There never is adequate seating, nor food, at these venues. Convention halls designed to cluster crowds, and starve you. Their bathrooms hold the same predicament. What they can do well is seat a football stadium of vets on metal folding chairs with towering 100 foot ceilings cocooned by cement erected from framed steel and sheet metal. Veterinary continuing education venues, what we call CE, are almost and without exception (save for the uber-exclusive Swiss chalet-ed "escape" venues no one I know can afford), are inhumanely impersonal, and disastrously like a teen-boy-band concert spread over 4 days. Straggling zombified bodies following a river-like funeral procession, snaking into-out-of-and-around a convection hall labyrinth of gauntleted vendors offering pens, stress balls and poop bags, to-from-and within the stomach of lecture rooms as boring as they are blue carpet and oversized light fixtures humming a electric static lullaby. For all licensed professionals in the medical field they are a necessary endeavor based on a solar calendar.
|Saffie, our clinic cat. Midday naptime.|
Her story; she had been returned for urinating outside of the litter box three times.
She has now found her home. She is also perfect now that she has us as her humans.
I pack a breakfast, water, coffee and spare square toilet paper bag, along with a spare phone charger, (it takes a blood hound to find an outlet in these places and you don't get reception anyway), and remind myself this is a necessary evil until my prince pays for that plane fare to the land where hot chocolate and banks add an 'e' at the end for that extra panache. And have I yet mentioned that they are also a freezing cold reminiscent of a basement meat locker?
Among the 5,000 fellow vets at this years annual CE event, I found two classmates from my vet school that long 18 years ago. They were best friends at school and not surprisingly, remain so to this day. One of them is a towering giant at over 6 feet. She was, and still is, easily recognized by her ability to be the only face in the crowd above the peppered-hair sea. The periscope face singularly visible anywhere within the swimming crowd. Alongside her was the girl I knew better. The more talkative of the two. The girl who I always personified as an Afghan dog, yet upright. She moved like a slender, Rapunzeled sloth. Slow, yet graceful, waves of long curled blonde hair willowing to and fro, and a look as if drawn to a far off light only she could see. She was sweet, always smiling, and as I will always remember her, had this impressively captivating way of standing in a necropsy lab of 20 or 30 of us listening to the professor drag on and on, answer a question you weren't sure was intended to be asked of the crowd, (always correctly I might add), and then seamlessly slip back into her upright slumber. We, like the geniuses our 20 year old mind were, had diagnosed her with narcolepsy long before she went off and had a single species biped label her.
|Willow,, the face of the Amish puppy mills. Disposable because not sell-able.|
She has been adopted via a local rescue. (Have I begged you not to ever buy a pet yet?)
Their vet career paths have run in parallel to their personal lives. They married, had kids, and bought their practices separate and yet in tandem. They have what so many of the rest of us do not; a never ceasing sounding board, experience well, and partnership that is both envious and formidable.
We met over our provided venue boxed lunch. Mine of the vegan variety as it was both preference and provided the only guaranteed availability of anything outside my knapsack smuggle. We, like all old friends, picked right up where almost 20 years had left us.
We had built lives over the amassed days. They families, and us; collectively three independent vet practices. Which based on the trends of the profession and the newbies of millennials swarming in our convention hall pool, was remarkable.
Paralyzed from the waist down,,
and yet remains always a glass half full kinda guy
We started there. The talk of owning our own practice. More intimate than how their children mirrored them was their description of the clinics that they had built. The details of how these buildings, and all of the personal detail it enveloped defined who we are, and had become. Small businesses, and I would nominate; especially those created for animals or children, are exactly like this. A vision that manifests out of passion and empathy. A lifetime of desire to help those without ability to construct independently, and love. We didn't talk about income, profit margins, or retirement/exit strategies, we talked about what that building meant to us in our life long dream of being a veterinarian. We talked about our practices as if they were our professionally status defining custom built luxury yachts.
Jarrettsville Veterinary Center
I am 10 years older then they are. The prodigal girl who entered vet school a decade later than the rest of my class. The girl who took a 10 year detour into another profession before her compass called her back to where her heart lay. When you are 32 and the rest of your vet school class is 22 that decade delta has significance. I was, for those years at vet school, the older, seasoned classmate. Here cross-legged on the convention floor eating a veggie wrap, I remained such, although even these small differences were quickly fading into insignificance.
|The engine. Our treatment and surgery area|
"My best piece of advice?" they had asked...was to "be careful for what you wish for, and be ready to have your heart broken." We all want/need an extra vet, or two, (three for me, please), to fall out of the sky and into our laps, but, I paused,,, "no one will break your heart more in vet med than an associate." Eighteen years in, and 12 vets who have come and gone later, and yes, some of them have absolutely broken my heart. "And your staff, well, they can crush you just as hard." We are a profession based on emotional ties. You know your patients won't live forever, but, for some reason you expect your staff to be there always. You cannot build a house around a purpose, with a bleeding heart full of good intentions, and a desperate hope for it to survive both from and after you, without feeling hurt when those people you hand the keys to your yacht to, abandon it, and you, to leave all of your passions afloat in an ocean of wet noses that need antibiotics and a list of clients trying to make same day appointments cause the ER's are full.
my circus,,, not always my monkeys.
I wish us all well.
|Seraphina.. because there is a heart and a soul,, she reminds me to treasure and protect both|
For every journey there is a vessel to carry you. A crew to guide you, and an anchor to help weather the storms. Here is a small tribute to the people at JVC I call my anchors;
The heart of every institution is the crew that guides the way. To all of my peeps at JVC I am so proud of you, who you are, what you work so hard for, and for being as much the inspiration as the joy that makes it all possible. XOXO Krista