The phone rings. We have just finished laughing about the squirrel outside our window that we have named “Nutty,” guarding his tree from fellow wildlife. We answer. On the other end of the receiver is a teary voice, indicating that there is an emergency that is going to have to take priority over anything else at the moment.
Suddenly, Nutty’s antics aren’t so funny. We stay calm, collect the information and contact a veterinarian to get them out to see the horse ASAP. You may not be able to hear it, but we are having an emotional reaction too. Our mouths feel pasty, our hearts race, our hands get sweaty and we get a pit in our stomach. We page the vet. Why are they taking so long to answer? It has really only been 30 seconds, but feels much longer.
If 30 seconds seems so long for us, the call from the client perspective must feel like an eternity – especially when the office is asking questions. Emergencies are scary, and we recognize how traumatizing it is. Like 911 operators, we have to collect all of the right information so we can relay it to the appropriate people (in our case, it is our veterinarians) and provide you with the most efficient care we can. We want to prevent unnecessary call backs. In these types of situations, you have enough to worry about, without us calling you back to verify something. The following, is need to know information:
- The issue the horse is having, and how long it has been happening. This is important so that we can determine which vet we send, and how urgently we need to get them there. The occasional colic has been referred to surgery without any intervention from us, due to the symptoms described over the phone and the length of time the horse had been sick.
- The physical address of the horse – we would feel awful, if you had a sick horse and we sent the vet to the wrong location!
- If any first aid has been administered, if so – what? Banamine can mask signs of colic, making a horse appear fine when they are really not. Coating a laceration with product prior to an exam may affect the ability to stitch it. Pulling a nail from a foot can cause more damage than has already been done. We like the vet to be fully prepared, with an idea of what is going on, before stepping foot on the property. We also, do not want to administer drugs again, if a dose has already been received.
- A phone number that the vet can reach you at, where you will actually answer. We need to be able to get a hold of you with an ETA, or the vet needs to be able to talk to you should they get lost, or require further information.
- Is the horse insured? This could change the options available to you.
We all have our own pets. Most of us have horses. We have developed relationships with clients over the years, and despite the fact that we (as office staff) may not have ever physically met your horse, we can appreciate your stories about how cute he is when he nickers for his treats, or plays with his jolly ball, or lets his friends free from their paddocks/stalls. Through interactions for routine appointments, we feel like we’ve gotten to know your horse. When something is not quite right, we feel the anxiety it is causing you and can relate to it, because we know how much your horse means to you.
When the phone rings, we never know how the call is going to play out. While emergency calls can cause some dread, we are glad that we are available to help treat your horse in these circumstances. It gives us a great deal of satisfaction to be able to play a role in getting a veterinarian to see your horse as fast as possible.