Old School, New School: Dishing deep dark secrets

July 6, 2018
Jeremy Campfield, DVM
Jeremy Campfield, DVM

Dr. Jeremy Campfield lives near Sacramento with his family, including an aging mini Aussie and an obstreperous pitbull mix that some mistake for a chocolate Lab (to the delight of her owners). When the family is not getting their hands dirty in the garden, Dr. Campfield indulges in his love for the outdoors with hiking, kitesurfing and climbing aboard any two-wheeled contraption. Please remember: Watch for cyclists, share the road, and pass them like you love them!

Delving into the innermost thoughts of Drs. Codger and Greenskin sheds new light on both sides. Time to learn about the meaning behind their motives.

A peek inside the enigma that is Dr. Greenskin. (Illustration by Ryan Ostrander.)This month we're taking a step back from our prototypes' ongoing trials and tribulations in the veterinary clinic and diving into something a bit deeper. Have you ever wondered what thoughts Drs. Codger and Greenskin secretly harbor about each other? Or what sentiments about their profession they keep locked up and protected?

Of course you have! And now you're in luck: We've paid hackers and bandits to get access to the personal journals of both our favorite doctors. Here we'll share the juiciest and most telling excerpts from the thousands of pages that we've pored over. Let's dig in.


Greenskin: Some days it's so hard to keep my composure in front of those crazy clients! At times I just want to choke someone. It's a freaking Chihuahua ... they shake! That's what they do!

And, yeah, I've been telling you for three years your dog needs a dental-now you want to act surprised that we need to pull 10 teeth? Would you wait until you've been vomiting for four days before calling your doctor? Come on people, I'm an animal doctor, not a miracle worker, psychotherapist, psychic or spiritual healer!

Codger: I'm so blessed that all of my clients still love me. In fact, they seem to be liking me more and more as I age. Well, it's a blessing and a curse, I suppose. Sometimes I feel bad for the younger vets when clients don't really want to see them. It's natural, though, isn't it? The young'uns just don't have any experience, and they always seem so pissed off when a client doesn't do exactly what they recommend. I'm so glad I've never had those problems. I understand that people are what makes this whole thing work.  

Greenskin: I try so hard to do a good job on my surgeries, and it really gets to me when the techs get annoyed about the big dog spay taking more than 30 minutes! Those are challenging surgeries and I want my patients to be safe, first and foremost.

Also, I really wish we would start double-wrapping our surgery packs and maybe even throw away some of those rusty instruments! I'm pretty sure those 30-year-old scissors have done their part for the business, so why can't we just replace them?

Codger: I still love surgery, which is a good thing, because today's vets seem so afraid of it. It's like they don't even teach surgery in school any more. Heck, I was doing my first spays and neuters when I was working as a kennel attendant in high school! The kids seem so stuck on all this hoity-toity, everything-has-to-be-perfect high-horse attitude. And what a pity they'll never experience the superior tissue handling of clean bare hands soaked in Betadine!

Greenskin: I wish we could find more qualified and experienced people to work in our hospital. The techs in the vet school teaching hospital-they'd gone to school and were licensed, and some of them even held specialty certifications and rocked. Here we're lucky if the kennel attendant who takes the technician's job decides to stay on for more than a year.

I don't think Codger pays them very well, and the one RVT we do have earns about one extra dollar per hour. With no incentive to excel or advance their career, you wonder why we can't recruit and keep qualified people?!

Codger: I can't wait for the next set of young new techs to start. I like looking at their booties, and not the ones they wear over their shoes in the operating room! Hahahahaha!

I hope the missus doesn't get ahold of my diary.

Greenskin: The financial stress really gets to me. I don't know if my boss has any idea that I will never reach the kind of wealth he's been able to build. I suppose it's OK; I'm getting used to all those zeroes and commas on my loan statements every month. As long as I can put ramen on the table I suppose I'll be all right. I work hard, but I don't think there's an incentive for me to try harder than I already do. In the best case, if I really push myself to buy the practice and never take a day off for the rest of my functional life, maybe that will be one less zero off my loan balance when I croak? What's the point?

