Lessons learned from animated movies

Even the most cynical observer cannot argue that technicians are some of the most ingenious and determined people on the planet.

Even the most cynical observer cannot argue that technicians are some of the most ingenious and determined people on the planet. Need someone to stay late? Ask a tech. Need to find a creative solution for a client? Ask a tech. Need to fix a piece of equipment? Ask a tech.

Technicians know things you would never dream of finding in a classroom or textbook. So where does this inspiration come from? Some would argue (meaning me) it comes from the magic of animation, which is why our techs are so out of this world. Need proof? Read this account of a day in the life of veterinary technicians. (Singing along is highly encouraged.)

Movie scenes and sayings

It’s Monday morning. The first client of the day is waiting before you unlock your doors. The pet owner comes barreling into the clinic, complaining about how long she has been waiting. A tech steps in, not surprised in the least. She shrugs her shoulders and thinks: “Just because it’s what’s done, doesn’t mean it’s what should be done.” (Cinderella)

The next challenge of the morning is about to unfold: the computers go down. The technicians joke that this new computer system was supposed to solve all their problems! “Life is just like that sometimes. We’re hoping for a unicorn and we get a goat.” (Gru in Despicable Me)

The flood gates have officially opened. The other two clinics in town are closed for the holidays and emergencies keep rolling in. All you can do is, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” (Dory in Finding Nemo)

It’s obviously going to be a long one, but nothing your teammates can’t handle. They remind each other to eat, drink, and use the restroom. “Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife.” (Baloo in The Jungle Book)

Surprise! An emergency C-section! All puppies make it safely because Amanda learned proper puppy resuscitation watching 101 Dalmatians. (This is a true story.)

So far, the team is holding strong, but there’s always that one person who finds a reason to complain. You want to tell him how you feel, but then remember Thumper’s mantra in Bambi: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” No one feeds into the drama and simply continues with their productive day.

It’s time for a new puppy exam. All techs are fighting over who gets to start the appointment. One tech greets Lumière, the puppy, and his owner with bonjour. She instantly recognized the name and showed off some French words she had picked up from Beauty and the Beast. Nicole wins and she gets to play with the puppy.

We couldn’t have a hectic day without a patient the staff runs away from. But Alice doesn’t flee—she’s up for the challenge. She’s watched How to Train your Dragon and knows pit bulls, like night furies, are not dangerous—they are just misunderstood.

Once the fire-breathing dragon has been tamed enough to perform an exam, it’s time for medications. Nothing to worry about because, “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down.” (Mary Poppins)

It’s so easy to make mistakes when you’re constantly running around. But you must own up to it. One technician mistakenly gives a medication IV, while the doctor had ordered it IM. Luckily, she learned to tell the truth. “A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as clear as the nose on your face.” (The Blue Fairy in Pinocchio)

The patient was fine, but the technician’s confidence was hurt. The head technician explains: “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it” (Rafiki in The Lion King). She continues: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” (Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh)

Suddenly, the villain of all villains enters the practice. She wants to euthanize a young pit bull because her new Shih Tzu puppy is not getting along with him. The technicians scramble to come up with solutions. The owner demands euthanasia, not creative solutions. She’s in for a fight. The nurses know better. “Ladies don’t start fights, but they can finish them.” (Marie in the Aristocats) And sure enough, the owner signs the relinquishment form and our victorious technician ends up with a new foster pup with a red nose.

Behind closed doors, a technician is being promoted to supervisor. This will be no easy task. Not only must she continue to be an advocate for the animals, she now will have to be an advocate for her nurses. She knows “with great power comes great responsibility.” (Uncle Ben in Spider-Man) Challenge accepted. “The most important thing a girl wears is her confidence.” (Cinderella)

The dreaded moment arrives… A lymphoma patient, a 10-year-old golden retriever loved by every team member, comes in for his final goodbye. As the technicians prepare the paperwork, make the comfort room cozy, and console the client, they remind themselves that All Dogs Go to Heaven.

Despite the sadness, the team and the dog’s owner have to move on. “If you focus on what you left behind, you will never be able to see what lies ahead.” (Gusteau in Ratatouille)

This clinic sees all types of animals, including wildlife. A client’s octopus isn’t as active as usual. He is worried. While the doctor tries to find information on octopuses online, one technician remembers they have three hearts (Finding Dory). She encourages the doctor: “Venture outside your comfort zone. The rewards are worth it.” (Rapunzel in Tangled)

The team has officially made it through a busy day. As she clocks out, one nurse starts singing and the rest of the techs join in:

“Hakuna Matata!

What a wonderful phrase

Hakuna Matata!

Ain’t no passing craze

It means no worries

For the rest of your days

It’s our problem-free philosophy

Hakuna Matata!” (The Lion King)

The heroes of our story are done for the day. They will see each other tomorrow. Sure, it’s a tough profession. But more than a profession, it’s a calling. And just because it’s tough, doesn’t mean you can quit. “Giving up is for rookies.” (Philoctetes in Hercules)

Regardless of the challenges we face every day, technicians continue to be dedicated and passionate. They love patients as if they were their own pets. They know “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift. That is why it’s called the present.” (Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda)

“Inside each of you is a strength that cannot be measured.” (The Book of Life) This is the reason we are so grateful for our technicians.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS, CVJ, Fear Free Certified, is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling surgery practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his websites at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com and www.VeterinariansInParadise.com. AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, Pa.., contributed to this article.


Thank you to the following wonderful technicians for their generous help, including AJ, Kat, Kyra, Amanda, Nicole, Colleen, and Mia

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