I woke up in Denver this week. Actually, I woke up Sunday morning at 6:18 a.m. to a series of texts from a client asking when I would be in the office that day. Even when I mentioned that it was six AM where I was, there were a couple more texts. Normally, I do not mind answering a quick question and I would rather answer them than treat a Google mistake. (Dr. Google is a quack, no training, no education, no license, no credibility.) But I was jet-lagged and it was early and I had gotten up to walk to the conference center for a 7:00 a.m. lecture the morning before and had tried to go back to sleep between each text.

Becky Jo and I had traveled to attend the AVMA conference in Denver, Colorado. She wanted to learn some practice management details to help her do her new position as practice manager. I wanted to attend a series of lectures on oncology. We saw appointments on Thursday morning and then Matt took us to the airport for a late afternoon flight. That sounds good until morning appoints are scheduled until 1:00 p.m. and ran over by at least an hour. Luckily we both sailed through TSA having packed light to be able to bring back conference stuff. We even had a few moments to rest before our flight, but only a few.

When we arrived, a fellow veterinarian asked to share an Uber with us, but we talked her into going on the train and local bus instead. We stopped for fajitas with our luggage before checking into the hotel. Getting off the plane at 7 pm also sounds like a good idea, until the two-hour time zone difference is figured in. 11:30 pm in Denver was 1:30 am in Kentucky and we both tucked our feet under the covers and did not move until my alarms went off. Yes, alarms. I turned the first two off.

We still were in plenty of time for the 8:00 a.m. lectures. Both of us picked practice management sessions, but neither were impressed with the speakers. I thought mine was too basic and Becky thought hers was not relevant. I switched to a seminar on Working Dogs and veterinary care. There were a few tips to do things better, but it still seemed basic common sense type things. Switching, yet again, I settled into anesthesiology for the rest of the morning. Perfusion of dexmedetomindine and sedation for the fractious feline seemed to have more pertinent information for me and I learned a few new tricks. We met up with our new friend from the night before for a box lunch on a granite stone outside the hotel.

I spent the afternoon in lectures on aging cats, feline endocrine diseases and chronic kidney disease and comorbidities. (Comorbidities means diseases that come with other diseases. Think of a juggling act of disease management and dropping anyone means death.) Cats are not little dogs and there were some specific useful items. We had recently completed our recertification of a Gold Status Feline Friendly program, so we were ahead of the game and already doing a good job. Classes were a review.

I got up early Saturday to be at a 7:00 am lecture on decision points of practice growth. I am close to needing a new associate veterinarian, but I want to do it well and at the right time. It was a good lecture about money management and getting a loan, but didn’t cover the topic in the title. I envied Becky her extra hour of sleep and headed to an advanced master class.

For two hours, we covered advanced critical care for rabbits from a boarded specialist who sees nothing but rabbits. Rabbit medicine is not as advanced as dog and cat medicine, so new research means we learn better ways to do things. We also learn that some things that we have done are not as good as we thought. Without continuing education, knowledge would be stuck at whatever level you remembered from veterinary school. I am amazed that some states don’t require continuing education on a recurring basis. After two hours of intense rabbit knowledge, I was ready for the keynote speaker. A young lady from Pakistan, an entrepreneur, investor, women’s rights advocate and founding CEO of the Malala Fund, Shiza Shahid gave an extremely inspirational talk. After the keynote, the exhibits were open. Becky and I split up, I got some cool socks for her, but she was ahead in the t-shirt acquisition until a vendor gave me one for each one of my staff members. I never looked back and BJ was in awe. (She scored an AVMA water bottle that I coveted until I finally got my own on the last day.)

Becky spent time in management classes, but found time for behavior, teaching in the classroom for the vet staff, neonatal (baby) fawn care and PTSD dogs. She seemed more affected by the high altitude than I did and actually took a break between a couple of lectures. I wanted to be in a few places at once.

I attended a few more lectures on various subjects, but my main reason for going was to attend a day and a half with Dr. Sue the oncologist. Advanced oncology is new to me, so I had to focus to catch the details. I have lots of notes to work through, but I have a good plan for basic oncology cases.

After a slow start, we both brought home good knowledge to put to use. I purchased a few things that were on show special but didn’t buy much until after the closing of the exhibit hall. I thought I might not buy much at all, then as they were closing, I spotted two new pieces of equipment that I had been looking for. Equipment is expensive and I think Steph was impressed that I only spent $15,000, but it will make anesthesia safer and therefore I wanted it. That might have something to do with why I will probably never be rich.

We had decided to take the Tuesday 1:26 a.m. flight home instead of the 6:00 a.m. flight. It sounds better to have a morning flight, but getting up at 2:00 a.m. is not fun. Staying up until 2 am is not hard. With plenty of time, but no room, we opened all nine of our bags in the hotel lobby and packed them into two checked bags, two carry on bags and two personal bags. It was an amazing feat and some of the vendors clapped when they saw what we had accomplished. I gave away two apples and Becky ate a third and we removed a bit of packing material.

We took time to have dinner with the other vet that I had met in a lecture. She was ex-army and we hit it off well. After dinner, we got on a bus to a train to the airport. Our luggage was decidedly heavier than a few days prior. Unpacking has been a bit slower, we are still sorting through the new items, our notes, and our swag.

This morning, I woke up at 6:18 a.m. to a very full bladder. I crawled back in bed for a few more moments of sleep. Whiskey sprawled on my right side with his head on my chest. Parker was on my left side, snuggled on my arm. Parker and Whiskey didn’t actually let me go back to sleep and I thought back to a week ago to the conference. The new equipment is not yet in, but some new drugs and small things have started to trickle in. While I might enjoy 6:18 a.m. snuggled between a cat and a dog better than time zone altered texts, I am glad we went and glad to be home. As Becky said, “we made some pretty good contacts and friends.”

Dr. MJ Wixsom owns and practices at Guardian Animal Medical Center on Bellefonte Road in Flatwoods, KY. 606.928.6566 and online at www.GuardianAnimal.com and has her fourth book out.