I am never allowed to talk about my day with my husband. He thinks what I do is gross. Talking about the cases I saw during the day can mean I end up sleeping on the couch.
During undergrad, I volunteered at the Montana Raptor Conservation Center, where I cleaned cages, made raptor meals out of mice, venison, and pheasants, and occasionally restrained injured birds for treatments. Cutting up dead mice was a little icky, but the worst part was making mice slurry for the really sick birds. It was just like what it sounds like – mice in a blender – and the result looked so much like a strawberry daiquiri that I have not had one since.
Restraining birds also had some spectacularly squirm-inducing moments. Hawks, eagles and owls came in with lacerations that had to be cleaned and wrapped, or would need to be treated with subcutaneous fluids injected or injectable medications. Sometimes, for more severe cases where the bird had been injured and laying on the ground, it would even need maggots picked out of wounds. Each bird would have a leather hood on its head that covered its eyes, which made it very calm. I usually held the legs and body, which required me to hold tightly and be very, very still. This meant I could only watch as the mites and fleas moved from the bird and up my arms.
When I got home, I would remove most of my clothes before coming inside, and the rest after I closed the front door. All clothes went directly into the washing machine and I went straight into the shower. I did not know it at the time, but this would become a consistent pattern in my life.
My first rotation as a senior was necropsy. Every day, our group would put on scrubs, then coveralls and rubber boots, enter a giant, cooled necropsy room, and carefully cut open dead animals to find causes of deaths. When CSU does necropsies, samples are taken of all major organs, and cutting these bits from old, decaying stomach or guts could be pretty bad. Almost “mouse slurry” bad.
Although I took off the boots and coveralls and then changed from scrubs to street cloths, it was the same routine when I got home: clothes into the washing machine and straight into the shower. With lots of soap. And then perfume.
My next two rotations made things worse between my husband and I. I had Equine Reproduction and then Dairy Field Service, both of which consisted mainly of sticking my arm up the backside of a horse or cow. Most vets can do an equine rectal with a plastic sleeve and have no evidence on their cloths afterward. When I did a rectal on a horse, I had poo from my ears down to my knees. Again, the same routine: drive home, clothes to washing machine, straight to the shower.
Dairy was worse. Cattle have significantly looser feces, and it tends to spray out. Even with coveralls, double plastic sleeves, and a palpation sleeve, it was the same old routine when I got home, with extra shampoo this time because feces tend to stick in hair.
These experiences alone make my husband cautious about approaching when I returned home. But I think what he hates worse is when I tell him about my day. It was pretty much forbidden during undergrad when I was working at vet clinics and came home. The conversations would usually go like this:
Me: “Guess what I saw today!!! It was so cool!!”
Him: “No, I don’t want to know.”
Me: “No, it’s not gross…”
Him: “Well, okay…”
I would tell him, and inevitably I got in trouble. What I think is cool is always gross.
I used to think that I could desensitize him, but five years later nothing has changed. I have another thirty-ish years to work on him, though.