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Spring Update: Our Year of CoVid-19

Spring is finally here. The crocuses have pushed through the cold, hard ground and they have never been a more welcome sight than they are this year. Some would say we had a “mild” winter, but many of us would argue that it was the harshest one we’ve ever faced.

Of this we are certain: it is a winter and a year that we are glad to put behind us. Here at AVH, we have never worked harder or under such stressful circumstances. We came to work in the early months of the pandemic uneasy and apprehensive as front line workers. We began practicing a “curb-side” model of care to reduce our human interaction and eliminate unnecessary foot-traffic in our building. So much became immediately unfamiliar, many of you have become friends over the years, but we know our new clients (and they know us) by voices over the phone and eyes above a mask.

In the spring of 2020, there was worry that animals might actually be vectors of CoVid which was terrifying. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) was constantly updating information for us from the CDC and other public health agencies and the data changed on a day to day and sometimes hour to hour basis. We split our staff into two “teams” for almost two months, anticipating if one team had a CoVid exposure, the other team could step up an continue serving your families. We affectionately referred to ourselves as teams A and B – (the “A-holes” and the “Be - Wholes.”) Pet adoptions soared during the pandemic and we practiced with half the staff, but twice the work. Many practices refused to see new clients and some practices closed entirely.

Summer was soon upon us and we wondered how we would manage our curbside model in the heat. We searched for a tent to provide some respite from the sun, but like toilet paper and hand sanitizer tents were hard to come by! With so much time outdoors, one afternoon we discovered monarch butterfly eggs, which we hatched and released (you can find their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves.) That same week, an animal control officer brought in a coyote pup with a leg-hold trap snapped tightly on its head. It was one of the most disturbing and gruesome cases we have ever seen. The day to day uncertainty of the virus and our work weighed heavily on each of us.

In the beginning of September, an employee called to tell us that her parents (with whom she lives) tested positive for CoVid. Our knee jerk reaction was to close our doors and disinfect the practice, but there was no place to send our patients. The emergency hospitals were completely overwhelmed, and we were told the wait to be seen at any of them could be upwards of 4 – 8 hours. We had our entire staff tested for CoVid and those initial tests came at a steep price. We waited anxiously for results. We found ourselves in a world of worry we’d never experienced before.

Warm sweatshirts for the staff

Thankfully, everyone else on staff had negative test results. Our looming concern became how we would deal with the colder, darker weather while continuing curbside service. We added phone lines and installed a “take-out” window for transactions. We numbered our parking spots. We enclosed the overhang in the front of the building for some shelter from the elements. We bought umbrellas and hats with head lamps for our staff, we supplied “glow-bands” for our employees footwear so they could be seen in the dark. We put up Christmas lights and spot lights and put heaters outside of the building.

We were all cautioned about a CoVid “spike” after Thanksgiving and it did not disappoint! Our second employee positive case was in the beginning of December, followed by a third, a fourth and so on until almost half of our employees tested positive for CoVid - 19. Out of necessity, we closed for “routine” business for almost two weeks, but the sick and injured animals paid no attention to our predicament. And as it happens every year, we see more euthanasia cases in December than any other month. Our limited staff had to handle all of these cases and sometimes after the third euthanasia of the day, we would just break down and wonder if we shouldn’t have chosen another career.

Embracing the happy times

Especially during these difficult and uncertain times, as a work family, we tried to remind ourselves of our good fortune. We all had purpose and each other, while many people found themselves isolated and unemployed. In spite of CoVid sweeping through our staff, no one was hospitalized or became gravely ill. During the CoVid shut-down, three of our employees became engaged to be married and we welcomed two wonderful new doctors to our staff. One of our client care team members gave birth to a beautiful little girl, another, a healthy baby boy. Like many of you, CoVid taught us a lot about what is and what is not important. We learned a lot about gratitude in our Covid classroom.

Gratitude is defined as “deep thankfulness.” This past year your support, your patience, your concern came in many forms: a heart-felt note, a pizza delivery to our practice, a word of encouragement, a case of wine, baked goods from your own kitchens. Some of you volunteered your time to help us out by delivering medications or food to people in quarantine, and others of you provided us gift cards for lunch, or cash donations to help other clients in need. For 27 years we have served our community, and this year, many of you served us as well. For this, we are deeply thankful.

With our sincere gratitude,

Dr. Jeff and Annie Rockwell

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