As Monday is fast approaching, I am trying to mentally prepare myself for what is sure to be another long week of small animal medicine. I do this job, well, because of Zipper. I know, it’s hard to believe that my career path could have been determined by an eight pound fluff ball, but it’s true. Let’s back up a little...
Part one; a plan is set into motion.
I’m a senior in high school, Mr. Rochester’s english class. Amazing teacher. The assignment: write a letter to ourselves, to be opened at our ten year reunion. In this letter, I was certain that I would either be happily working as a paralegal, or a veterinary technician in ten years. Of course this letter also claimed that I would be married to my first love, high school sweet heart, and partner in crime (for what lasted nearly six years). I would more than likely have children, have traveled some and basically be living the proverbial american dream. House, dog, fence (I know...but are you really ever grown up unless you have a fence?), sensible family car, matching christmas card type sweaters...you get the idea.
Part two; the plan comes to fruition.
Years passed, and life changed. I started community college after graduation and promptly landed a job as a legal secretary (seeming to be the more sensible of the two career choices) and decided to guide my career down that path. I worked for three separate lawyers, each and every one of them being a very distinct breed of evil. Turns out, “the law”, wasn’t for me. I spent several years working in human medicine, my jobs varying between urgent care, private practices and referral authorization. The medicine, exciting. The people, not so much. I held a variety of jobs over the years in addition to the law and medicine dabbling. Christmas tree farm, jewelry sales, computer sales, retail, tennis pro-shop attendant, nanny (hard to believe, but also true)...the list goes on. During the time of one of my most favorite jobs (unemployed and hanging out with my mom everyday) Zipper came into my life. The specifics of how Zipper and I met, and the circumstances surrounding that meeting can be revisited in a later blog. It’s a sappy story and makes me cry a bit. So, moving forward. I had always wanted to be a veterinarian when I was a kid (big surprise, I think most kids do at some point). That past desire, combined with the tremendous amount of love I felt for Zipper was paralleled only by my desire to care for her better than anyone had ever cared for a dog in the history of forever. So I began to seek out this new career. I had to really, after all, I had promised my future self that it was potentially my career, and I had already exhausted option A. Before too long I had landed a job as a veterinary receptionist (patient care coordinator, to be exact) and things unfolded quickly from there.
Part three; the actuality of things.
Veterinary medicine, like all areas of life, has it’s fair share of weirdo’s. Proving this point, will take more than a single blog. So, let this be the first in a series. It’s a physically and emotionally taxing career. Compassion fatigue is a REAL thing, Google it. It’s my job to explain to people what is best for their pet, it’s their job to decide what care they receive. I hate that part. As I have learned, most people are not equipped to make that decision. I’m floored daily, after all these years, at the things I hear clients say and do. Which brings me back to the original purpose of this blog (I seemed to have gotten side tracked there for a bit). This blog is nothing more than a rant of sorts. The anxious curiosity of what kind of nonsense will be spoken by this week’s pet owners. The following is a small sample of what I hear on a daily basis:
“I feed Ol’ Roy ONLY. My breeder says that even though it’s one of the cheaper brands...it has the best nutrition, plus, it has no wheat.”
“I’m going to get myself an assessascope, so I can take care of my dogs at home.”
“My breeder says that Weimaraner’s carry their babies in their chest cavity. So I need a chest X-ray to see how many babies there are.”
“My breeder says that my pure breed “wolf dog” can only have feline vaccinations.”
“No, we don’t give her treats. She is on a very strict diet. She only gets calorie control food, and table scraps.”
“I understand my cat needs to eat only this urinary diet to prevent another surgery. Can I mix friskies canned food into that?”
“Hey man, check it out. I have a TOTALLY healthy, brand new litter of 9 Pit bull puppies. They don’t have anything wrong with them, and they don’t need any medical attention, but they will not open their eyes! What could be wrong with them?”
“I have a REALLY clean house, we don’t have fleas. She must have gotten them here, we were in the lobby for a while.”
“No, that’s not mastitis that has caused my dogs skin to split wide open from nipple to nipple...it was a scratch from one of the puppies. Plus, it doesn’t even bother her. Look, I can put my whole finger in there...she don’t care.”
