Friday, May 26, 2017

Believe in Me.

Being a veterinarian and most especially the practice owner, is essentially nothing more than asking people to believe in you.

True, I need to have studied, practiced, and display the fundamental skills associated with being a veterinary medical doctor, but, there is very little oversight and even less direction provided for us while we are out in the trenches. Leadership skills are not provided as one of the important tools to carry in your medical bag. Some of us are born with them, others fight gallantly to escape having to earn them, and still others flee with great fear at the idea of having to take charge of anything.

I have had the audacity to try to build something far outside of the normal parameters of a vet hospital. I have learned the hard way there is a price to pay for that.

I believed I could do more. I also believe I can do it honestly, transparently and with integrity. It presents its own set of challenges.

If I invest the majority of my heart and soul into my practice I run the risk, like in every other relationship, of being taken advantage of, dumped, and/or feeling heartbroken. I can confess that this happens. I don't know how else to trudge through? How do I possibly remain a "heart on my sleeve bleeding heart kind of person" and not maintain some degree of caring when I get rejected?

I don't know how to be any different? I don't even know if I even want to? Which leaves me sitting here staring at the stars wondering where my place in the world is? How do I remain the eternal optimist in humanity, reason, fate, and the tiny steps of this ethical minefield, full of precious pets and messed up humans that I have to navigate through? (OK, I am trying to remain optimistic,, in fact I am jaded and jilted, and maybe even a little paranoid about the next perpetrator of my vulnerability).

Believe in me? Do I still believe in me? There are days.. when,, I... just... don't... know?

The problem is that you have to keep convincing yourself that you still believe in you when it seems that no one else does.

At the intermission of this one lifetime I know I made some hard decisions, taken some leaps of faith and tried every single time to be kind instead of right. I leave my head and neck on the chopping block because I don't see a pet, an animal, any living thing as a piece of property. I vehemently disagree with my colleagues policy of euthanasia as an acceptable answer to every-damned thing. I also give a great deal and expect to be treated respectfully and honestly.

This week I said "no" to two requests. I dug my heels in, left myself vulnerable to whatever legal repercussions to follow and I stood up to protect a pet knowing that the client might just walk out the door, drive 0.2 miles up the road to the next nearest vet clinic, walk-in, pay the $50 bucks for euthanasia on request and walk out 10 minutes later free of the burden their pet became. (PS to my vet neighbor up the road who may, or may not, hate or love me? I know I am probably the biggest PIA neighbor-vet who ever lived).

I have also made business relationships that transitioned into personal friendships. I provided an expectation for special treatments to these 'friends' and then disappointed them. The example list is long with friends who have "unfriended" me because I drew a line. I cannot ever leave well enough alone...Why? Why do I over extend myself and then feel hurt when I get dumped? Why do I always muddy the waters between business and friendship? (OK, I do know the answer to this.. because I feel obligated and compelled to be there for my patients, like, always).

Let's review my jilted list and see if it is an exercise in cathartism, or, just a gross display of dirty laundry? (Please refrain from casting a vote).
  • The many decade long client with too many dogs who worries I will rat them out for not having a kennel license because they have too many dogs. (Did I ever mention I once had 12 cats?). They want special boarding prices because they cannot afford to board them all. They left the clinic when we didn't provide special pricing. (PS we are the cheapest place in town.. we know,, we checked). 
  • The client who calls screaming that her dog "isn't breathing! She is coming in right NOW!" We direct her to the ER. We are closing within minutes. She is a nurse and she is livid. I try to call her the next day to explain that if anyone of her patients called her general practitioners office with this condition the first thing that would be said is "If this is a life threatening emergency please hang up and dial 911." Apparently added fuel to the fire. Relationship extinguished. (PS an emergency should always be treated like an emergency).
  • The client who routinely calls demanding immediate appointments for whatever disaster-du-jour has occurred. If not provided an immediate appointment I get a personal cell phone call requesting such. All are always granted, and always seen within hours of the phone call. I am fairly certain the other vets at the clinic hate me for always insisting they see emergencies even when we are booked. Who do I try to make happy? (PS I still don't have the answer).
  • Financially capable client requests an extension on paying the latest emergency bill. This request turns into constantly carrying a multi hundred dollar account for months. We ask nicely for payment, we are met with hostility, until finally the account is paid and they move to a "better" clinic. Who knew there are "better clinics" that are free? (I will pass along the info when I get their name).
  • The client who has over 40 cats spayed/neutered/vaccinated and treated pro bono who accuses a popular widely used topical flea & tick preventative of killing their cats. Hysteria ensues at the clinic, adverse event report case is opened and then they refuse to answer any phone calls or provide any information because there is a "vet and vet manufacturer conspiracy" theory going on. They ended up getting away with over $3,000 worth of vet care and services and think I am the "corrupt" one.
  • The number of vets who have left for greener pastures and the promised land. This one breaks me.. (note to self,, stop getting attached.).
  • The client who is always reprehensibly nasty to the receptionists.. Why? Why would anyone be mean to them? I bid them adieu.. and I always call to tell them why. No one deserves to be spoken to with derogatory comments, profanities, and anger. (OK, I have no remorse here. But I find it sad that these clients are always nice to me. Like that's ok? If you have a boss who lets you get walked on, while they get treated like royalty call me,, anonymously., I will call your boss. What the hell do I have to lose? Doesn't everyone deserve a friend with a big mouth who has your back?).

