Photoessay - Afternoons - So Many Other Things


Dr Louise Grey, with son Fred, works part-time in conjunction with raising a young family. 5 March, 2018.

Having children has changed the way I think about my job. To an extent, it was just a job before, it was a job I was passionate about but I would like to think that if something happened and I could no longer work as a vet, then I’d still find meaning and value in the act of doing some other career.

But for me, now, work is a relief. Children is the hard stuff, the challenging stuff, and going to work is easy, really easy compared to dealing with small people at home who have big emotions.

Clinics can be crazy work environments but, oh man, it is so organised compared to little kids.
— Dr Louise Grey

Nurse Chelsea Rose puts a cat into recovery after emergency treatment. 6 March, 2018.

Dr Louise Grey and Nurse Julie Marten perform dental surgery to remove top and bottom incisors from a Netherlands Dwarf Rabbit. The rabbit is suffering from dental malocclusion, which means the incisors don't meet and can't grind against each other to retain their length. Without intervention, they can continue to grow into surrounding tissue and cause injury and infection. 28 February, 2018.

Essentially, I do things to animals that they don’t like very much, and they’re often not in a very good mood, and they may not have a very positive outcome.

So, if it was a love of dogs and cats [that inspires someone to consider becoming a vet], then I think that maybe breeding or training dogs and cats might be better options.
— Dr Louise Grey
I think I got into it because I loved animals but if it was just a love of animals as a sentient entity, I don’t that’s a sustainable way to stay a vet, because it would be too heartbreaking.

You have to move beyond the, ‘I really love the relationship that people have with their dog or cat or horse or rabbit,’ to the medicine side of it and the surgical side of it, the technical side of being a vet.

Because if what attracts you to the industry is a human-animal bond, you’re going to get your heart broken.
— Dr Louise Grey

Dr Fiona Starr watches Dr Gwen Shirlow extract a woollen chew toy from Storm's digestive system. It had become trapped below the pylorus and, like a plug, stopped anything leaving the stomach. The stomach was drained prior to surgery. 20 February, 2018.

I love the diversity – you never know what’s going to walk through the door of a vet clinic. Every day is different, every procedure is different, every surgical case is different. I’m a very physical worker; I like being on my feet running around all day long.

Even though you have a brief idea about what’s going to happen today, there’s always a curveball.
— Nurse Skye Longley

Dogs can hide injuries they might be carrying. Superficial ones, at least, might be revealed during a grooming, when a dog’s hair is trimmed off. Here, Nurse/Groomer Maree Watt has found inflamed areas on Lucy’s face, and also some ear wax build up. 24 January, 2018.

Nurse/Groomer Maree Watt’s (left) twenty-five years’ worth of experience as a veterinary nurse is a value-add when it comes to being able to identifying a variety possible medical issues while grooming. Here, she has called on Dr Gwen Shirlow to examine the areas of concern on Lucy’s head and in her ears. 24 January, 2018.

Dr Louise Grey calls a client to convey the news that two of their pets were suffering from terminal illnesses, and might have anywhere from days to weeks to live. 31 January, 2018.

A stray has been brought in, which requires the practice to try to identify the dog. If unidentifiable - if the dog has not been microchipped, or the dog has been microchipped but the contact details are out of date, or the dog is not microchipped and does not have dog tags - the practice must organise with Domestic Animal Services (DAS) to pick the dog up. The practice had arranged for DAS to pick this unidentifiable dog up but the owner called to see if it was there just as DAS turned up. 6 July, 2018.

Nurse Julie Marten (left) and Dr Karen Viggers. 23 February, 2018.

Dr Karen Viggers (left) pops her head in to see how Dr Gwen Shirlow's surgery is going. The case was initially handled by Viggers but, since she is assigned to consultations today, Shirlow does the surgery. However, Viggers' is curious about how the case is going and takes a look between consults. 8 March, 2018.

Bill Frost grieves the loss of Ziggy who has just passed away after a losing battle with a massive infection. 28 February, 2018.

Something that I have learned is that love has no limits, that there are no limits to the number or type of animals a person can love or develop connections to. For most people, that experience is with a cat or a dog, but the same depth of love, and loss, also applies between people and horses, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs and reptiles.
— Dr Arianne Lowe
When I was younger, I was under the impression that it was more of a positive workplace. I mean, the workplace itself is positive, the people are positive, but the things they have to deal with aren’t always positive. And you have to see a lot of people suffering.

So I would suggest to anyone who was interested to try and do a work experience placement or something like that, to come in and see what it is they have to do each day.
— Receptionist Kelly Haslop

Dr Karen Viggers removes anal glands from a dog. 23 February, 2018.

