“Where did you go on vacation last week? I tried to get in and you were out.”

“Vacation? I haven’t been on vacation in about 18 months. Oh, last week I attended a conference to get my continuing education.”

Actually, most conferences are a lot of work. While I have gone to some neat places, this conference was in cold, blustery Columbus in February.

Garrett and I left Wednesday night after work and drove to Circleville. After checking in to our two rooms, we went for pizza at a nearby place. Garrett had never had calzones before, so I encouraged him to try one. Both calzones were good and we headed back to the rooms. My exhaustion level was high enough I was asleep as my head hit the pillow. The USB charger plugs in my room had not worked and my phone was dead. Somehow I managed to be up at 5 am without an alarm. We drove the rest of the way to Columbus and managed to beat the morning traffic. We were even at registration before it opened. Lindsay had chosen to drive up that morning and was there before the first class.

My staff is well trained and usually split their time between technician, staff and veterinary lectures. Lindsay spent the morning in the animal behavior track for veterinarians. She attended classes on feline inappropriate urination or “thinking outside the litter box;” separation anxiety; and, aggression in dogs.

Garrett started in the technician classes with pain assessment; physical therapy use for pain management; and, other non-drug methods of pain management.

Meanwhile, I bounced around through different tracts. Empirical antibiotic treatment in dogs and cats was the start of my day. A couple of things sounded different than I had learned and were contradicted or at least clarified a few days later with an expert on the subject. I was not surprised to see other doctors nodding off. Looking for a better use of my time, when the class was over, I headed to avian medicine. Geriatric diseases of pet birds did have a couple of pearls. (Pearls are tidbits of knowledge with all the stuff worn away so it can be directly used.) Still, the next class did not interest me, so I headed to backyard poultry. I met up with Dr Boll in this class and chatted at the breaks. This was a total review and just as we might have gotten into something useful, we broke for a lunch break.

The exhibits were open and Garrett and Lindsay got some scrubs that were on sale. I got a few more doctor jackets and left them with my credit card. Not very far through the exhibits, we were tagged by one of our account reps. She nabbed her bosses credit card and took us to lunch in the hotel. She seemed as happy to be off the floor as we were to have a free lunch. We all skipped the afternoon lectures. Garrett had been looking forward to the digital thermal imaging but did not mesh with the instructor’s style. We took the opportunity to learn and network in the exhibit hall. I was able to talk to a few of the reps that we had not gotten good service on their products. Seems that with doctors wondering around and buy things, they were more than happy to work to fix things.
After the exhibits we were all tired and ate at Subway in the food court. Even Dr Boll canceled for an early night.

Friday morning dawned a tad earlier than I would have wished, but at 8:00 a.m. I was setting in “the complete ophthalmic exam” with sixty other vets. The teacher was from my alma mater, Mizzou and was quite good. My day consisted of funduscopy, corneal colors, blue eyes, glaucoma, and uveitis. All of these ophthalmology classes were a good review with a few pearls. Meanwhile, Garret attended technician classes on pain management in critical patients; breed-specific anesthesia; cultural bias and suicide prevention. He said his best class was the gatekeeper training for the suicide prevention. This is a good class for both vet med and as a veteran. Lindsay had woken up sick. She attends some management classes and then headed back home to rest before the weekend of work.
Learning is hard work and Garrett and I again chose to eat in the food court again. Choices are limited after lunch time and we had some chicken barbeque sandwich that was mushy. Needless to say, I was asleep by the time that Erika and Kristen arrived around ten. They left to the lobby and chatted with Garrett until about midnight. I didn’t hear them come back in.

Saturday did not seem as early as the day before. It is a good thing because oncology is not the most uplifting subject. I did spend the entire day in clinical oncology; lymphoma; other hematopietic malignancies; practical chemotherapy; mast cell tumors; and, evolving preconceptions: cancer as a chronic disease. I met up with Dr Boll for lunch and caught up on many things. I didn’t see Garrett until supper, but Erika and Kristen headed home early for a sick kid. I did run into my ex-boss. He had not treated me very well and I was upset with him for many years, but somewhere along the way, I discovered that I had forgiven him. I looked for him later to tell him but didn’t see him again.

Saturday was the last day of the exhibits. I thought I was doing really well about not buying anything, but I spent over a thousand dollars on client education books alone. Add in drug specials and somehow I spent over $7000. I had gone with the intent to buy a few cages and a second lift table, but I could not get the sales rep to come down as much as I wanted. We were within $300 dollars, but I didn’t have to have the items and he wouldn’t come down. Garrett and I walked away saying that we just saved six-thousand dollars.

Because we had saved so much money, we decided on steaks in the hotel restaurant. A classmate was finishing dinner with his wife and joined us for our dinner. Melany had picked up a copy of my book a previous year and said she really enjoyed it. We caught up on classmates and careers as Garrett and I enjoyed steaks.

Sunday morning we were up early to check out and get to class. I was headed to an entire day of feline medicine: feline anesthesia; feline surgery; feline lower urinary disease; feline dermatology; feline cardiomyopathy; and feline ophthalmology. Garrett attended practice management which had some good sessions. We met for lunch with Columbus Blue Jackets hockey coach, John Tortorella. He has started some rescue work in Columbus.

I suspect that Garrett would have been willing to head home before the last session, but I wanted to see it. It was close to five when we were back at the truck. Garrett was still a little happy that we were not loaded up with cages for the windy drive home.

So, no, I wasn’t on vacation. I did get a break, but conferences are hard work. They are necessary to stay current and up to date, somewhat invigorating, but hard work.