I have found that in life there are a lot of little tests. Sometimes I wonder if it is the way the big guy in the sky, (or wherever you think he is), entertains himself in his free time. Your first few years out of vet school force you to decide not only what kind of veterinarian you are going to be, but also what kind of person, what kind of community member and most importantly and most honestly, what you can live with yourself with afterward. I don’t intend to stand here on my soapbox and preach because I know how hard it is everyday.
My clients always say to me when I arrive to help let their pet pass on how this must be the most difficult part of my job. I know they say this because I know that for a pet parent the most difficult part of having a pet, or loving anything, is losing them. I am honest to a fault. And even at this, the most painful and emotional part of my relationship with my clients, I still tell them honestly that “no, unfortunately this is not the most difficult part of my job.” Not to diminish their grief, and not to sound cold and harsh, but the most difficult part of my job is looking into the eyes of a pet and knowing that no one else in the world gives a damn about them. This is the heart breaking most difficult part of this job for me.
The worst piece of advice I ever got from another vet came from a very competent seasoned person who is well respected and well known in my county. They told me that I “could never love a pet more than their owner does.” I know that this saying was used as the way for them to justify having to euthanize a pet that an owner cannot afford to treat. I thought long and hard about this. I tried to understand why they said it?, if they really believed it?, and if it was being said to me because they were trying to help me preserve my ability to continue practicing medicine in this sometimes very cold world.
Very early on in my travel with my newly minted DVM degree I met a man with a grey cat. He was here to euthanize his cat because the cat had urinated in the laundry basket. I interjected too quickly to see if he would discuss any part of this cats’ home life, litter box conditions, or anything to help me start to investigate why she was “urinating inappropriately,” that’s vet lingo for peeing outside of the box. He was not looking for a discussion. He was here to drop off and leave. I remember standing there, jaw open, heart dropping and thinking, “what the hell do I do now?” You see at this point in my fledgling career I worked for someone else. I wanted this job, and I wanted to do a good job. But I am a stubborn, strong willed girl. I acknowledge that I am terrible at compromising. I asked myself my bottom line question. “If I have to chose between being right and being kind, I chose to be kind.” I walked out of the room and down the hallway to the owner of the clinic. I asked him if I could “adopt a cat from a client?” He quickly said “yes”, thankfully didn’t ask any questions and walked away.
I walked back into the room and told the owner that I wanted to adopt Dusty and try to figure out why she was peeing outside of her box. The owner then told me that she wasn’t a very nice cat and signed over the parental rights of Dusty to me.
It has been six years. And sure enough she is not a cuddly sweet cat. And her litter box aim is not always perfect. But there has always been a reason that the urine wasn’t deposited in the correct receptacle. If her box isn’t clean, or if one of the other cats is harassing her, or if she can’t get to her box she pees outside of it. I understand and accept her. She has her own likes, dislikes, and tolerates very little. She reminds me everyday to be my own person, to follow my beliefs, to not sell my soul to anyone, and to always be kind.
I have never heard from her owner, and I am happy to not have to bear the burden of his intolerance.
Dusty passed away to chronic renal failure in March of 2013. She was a part of everyday of my professional career from vet school to her passing. She reminded me every single day why I do what I do, why I am so passionate about what I do, and to stay true to my vision, my calling, my passion, and not bend to others who can cast away a life without remorse.
It is not easy to stand up for a pet in the face of an owner who doesn't want to try to care anymore.
I cannot change them, but sometimes I can change the destiny of a pet. I try everyday.