Well, as a career veterinary hospital receptionist, I thought I had seen everything. I have spent years working behind the front desk at dog and cat hospitals and was sure I had heard it all…until I arrived at the Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics. As a receptionist at an exotic animal hospital, I see quite a bit from my special spot behind the reception desk in our very busy waiting room. I love my job because I am privileged to see everything that goes on both in front and behind the scenes at the Center. I get to meet and interact with the most interesting people and their very unique pets and hear all of their stories. And exotic pet people’s stories are definitely different. If you work in a dog and cat hospital, people are pretty routine compared with the extraordinary people who own exotic pets.
As the receptionist, I have found that exotic pet parents love to chat with me and tell me all about their pets’ lives at home. What amazes me most is how extravagant exotic pet parents will make their pets’ rooms. Yes, I said rooms. While dogs and cats wander around the house with their owners and hang out in their favorite spots, exotic animals often get their own rooms with special furniture, window treatments, and rugs and much, much more, all made just for them. They will often spare no expense. To them, their exotic pets rule the roost.
The stories that I hear in the waiting area are incredible. If I ever need to know anything (and everything) about a specific exotic pet, all I have to do is make their owner an appointment and when they get to the Center, once I ask, “Hi. How is (pet’s name) doing?” That’s when it begins. I get to hear about their favorite foods, toys, hiding spots, etc.; how they got their names; where they came from; what other pets they have; their birthdays, and so much more. I have learned so much from our wonderful clients about everything from feeding to grooming and everything in between. And even though I have owned ferrets all my life and am considered the “crazy ferret lady” at the Center, I have even learned a few things about ferrets that I didn’t know before.
Not only do I learn all kinds of interesting information from exotic pet owners about their pets when they come in for routine check-ups, but also I also see all sorts of unbelievable stuff when these pets are brought in on emergency. I’ve seen reptiles who have actually gone a year without eating, birds who have flown away and come back, and bunnies whose teeth have grown so long that they are sticking straight out of their mouths. Most exotic pets are prey animals in the wild, and as such, unfortunately, once they start to show signs of illness, disease has often already progressed. This is not something I ever appreciated while working in a cat and dog practice. What I realize most, after seeing all the different types of emergencies that exotic pets are brought into our hospital for, is that even the slightest change in an exotic pet’s behavior should be checked out by our wonderful doctors. Something as simple as sleeping in a different area of the cage or as obvious as acting really aggressive or not wanting to eat can signal a real problem in an exotic pet.
Exotic pet owners certainly know their babies better than anyone else does. That’s why our staff has to ask so many questions to figure out what’s going on with our patients. The more we know, the better we can understand what’s going on with these animals, or at the very least, make them more comfortable.
So, at your next visit to the Veterinary Center, sit and chat with me, but be careful – my next blog may be about you!