Dr Jessica Winsall shows her parents, Kristin and Graeme, around her first practice. 29 March, 2018.

Mum had a baby book in which she also wrote down all the weird and wonderful things I said.

[Baby Book Entry - 5 yrs. 18.11.96]
I had a dead baby turkey, ‘Mum don’t throw it out, can we see its heart first?’
— Dr Jessica Winsall

Head Nurse Stephanie Robertson (left), Dr Grace Butler (middle) and Dr Jessica Winsall. There is plenty of laughter at Brudine. On the good days, it keeps the workplace upbeat. In the wake of a difficult day, it's almost a form of therapy. 12 April, 2018.

Dr Louise Grey (right) gives advice to Dr Grace Butler about suturing a fairly long incision. Butler, a new graduate in her first vet job, is performing her first major surgery: debridement of necrotic tissue from a cat after a dog bite. 24 January, 2018.

Cosmo was found unconscious during regular observation for a suspected respiratory condition, moments before this photograph was taken. An immediate, whole-of-practice emergency response was unable to revive him. The cause of Cosmo's death could not be determined and it made the event that much more heartbreaking for his owner, Jane*, and for the practice. It took at least one staff member several months to reconcile Cosmo's death. 22 February, 2018.

* Jane's name has been anonymised for privacy

The staff tried their best to console me and provide a reason but really, without the ‘why’, no words would have made a difference that day.
— Client Jane [Cosmo's Owner]
It’s like one of those unexpected things, when you know an animal’s dying, you can expect it’s probably going to get euthanised, or its going to die or something like that, and you know it’s happening. When you get an unexpected death, it’s a shock. It’s like, you wonder, ‘Did I do everything right? Was it going to happen anyway?’ The fact that it’s unexpected can be a bit of a shock. That probably is one of the hard things.
— Nurse Julie Marten
If there is something stressing you, or you’ve done the best you can and the animal still dies ... time, you get over it within time.
— Dr Karen Viggers
People that choose to go into professions involved with the care of people and animals share a common sense of humanity and whilst you know death is an inevitable part of these professions sudden and unexplained death leaves a mark. I could feel the sorrow in Brudine the day that Cosmo died and the struggle to explain to me why it happened.
— Client Jane [Cosmo's Owner]
Cosmo was happy just being with us, he didn’t ask for anything else. Like a shadow he would follow me around the house, sit at my feet or give me a single lick on the hand as he was going past.

He was ours and we were his.
— Client Jane [Cosmo's Owner]

Intubation. 6 April, 2018.

After examining a young wild Galah brought in by a member of the public, Dr Louise Grey discusses with ACT Wildlife whether it is healthy enough to be rehabilitated by them. It is young, very ill and had lost a lot of body mass. Unfortunately, it ultimately has to be euthanised. 28 February, 2018.

Dr Karen Viggers (left) uses a portable dental x-ray machine to image a dog's jaw. Dr Fiona Starr watches on. 9 February, 2018.

Dr Karen Viggers ( left ) reviews a dental x-ray with Dr Fiona Starr ( middle ) and Nurse Julie Marten.  9 February, 2018.

Dr Karen Viggers (left) reviews a dental x-ray with Dr Fiona Starr (middle) and Nurse Julie Marten. 9 February, 2018.

Head Nurse Stephanie Robertson checks on Wean. While staff aren’t 100% sure yet what is affecting her, she is being treated with antibiotics for suspected sepsis. She has improved since the morning. 16 February, 2018.

Dr Fiona Starr takes a quick look at Teresa Bailey's dog, Hunter, prior to consultation. 3 April, 2018.

Dr Gwen Shirlow finds rare free time to meet the constant learning demands of veterinary practice. 26 February, 2018.

A rare break, more "eye of the storm" than "chilling out". 27 February, 2018.

Self-contained fatty lump, removed from a dog. 6 April, 2018.

Dr Jessica Winsall and Head Nurse Stephanie Robertson remove a tumour. 9 March, 2018.

Nurse Kelsey Savage in the midst of a busy day. 3 April, 2018.

You are going to come into contact with the public, in rapid succession, boom boom boom, and everybody will have a demand on you. They don’t come in to say, ‘Hi, how are you going?’ They come in with a problem, every 15 minutes. Emotionally, to deal with that, you have to find ways of coping.
— Dr Arianne Lowe

Dr Fiona Starr on her way to perform a home euthanasia. 3 April, 2018.

εὐθανασία (euthanasia): good death (from Greek)

εὖ (eu): well or good
θάνατος: (thanatos): death


Dr Fiona Starr palpates Otis, who has been feeling flat and hasn't eaten. 2 March, 2018.

