I turned around towards the backseat of my Volkswagen. "Now where is that stick?", I asked myself, hunting under raincoats, gym clothes, and my school bookbag. Having located my needed piece of equipment, I turned back around in the driver's seat. Taking a long, deep breath, I assessed the home in front of me. "With God as my witness", I said out loud to myself. "With God as my witness, I am NEVER doing home visits again". But since I was in school to obtain my BSN, there was no choice. There was no Community Health course in my three-year diploma nursing program. No Community Health, no BSN. I was going inside that house again. I didn't want to open the car door. I knew who was out there.
At least I didn't wait too long to get my BSN after passing the NCLEX. Two years after my first graduation from nursing school, I felt on top of my game. Poor, but with my own apartment, a reliable car, and a great job in the local CVICU. What did I need to do this for? I had absolutely no interest in "home health" or home visits. I liked the ICU because I like to be in control. This very poor home in eastern North Carolina was not where I belonged. It was not pleasant inside that house. I would not understand or appreciate this part of my training until many years later.
I grumbled again to myself and stepped out of my car. I didn't see anybody on the front porch yet, so my eyes did a rapid scan of the property. "Where are you, you little devil?" I thought. Quietly, I gathered my paperwork and my stick.
As soon as I closed my car door, I gasped when I saw the dog standing right in front of me. Large and in charge, his head and shoulders were already lowered. My patient explained to me on my previous home visit that "Smut" was half wolf, half dog- a great watchdog. Certainly, a deterrent for unwanted visitors. One could see the wolf in him in his elongated face, his slanted yellow eyes. "You have to watch out for him, because he will sneak up behind you and bite you in the butt", my patient warned me.
The first time I came to this house, I ran from my patient's porch back to my car in about six seconds, with Smut closing in. I am a large girl, but I am fast. I jumped behind the steering wheel and slammed the car door, out of breath. Then an elderly man in a trucker hat stuck his head out the front door of the house and yelled "Go On, Smut!!" But with an eastern North Carolina accent, it was loud, drawn out, and hoarse from years of smoking, more like "Go oooohhhhwnnnn Smut!"
Just like the first home visit, I never saw or heard the dog. I gently closed my car door, and Smut was standing right there. Having been raised around large dogs, he still unsettled me because he was so quiet. I unleashed all my frustration about school and work as I yelled "Go on, Smut!" while raising my stick in the air. Smut ran around the front of the car and tried to sneak around the back. "Go on, Smut!" I yelled again, backing towards the front of the house. Just then, the trucker hat appeared at the door, arriving just in time to save me from a likely unvaccinated bite in the booty. "Go oooohhhhwnnnn Smut!"
I can still hear that man like it was yesterday, even after a thirty-year nursing career. (When I am very old, I will still remember it.) After many years in critical care, working holidays and weekends and nights, I accepted a job as a Medicaid Case Manager. My friends in the ICU asked me if I had lost my mind, doing home visits. But my willingness to try something new, which included a lot of home visits, turned into my favorite job in nursing after all. I was a Case Manager for 13 years. I still fussed sometimes when I got out of my car. The moral of this story is to never say never. You don't know Smut.