Codger: I'm glad I've done well for myself and my family, but don't people know I've earned it? Do you think I'd have spent all those years fussing after every single client, taking phone calls at home, going to the clinic in the middle of the night, basically being at everyone's beck and call, if I didn't think it was going to pay off?

And now the whippersnappers just don't get the economics. I can spay a dog by myself in the kitchen with my Swiss army knife-and I have! Now they want a cautery machine, the fanciest drugs, 14 beeping machines to tell you the dog is alive, non-latex gloves, about 30 radiopaque gauze squares, 20 different kinds of suture and two hours of clinic time with two extra technicians all for a $90 surgery! And they wonder why they can't pay their bills!

Greenskin: I'm losing sleep yet again over another difficult case. I think the dog's Cushing's is under control, so why can't I get the BG below 500? I spent hours with this client and we've tried every kind of insulin, doing everything by the book.

Those liver and kidney values were really high, though. I sure hope the owners can afford the ultrasound, bile acids, urine culture and repeating an ACTH stimulation test and a LDDST. If they go for those I think we might go ahead with calling in the mobile CT scan as well. I just don't get how Codger never seems to do anything more than a CBC and chemistry profile, and his clients seem so happy!

Codger: Oh God, why can't these kids just prescribe steroids without all the fuss?

Greenskin: My boss is such a cute old man, but he makes me wonder sometimes. As much as he's taught me, and as much as I appreciate all he's done, I don't get why he can't seem to hang it up and retire. It's one thing to love what you do, but if you can't let go of the job, is it really a life worth living? I mean, it's been a good run-why don't you call it a day and enjoy retirement before they bury you?

Codger: That Dr. Greenskin. I was excited that she wore tight jeans to the interview, but maybe I wasn't prepared for how hard it would be to train her. I wish she'd listen more, and it really sucked when she threw such a fit about autoclaving syringes. Little does she know about my secret stock of reused syringes in my desk drawer. HA!

I think she might make a decent vet someday, if she tries harder. I wonder if she'll ever get married though. Why don't the pipsqueaks seem to care about having families anymore? Dang millennials are gonna screw everything up eventually-sure hope I'm dead by then!

Greenskin: Is my career going to be worth it in the long run? I don't know, but I don't have much of a choice except to keep the faith. I do think my high GPA, work ethic and all those years of school might have paid off better elsewhere. I guess that's why I don't really encourage young people to enter this field. My little niece says she wants to be a vet-I hope I can help her understand that it might not be the best choice for her.

I probably need to hang on more tightly to the great days, though. The happy clients and the cases that do well, the lives we save and the appreciation we get from time to time. I need to think about those things more and let the stressful stuff roll off. Codger never seems stressed about anything, but I wonder if it's because he just doesn't care anymore. Maybe I'll know in five or six decades!

Codger: I've appreciated my career, and I can't see myself having done anything else. But I can see that a lot of the fun of the job is lost on some of our new grads. What they're paying for school is an outrage, and it sure doesn't promote a nice easy start to their professional lives. In my day, you'd never think that a vet could get sued for anything-now I see so much defensive medicine it makes me sick.

The days of James Herriot are over, but I do wish our profession could be a little more lighthearted sometimes. Maybe it's OK, since the young vets don't know what they're missing-I guess this is their “normal.”

I'm thankful for what I've been able to do and how fortunate I've been. As much as Greenskin has been a pain in my ass, I hope I can convey to her that this is a career worth having. That in the end, she won't be able to dream of doing anything else.


Hmmm ... there's clearly a lot to chew on here. We hope you've appreciated our deviousness in getting a hold of all these scandalous morsels! Maybe we'll share some more of these in the future. By now you're probably wondering what's happening with Mrs. Actright. You'll just have to tune in next time to Old School New School!

Dr. Jeremy Campfield works in general practice in California's Sacramento Valley. He is an avid kiteboarder.