After analysing blood from Otis, Dr Fiona Starr suggests antibiotics to his owner, Jocelyn Bruemmer (middle), to rule out infection as the blood tests aren't conclusive of anything more nefarious. [Otis recovered]. 2 March, 2018.

Nurse Chelsea Rose (left), Dr Grace Butler (middle) and Head Nurse Stephanie Robertson. 19 February, 2018.

The practice took no chances when a cat came in with symptoms that could have been due to Feline Calicivirus. The cat was placed in isolation, offsite pathology was organised and a disinfection protocol was employed. 6 July, 2018.

[PPE = Personal Protective Equipment]

For all the dignity veterinary practices try to provide animals in death, it is momentarily circumvented by the clinical need to store bodies in hygienic bags for storage and transport. It is one of those things that most owners would understand but stays hidden from them. Hiding it means staff are able to keep the experience as dignified as possible for the owners even if they momentarily lose the ability to provide it to their pets. 6 July, 2018.

Three days after coming in incredibly ill, Wean is being picked by owner and Brudine Nurse, Skye Longley, to take home. While Wean is not 100% healthy yet, she is almost there and healed enough that Longley can look after her at home until completely recovered. 19 February, 2018.

Nurse Maree Watt (left), Dr Grace Butler (middle) and Nurse Chelsea Rose. Watt has just returned from a shopping trip to the supermarket to buy the non-medical consumables that are also required to keep a practice functioning. 19 February, 2018.

Receptionists Sorrel Nation (left) and Rebekah Morton, with practice cat, Karli. 28 January, 2018.

Dental work seems grim but many vets find a lot of reward in restoring a mouth to health; mouths are critical to nutrition and pets may eat less if there is pain. 6 April, 2018.

Nurse Kelsey Savage had this tattoo applied after losing one of her pet dogs, Hank. The paw prints are Hank's but the sentiment runs deeper. 27 July, 2018.

Practice Manager Bri Smith and her mum, co-owner Dr Deborah Williams. Smith started working in the practice by earning pocket money cleaning kennels as a very young teenager. 19 February, 2018.

Success is not the key to happiness
Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing
You will be successful.
— Buddha (On Sign in Brudine's Office)

The ability for a puppy like Bailey to bring warmth to a practice is palpable and the therapeutic value cannot be overstated. 15 March, 2018.

Kathryn Mattress (left) with Dr Jessica Winsall and Bailey. Bailey noticeably cheered Winsall up after she was equally noticeably down due to the administration of two euthanasias earlier in the day. 15 March, 2018.

Firmly, gently. Trainee Nurse Claire Goodlock (middle) holds Peanut around the chest. Nurse Kelsey Savage (right) restrains his head while blowing on it tries to distract him by blowing on his head, Dr Jessica Winsall attempts to draw blood. It's all about trying to safely extract blood from a fidgety animal. 9 February, 2018.

Dr Gwen Shirlow examines Anthony Rogers' new puppy, Brooklyn, before administering vaccinations. 27 February, 2018.

Nurse Chelsea Rose reviews the appointment schedule for the Friday evening rush. 6 July, 2018.

A vet nurse's work is never done. 6 July, 2018.

Nurse Maree Watt comforts Pheobe, a 15 year old who sadly is about to be euthanised. 22 March, 2018.

Millie needs a heartworm injection but fears being at the vets. A muzzle is used as a practical form of protection for the staff that doesn't harm Millie, in case Millie's discomfort spills over into aggression. Mainly, Nurse Julie Marten focuses on making and keeping Millie as relaxed as possible while Dr Grace Butler administers the heartworm injection. 15 December, 2017.

I love that caring side of vet nursing, when you have that animal who needs that little bit of attention more often.
— Nurse Julie Marten

Dr Fiona Starr explains to Xarlene Castro why the scheduled orthopaedic surgery on her dog, Oliver, was cancelled. Between initial diagnosis and today, Oliver's body had begun to stabilise the area around his ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament (CrCL). Specifically, fibrosis had formed in the area around the knee. Surgery would have yielded no significant improvement and opening the joint might have predisposed Oliver to arthritis. 9 March, 2018.

After being given a heartworm injection a few minutes earlier, Millie was administered another medication, this time orally, by Dr Jessica Winsall (left) and Dr Grace Butler. Hence Millie's muzzle has been removed. Despite staff efforts to keep her comfortable, Millie's fear overwhelms her. Winsall and Butler respond by temporary halting the treatment and instead trying calm and relax Millie. It isn't a surprise that some animals are uncomfortable at the vets but it is surprising more of them aren't. 15 December, 2017.

