Based on three years of ethnographic research in a large, mixed-practice veterinary hospital and semistructured interviews with twenty-two veterinary technicians, this discussion focuses on the work of veterinary technicians, which is, as described by Everett Hughes (1984, 343), “physically disgusting,” “a symbol of degradation,” and “wound(ing to) one’s dignity.” The article briefly describes the vet tech’s career and work activities. The discussion then focuses on how technicians regard and deal with the least appealing of their physical and emotional tasks. Here I emphasize the compensatory role played by the relationships and encounters with nonhuman animals that are central to their work life. The article concludes with an examination of the concept of dirty work and the relationship between dirty work and identity.
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