“I breed my dog, so I can give the gift of a dapple dachshund, to those people who couldn’t otherwise afford a dog...for free. I’m doing the community a service.”
(Visualize a head wound that splits open the entire head, exposing skull)
“Can I just hold him still while you stitch it up. He is a really tough dog. He will be perfect as long as I’m holding him.”
“Ha, ha, ha. Atta boy.”
(As some ass holes dog is practically giving me a gynecological exam while I’m trying to write up the chart...and you don't even try to correct the behavior)
“Oh no, he doesn’t need any vaccines. My breeder vaccinated him when he was six weeks old, he’s good.”
“I want my dog to get to be a mommy before I have her spayded, she should have that opportunity.”
“How old does he have to be before I can schedule his vasectomy.”
“I can’t afford to have my dog heart worm tested or vaccinated today. We are buying a thousand dollar bullmastiff in a week.”
“My cat just ate a bunch of stick pins and ribbon from the sewing room. I don’t think she needs to be seen...I just wanted you to know.”
“I fell on my dog last night, and this morning, he peed out a huge piece of his liver.”
“I’m a RN, I’m here today because I know my cat has diabetes. I’m not going to treat him.”
Fast forward nearly fifteen years from the day I wrote the letter, the letter predicting my future, and I am currently working on my ninth year of veterinary medicine. The list of things I thought I would have, has been replaced by a list of things I couldn’t have imagined. Some good, some bad. I get to spend my days surrounded by pets, again, some good...some bad. But the very best part, is when I make a difference. Knowing that I have helped, in some way, give an owner more time with their best friend, makes it all worth it. I love Zipper more than anything. I would do anything for her. I am doing everything in my power to keep us together for as long as possible. And when I can pass that gift along to someone else, everything seems to make sense. Stay tuned for the second blog in this veterinary medicine series, where I may just climb up onto my soapbox...and do a little jig.
Oh, and my first love...he’s married, to someone else, and is relishing in the joys of being a new father. But I can’t help but wonder if he has a fence...
I don’t feel like writing at all. Not at all. But, it’s been too long. So, I figured I would write about why I don’t feel like writing...in hopes of breaking out of this funk.
Our family had to recently say goodbye to one of our beloved family members. Snuggle was our family’s 8 year old Pomeranian and Zipper’s sister and only litter mate. She has been slowly declining for the past year, with what several veterinarians have diagnosed as a brain tumor. The details of her illness were ugly and heart breaking. None of which I’ll share here, as I am trying my best to remember her in her prime.
Snuggle, Snugs, Nugs...the list of our terms of endearment for her goes on and on. She was an amazing girl. Sweet, loving, a little slow, but so very special. She was the best swimming dog ever! She loved to go to the river, and especially loved running on the beach. Snuggle loved being outdoors. In the summer, she would lay in the front yard all day. Eye’s closed, relaxing and letting the breeze blow through her fur is how she preferred life.
I have close friends, and even family who cannot understand the hurt that comes with losing a pet. It’s tremendous. In my world, there is no such thing as “just a dog” or “just a pet”. The pain of the loss is real. The mourning that is upon the rest of our pets is real. It’s so sad to watch “the pack” grieve for her, and try to re-establish their places in the family. Treats, new toys, car rides...none of it matters. They all just want their Snuggie Bear back. It breaks my heart.
Snuggle had her best day in months, on the day we had chosen to let her go. She smiled and gave out kisses until the very end. I held her in my arms, a warm breeze flickering the surrounding candlelight, as she exhaled for the last time. I know in my heart that it was the right decision. However, it doesn’t make it any easier. I also know that medically, there was nothing else that we could do for her. Again, it doesn’t make the pain any less painful. I truly believe that sometimes, in some situations...the greatest gift we can give them, is to let them go.
I’m not sure what happens to our pets when they pass. But, I’m also not certain what happens to us when we die either. I’d like to believe that our souls live on. Somehow, someway. And since I believe that my little tiny dogs have great big souls...perhaps Snuggle is finally OK, and waiting.