I need healthy boundaries. I am not good at this..

Maybe I only need to believe in me? Maybe, if I am super lucky there will be others who stick with my vet clinic-pet crusade quest and we can change the world? Maybe one single pet at a time, and maybe only with my soul still inside my own heart.

No one ever said this life was easy.. at least I can bank on that.

(PS to those who think this is a personal note of defeat and submission I will leave a post script here to spare the phone tag inquiries.. I am OK. Promise. A diary, public as it may be, is still a one way vessel. You don't need to intervene. I m, learning, growing, and trying to spare my compassionate obsessive self along the way.. Maybe tomorrow? Maybe I can do it all better tomorrow?)

For those of you in vet med I know you understand this.. for those of you not in vet med please understand that all of us are human beings with big hearts (too often on our sleeves). To not care is to grow indifferent which is the death of the soul that fuels the heart of a caregiver.

Juice.. saved by JVC twice.

If you want to help pets please reach out to me. Leave a comment here, join me on, or find me at the clinic Jarrettsville Veterinary CenterFacebook at Jarrettsville Vet, Twitter @FreePetAdvice, or YouTube.


  1. Dr. Magnifico, your personal "diary" entry struck a chord with me. I sometimes feel the same way. Although I am not a veterinarian (but I hope to be some day - applying to veterinary school now!), I've faced some of the same situations - it's tough to believe in yourself when it seems that no one else does.

    It's hard when you're a compassionate and caring person who gives all to receive nothing in return, not that you even wanted anything but when dear friends leave, good vets and loved clients, it hurts. A lot.

    It's even harder when you've take on a lot of responsibility and it feels like you're always trying to prove yourself. What more can you do?

    Your entry goes to show that you are a hard-working, dedicated and empathetic individual and it is plain to see your passion in your writing and every day actions.

    As someone who has been doubted and mocked for making a mid-life career change, I see your writing as a ray of hope for those of us who want to believe. Who need to believe. Thank you.

    1. Hello Jeanne,
      I cannot express how grateful I am to read your comment. I too was a vet student in my 30's after another career elsewhere.
      As much as I do struggle with everything you mention (feeling lost in giving so much and getting so little, or worse, feeling taken advantage of), I know I am not alone and I know I have many more wonderfully generous clients and friends to help me through.
      Saying goodbye is always tough, feeling betrayed and disposed of, gnawing and painful.
      How to stay generous, kind, understanding, accepting and still want to do so in the face of disappointment and abandonment I have yet to figure out.
      I suppose we all carry burdens others don't see, and I cannot take it personally, BUT, when your life exists on the caregivers level alone there is not an easy way to see it otherwise.. We are all a work in progress,, some more open and vocal (and maybe even a little pitiful?) than others..
      Best wishes to you in all of your endeavors..
      thanks again for your kind words and encouragement for us all.

    2. I HATE TO SAY IT BUT MOST PEOPLE CARE ABOUT THEMSELVES! I would never want you to change who you are and what you stand for. Sending Love from alot of your clients!

