An Incredible Experience
April 22, 2009
Today I had an incredible experience. Truly, I kept wondering throughout the experience if this was truly happening.
I took our guinea pigs to an exotic pets veterinarian. (Our regular vet doesn’t treat guinea pigs.)
Marshmallow has had some skin problems which we noticed about a week ago. Some sores and hair loss on her back and side. Ick. I dutifully clipped her nails, gave her a bath in the sink, made sure everything was fresh and clean in the cage. But my children were worried about her. So I took her to the vet, along with Ebony, her faithful sidekick, and Bridget. (My faithful sidekick.)
The moment I walked in, I was astonished at this place. Cool, fresh, air-conditioning. Soothing colors on the walls. Relaxing music piped in. Decorative fountains tinkling in the lobby. Very friendly receptionist, who handed me paperwork to fill out and then came over to admire our guinea pigs. Suddenly, the orange bucket I’d brought them in for the visit didn’t seem quite posh enough. As we waited, I looked around. One door led to “Rehabilitation and Weight Loss Clinic.” Another door was the entrance to the “Five Paw Resort.” Fliers on the table announced their newest staff member – a man who specialized in animal acupuncture and integrative medicine for pets.
Soon we were greeted by a friendly and attractive nurse who shook my hand and introduced me to someone she was training that day. We followed them into a well-appointed exam room where I was questions about the minutiae of our guinea pigs lives – their diets, their personalities, their waste, their living arrangements. I stammered some responses. They were each carefully weighed, then the nurse told me that the doctor would be in shortly – he was just finishing a surgery on a rat.
A rat? Who operates on a rat?
While we waited, I saw a flier detailing their “Rodent Screening” program, complete with body scans, blood work, fecal testing, x-rays to examine the joints, and who knows what else. All for a little less than $500. Huh? I thought.
I love animals. Our home is like a zoo, with a dog, two cats, two guinea pigs and a beta fish. But come on. I started to feel truly nervous about what this vet visit was going to cost, and how I would maintain my sense of responsible pet ownership in the face of what surely was an excessive expectation of animal care and well-being.
The vet entered and was very nice. He examined both pigs, praised them (or me, I’m not sure which) for their teeth, which looked great. He commented on the large amount of gas that seemed to be in Marshmallow’s intestines. (I shrugged my uncertainty as to the cause.) He explained the skin-scraping test he would perform on Marshmallow to determine if mites were the cause of her ailment. He examined Ebony as well, and found that she was crawling with lice. “What!?” I exclaimed in horror. He reassured me that these are not the kind that people can get, and likely Marshmallow had them as well, they were just undetectable on her because of her white fur. Another nurse – the lab nurse – came in to inform me that she’d be taking over from there and she whisked the pigs off to the lab.
Bridget and I went into the waiting room again, where I felt itchy thinking about guinea pig lice. I watched a woman playing with her pet parrot and its’ stuffed animal chicken toy. A man came in to pick up his dog’s thyroid medication.
I am not joking.
Finally, the lab nurse came out and informed me that Marshmallow did not have mites, she handed me the antibiotic I was to give her twice a day until her ouchies healed, and explained the method for ridding them of lice. I resisted her offers of further tests and screenings and said we’d see how it went from here.
I paid the receptionist $150 and felt relieved that that was the extent of it. She assured me I could have the rest of the testing performed on the follow up visit, which I scheduled for two weeks from now and plan to cancel.
I don’t even have a lot of commentary about this experience. To me, it was incredible. These are animals, beloved pets, but animals nonetheless. That’s about all I have to say.