They have had blood splatter since about six days after I bought them. I did a splenectomy on a large dog and got some splatters on my right boot. Small animal veterinarians are often called upon to perform life-saving procedures, from emergency surgeries to critical care interventions. These procedures can be messy, and blood is an inevitable part of the process. Whether it’s stabilizing a trauma patient or performing a life-saving operation, the presence of blood on our boots signifies our commitment to preserving the lives of our animal companions. It was okay; I sprayed peroxide on them to clean them.

The only reason it probably took me six days is that I was in New Mexico with my Coast Guard Academy classmates for the first few days that I had the new boots. They were broken in by hiking Bandelier National Monument and climbing up the ladders to the cliff dwellings of old.

To be honest, they make surgical shoe covers, and I could have gotten some, but they take time (there is never enough), and my boots seem farther away than they used to. These are good boots; I paid a lot for them. They are supportive, padded for comfort, and totally waterproof.

Over the past six months of my new boots, I have gotten a few new splatters of blood. Some have come from quail that are harvested for raptor rehab and falconry birds. Every few weeks, Mike and I meet and make quail into freezer packs to make feeding easier. The blood is supposed to stay in the quail, but quail do the same thing that chickens do when their necks are broken. This means more spots on my new boots.

Then there was the blood transfusion that the bottle broke. Even though it was almost finished, it was a mess. Lots of water rinsed most of the stain off.

Some weekends, I stand shifts at the Animal ER because someone needs to. This is usually good for a few extra spots on my boots. Last month, projectile bloody vomit from the toxic dog surprisingly only added an extra spot, although the smell lasted longer than the dog did. I scrubbed that boot with soap and water.

Blood on my boots is a visible reminder of the compassion and empathy we extend to our patients and their owners. Every day, we encounter pets in pain or distress, and our willingness to get “in the trenches” to provide care speaks volumes about our dedication to the well-being of animals. Our empathy is what motivates us to push through challenging moments and do everything in our power to make our patients comfortable and healthy.

Small animal veterinarians are experts in diagnostics, treatment, and surgery. Our willingness to get our hands dirty, quite literally, shows that we’re not afraid to tackle difficult cases or perform intricate procedures. It’s a testament to our knowledge and skills, honed through years of education and experience, that enables us to provide the best care possible.

My AI said that when pet owners see blood on the vet’s boots, it often reassures them that we’ve done everything we can to help their beloved animals. It signifies our commitment to transparency and our willingness to go the extra mile. This level of trust between veterinarians and pet owners is crucial for effective communication and collaboration in the care of their pets. I personally think most don’t want to know what goes into our jobs.

It’s not always blood. I’m usually rather good at avoiding poop splatter, but dogs like me, and it is not uncommon for a puppy to whiz on me with happy pee. Occasionally, a dog will mark me as their own. It’s all part of the job.

It’s not all work; my new falcon baby, Jean Luc, may have contributed a few spots when my boots move in close to his lure. I spin the lure and make him work for it by flying after it. When he catches the lure, I walk up to him. This proves that I will not take his food, and he is welcome to it. He stands next to my boots and my hand and gleefully rips and tears the quail tidbits and adds a few splatters to my boots. I wiped them off in the grass.

You might think otherwise, but drool is my least favorite. Of course, the Saint Bernard drool in long thick strands, doesn’t stay on just my boots. It is usually also on my face and in my hair.

The most recent blood splatter got both boots. A very large dog had nine pups in a uterus that ruptured three times while I was getting them out. The uterus started to tear while it was still in the abdomen. There is too much nastiness inside a pregnant uterus with dead puppies to release into the belly, so I pulled the whole thing over the incision to flow out onto the floor. And my boots. All over my boots. I was able to save six puppies, but ultimately Rhine was euthanized post-op. This bothers me still. I don’t know the owners other than a brief meeting and later post-op call. But their beautiful, loved dog died.

Working in small animal medicine can be emotionally challenging. We form deep bonds with our patients and their owners, and we often share in their joy and sorrow. Blood on our boots reminds us of the emotional toll of our profession and the sacrifices we make to ensure the health and happiness of our patients.

This time, I’m not quite ready to clean my boots. I need some time for Rhine.

My boots have blood on them.