couple as a peace offering.
On to round two. I repeat the process. She stays put but the fluids are leaking from the injection site; I don’t know why. The liquids are getting the cat wet and saturating the towel. I clamp off the fluids, pull out the needle, and try one last time. Better, but I only get part of the liquids administered. Calling it good for the day, I put the supplies away until next time.
Next time goes worse. Dasher tries to bite us and bounces around like a psychotic squirrel overdosing on a special type of mushroom. She escapes again and the needle spews liquids. Frantic, T tries to grab Dasher while I grab the spraying needle. We meet and by accident T is stabbed. He is not happy. Dasher is pissed. I am frustrated. I decide it’s time to head back to the veterinarian’s office and enlist help because I do not have a very particular set of skills acquired over a very long career. And Dasher made things nightmarish!
The following afternoon Dasher and I are back in the vet’s office. It’s a different technician than Blondey. I explain what I am having trouble with.
"Show me what happens," New Tech says.
I place Dasher on the exam room table, set up the bag, and insert the needle. As I get ready to open up the line and I say, "About now is when Dasher growls and tries to skidaddle."
But she makes me a liar by being a perfect little angel. Cats are never perfect little angels at the vet’s office. Why is she choosing now?
"This isn’t how she acts at home," I say.
The injection site begins to leak again and I ask for some assistance to avoid this. New Tech explains I need to have the needle in all the way under the skin, rather than just halfway. After the practice session is complete and Dasher has her fluids for this go around, we head home, hoping that the next needle jabbing session will be smooth.
A few days pass and it’s that time again. We throw on our rain coats because we’re tired of changing of clothes every time this fluid business day comes around. We set Dasher down and give her a treat first thing, petting her, and lying that she’s a good kitty. I pull up her scruff. I insert the needle. I open the wheel clamp. The flow of fluids begins. It doesn’t leak! Dasher is staying put! The fluid level gradually lowers and reaches the necessary mark on the bag. Success!
I do, in fact, have a very particular set of skills after all.