Nobody found my attempt to lighten the mood very funny - Julian Norton

We are still getting used to our compromised work situation.

Julian is dealing with patients during the coronavirus lockdown

I had said goodbye to half of the practice – those in team A. We commiserated over a tray bake and coffee and I checked everyone’s temperature one last time.

My infrared thermometer had been a godsend, as much as for peace of mind as for making a diagnosis. The first time I’d seen such a nifty device was when a friend checked the temperature inside her newly built pizza oven. It needed to be at a minimum of three hundred degrees for perfect pizzas and the thermometer could give a reading just by aiming into the glowing embers.

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It turns out, there is a similar device for taking the temperature of humans. I was in hospital a few months ago for back surgery and, every hour or so, a nurse would appear and point the medical equivalent at my forehead.

A green light and a smiley baby face would confirm that my temperature was ok. If it was aimed at the side of a mug of tea, a red light and a frowning baby would appear on the digital display screen. The device was left beside my bed and it captivated my morphine-fuelled attention.

I picked it up and tested it on various parts of my body, concluding it worked on gums and lips. I decided to get one of these and see if it worked on animals. If it did, the instant results without the need for rectal intrusion might revolutionise the veterinary world.

Sadly, this did not transpire to be the veterinary breakthrough I had hoped for and the results on dogs were hopelessly inaccurate. Until life in a time of coronavirus, it was a redundant piece of equipment but now it is worth its weight in gold. I checked my temperature multiple times every morning and that of anyone else who asked.

Everyone’s temperatures were normal and we parted, afebrile but without hugs, pondering what would happen to the work load over the next few weeks and how we’d cope. There had been suggestions of conducting consultations through the window of the consulting room, for example. I’d suggested we could perform kennel cough vaccinations (which require a dose to be administered up the dog’s nose) through the letterbox of the front door.

Nobody found my attempt to lighten the mood very funny. Evaluating what sort of work constitutes an emergency and is therefore acceptable under the Covid-19 clampdown can be complicated. It has, so far, been very interesting to see how each case is judged on its merit and how vets have different views.

Obviously, we follow our professional guidelines but, as with most lines there can be some blurring. A kennel cough vaccination, for example, seems a non-essential veterinary job, until you realise that it gives peace of mind to the elderly owner, worried in case she has to go to hospital and her dog might be refused access to kennels.

Clients have been, so far, very accommodating to our requests to distance themselves from us, although I find myself apologising for leaving people standing in the street!

One client though, was thoroughly indignant when it was explained that clipping a dog’s nails did not count as an emergency. The owner of a rabbit, whose vaccination would need to be put on hold for a few weeks, was equally offended.

“But that means I’ll have to keep him inside,” she protested. “He’ll be very cross about that!” I refrained from replying the obvious: that the rabbit could join the rest of the club.