I’ve recovered my ability to feel dirty.

Between thirteen-hour days, night meetings, CASA volunteer work, and hauling 18-foot spars to Camp Lewallen, I’ve gotten a little behind on my paperwork this week, including the blog.  My desk still looks like a mare’s nest, but hey, "A clean desk is the devil’s workshop", and at least the critical stuff is caught up…finally.

I often say that I’ve lost my capacity to feel dirty.  By that I mean that getting gross stuff on me just doesn’t bother me like it did before I got into veterinary medicine.  There once was a time when I was like normal people, and getting something nasty on my hands made me feel that I couldn’t wash soon enough or long enough — that I might never be clean again, in fact.  I cannot tell you how horrified I was as a child when I had to help clean out a grease trap.  I was fastidious, folks.

These days I can get drenched in some bodily fluid and if my clothes dry before I can change them…well, heck, it’s dry now. It’s a combination of dealing with it constantly since 1973 (when I lived/worked at the Central Missouri Humane Society), and a not-very-sensitive nose.  Generally speaking, I know I need to wash my hands and change cothes (and I do, frequently), but I don’t "feel dirty" just because I’ve picked up a tapeworm (and yes, I know it just crawled out of the animal’s hiney, and it’s gross, but I’m a little too used to it — what can I say?).

Yesterday I found that I had not entirely lost the ability to "feel dirty".  We made a house-call to visit an elderly, homebound client who lives in a rather dismal little rural enclave.  This extremely nice lady has been my client for over twenty-five years.  When she became unable to drive, relatives would bring her and her dogs to the clinic (about 18 miles from her home).  A couple of years ago, she became unable to get help from relatives, so I decided to make a house-call.  That’s not something we do a lot of, and so I did it after hours.  It was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had.  There is no telling how much this lady has spent with me on her pets over the years, and her entire home would fit inside our reception area.

Her home was what my banker brother would term "an extremly humble dwelling".  Yet it was orderly despite her poverty and the fact that she was sharing it with three very large dogs.  I have made several trips there since then.   Unfortunately, as time has passed, she has become considerably physically handicapped and less and less able to care for the dogs.  One of the dogs still shares the home, but the other two have been confined to a small porch.  She has been unable to adequately clean this area, and yesterday the smell of ordure was overpowering when I walked in. It wasn’t just unpleasant — Lord knows I’m used to the smell of excrement.  It was pungent, burning my eyes and nose.  You wouldn’t think a person could acclimate to it, though I found myself hardly noticing it after I’d been there a while (might take normal people a while longer).  Even if you got used to it, it would still have to be bad for you.

The lady’s family (who are not around to help, mind you) have urged her to get rid of the two dogs on the porch for some time.  Though she is still attached to them, she had finally consented, and I went to get them.  They were quite excited, and one of them vomited.  As I slipped and slid in the slurry of waste and filth, catching and removing the dogs, I found that I had not entirely lost my capacity to "feel dirty".  In fact, after washing my hands, and liberal use of Purel, I knew that I was still dirty.  I also had a strong desire to burn my clothes.

I’m torn between feeling good that I still have a spark of normalcy left, and worrying that I’m going soft in my old age.  Oh, well… now you know why I don’t see the appeal of the "Dirty Jobs" TV show.

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