Nurse Julie Marten uses a refractometer to measure the specific gravity of a pet's urine, an imbalance of which could indicate a range of conditions. 21 February, 2018.

Daisie is returned to her owner, Daniella Cecere, after being de-sexed earlier in the day. 6 April, 2018.

Nurse Chelsea Rose returns a dog during the final part of the discharge process. 16 February, 2018.

Dr Grace Butler with her namesake puppy. Ellie Green (with stethoscope) had wanted a puppy for two and a half years. Her parents, Dannielle and Al Green, bought her Belle several weeks earlier but, tragically, had to be euthanised shortly afterwards due to coccidiosis. 21 February, 2018.

When I put that puppy [Belle] down, that was the shittest thing I’ve done. All I could think about was that little girl’s face. She had wanted a puppy for two and a half years and, when she got it, she had it for five hours and that was it. An innocent little girl who’s done nothing wrong, and I have to put her puppy down.
— Dr Grace Butler
The impact on the kids was quite devastating. The heartbreak of looking at your kids when their first puppy isn’t going to pull through and trying to explain to them what was happening was the hardest thing we have ever had to do.

We decided the same day that Belle was gone that the best thing to do was to replace the puppy, to ease the pain for our two little kids. We were talking about names on the way home in the car [with a new puppy] and Ella said, “Well we can’t call her Belle.” I said, “No we can’t. We have a Belle already but what about ‘Grace’, because Dr Grace did a great job trying to get Belle home to us?” Ella thought this was a great idea.
— Dannielle Green
I just thought that taking in the new puppy would be a nice thing to do as everyone at Brudine tried everything, and I am glad we did. I think it put a smile on Dr Grace as big as it did for Ella when we got the second puppy. It was a nice way to end such a horrible experience.
— Dannielle Green

Shona and Michael with Violet, the greyhound they adopted from a rescue group. They spent two years rehabilitating Violet mentally and physically. It's a commitment level that seems to be shared by the majority of pet rescuers who visited Brudine. 28 February, 2018.

We got Violet through Greyhound Rescue in Sydney about two years ago. We chose her because she was the only dog there that didn’t immediately try to take a bite out of our first dog, Stitch. She had only been with Greyhound Rescue for two weeks, and was still rake-thin, and covered in both healed and open sores. We don’t really know how old she is, or anything else of her history. Greyhound Rescue guessed her to be about two when they got her, but we now think she might have been as old as four.

She didn’t recognise anything other than meat as food at first, and it took a few attempts to get the hang of stairs. She had a habit of freezing when she was scared, which was most of the time. We didn’t work with any specialists, just with the help of the vet and some advice from the ACT Greyhound Support Network. I credit much of the work in teaching her to be a dog to Stitch. She’s always been the most affectionate dog, right from day one, and she’s greatly loved.
— Clients Shona and Michael

Violet and Stitch, shortly after Violet was adopted. 8 April, 2016.

These clients are a veterinarian’s dream. They respect your opinion and are happy to seek it as soon as they notice something is amiss, rather than wait or consult Dr Google, when the issue could be quite serious by that stage.
— Dr Fiona Starr

Louise Dobson takes Harry and Rubi home. 3 July, 2018.

6:30 pm - Closing Time

Trainee Nurse Claire Goodlock looks after Molly who is about to be discharged. 27 February, 2018.

Receptionist Sorrel Nation signs off. 3 July, 2018.

Dr Grace Butler (right) stays with Dr Jessica Winsall and her dog, Narla, once a week; it saves Butler a 200km commute from her rural-NSW home, and it gives them both a chance to talk about work. To debrief. 21 February, 2018.

Claudia Male (right) and Jarrod Male, who operate the ACT's Pet Ambulance Services, load a dog in critical condition onto the ambulance with assistance from Brudine staff. The ambulance will safely transfer the dog to an after-hours/emergency clinic. Having a pet ambulance and after-hours/emergency clinics means daytime veterinary practice staff in the ACT to go home at a reasonable time after closing, which helps them rest and reduce the chance of burn-out. 21 March, 2018.

I do appreciate the work/life balance of this job. Everyone here is really good at making sure you’ve have time off. Fiona [Dr Starr] gets very worried when you don’t have time off. After my time here, I can definitely understand why. If I was working like this all day, every day, I wouldn’t want to do it.
— Dr Grace Butler

Staff meeting. 17 January, 2018.

Practice Manager Bri Smith ( with bottle ) is moving to London for work and her mum, co-owner Dr Deborah Williams, is coming along for a several months.  7 March, 2018.

Practice Manager Bri Smith (with bottle) is moving to London for work and her mum, co-owner Dr Deborah Williams, is coming along for a several months. 7 March, 2018.