  2. Please, I beg you, do not become a victim of compassion fatigue. You can not help anyone if you aren't here.

    1. Thank you,,, I am conscious of it everyday, and stronger because I remind myself to stop, relax, let it go, and move on... I don't internalize (obviously) and it helps immensely. I am also surrounded by equally generous, compassionate, and wonderful people.. I run, I sleep, I hug my pets, I hold dear friends close and I stand by my desire to maintain a heart, think out of the box, not succumb to the system which is fraught with contradictory expectations and be able to walk away centered and unwaivered,, I am ok., I really am.. (repeat mantra internally constantly) I appreciate your reaching out and offering a reminder too few of us get in a timely manner.
      Take very good care of yourself as well.

  3. Krista: To live true to your creed is not easy in a world where people will take and take of you. As you say, believe in yourself. You are good, kind, and compassionate. I wish I could bring my kitties to you. I had a vet here, who, after I had forked over easily $1000 in the week before, cancel my appointment when I was going to be 10 minutes late. 10. minutes. with a sick cat. Stunning. Sometimes, you just gotta get it up and out. I'm glad you shared, and remember: "to thine own self be true." Thank you for all your help over these past years with my babies.

    1. thanks,,, I will carry those words forever,,, no truer ones were ever spoken,,, xoxo to you,, i apologize for that vet. its terrible. We each need to remember that we are not perfect and life is short. dont sweat the small stuff (10 minutes late is absolutely small stuff!)

  4. Krista, your entry resonates with me as well, I teach. A giving profession, you pour yourself into it, take things home, not just tests and projects, but did I respond well, enough, kindly, too harshly? From my vantage point, that ability to fix, heal, change an outcome, share tears when you can't ( which you've done with me and mine more than once, and those moments are emblazoned in my mind), because you kindly, gently, lovingly took care of my family who needed to be let go, and couldn't stay any longer despite your best attempts. I guess what I want you to know is how thankful I am for you, your miraculous staff, the other vets who go above and beyond like you and whose hearts get crushed a little bit every day because you can't save everyone. But you are all there for us, in so many ways that we need you and the thanks, though deeply heartfelt even at the end of a routine appointment, may go unexpressed, or at least not felt enough on you end. Thank you for being a Miracle Giver, and for crying with us. Thank you for giving us hope, when that seemed lost. Thank you for tending to those without voices but who nonetheless offer all the love they have to give, deserved or not. Thank you for all that you do.

    1. WOW!! and when you think that maybe no one notices you are reminded that there are people who you didnt even realize remember who you are at the heart of who you want to/try to be.. I'm very (VERY) grateful that you took the time to put these very kind words down. I appreciate the staff, the patients and the amazing people who make the clinic the miraculous place it is. I am surrounded by inspiring people who love their pets it is the most I could ever ask or hope for. I have long ago accepted that medicine is not perfect and we can not outrun, outwit, or out scheme death, the inevitable,,, but we can be strong an resilient around it.
      Thank you for all you do for all of the children you pour your heart and soul into,, even if no one else acknowledges or recognizes it. I understand.
      The little whispers of affection and encouragement between us and our kids.. it is the most precious moments of my day.. just to tell a little furry soul that I love them,, even if no one else ever has..

  5. Dear Dr. K, thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts and feelings. I could hear your voice as I read your words. I'm sorry some of your patients' owners have behaved less than admirable, but I applaud you for putting your patients first. I love your thought process, your dedication, and your zeal. That positive energy is certainly felt by your patients and you certainly know you are doing your best. I wish more businesses had your integrity and passion! Keep doing what you know is right and let faith, Karma, and/or the Golden Rule, reward you for what is in your heart! ��⚓️

    1. Hello!
      Thanks for reading! And for your very kind words! I wish more people had a passion that they allowed themselves to serve everyday.. unselfishly and unwaiveringly.. I dont know why any vet would try to retire rich and in exchange give up saving every single life along the way,, but its not what I am going to do. ever.
      my heart is full, but my tongue is sharp... i blame the academy and a life at sea (although its prob just my NY Italian-ness shining through!)

  6. One of the hardest burdens to carry is having a big heart. Combine that with a mensa level intelligence and its hard to get to sleep on many a night. People take advantage of kindness and generosity, always have, always will. Combine that with the fact that people will pay their grocery, power, water, bills , their mechanic, many others but somehow dont seem to want to pay their doctor or their vet and you end up with a daily struggle to get compensation for your work. If i ran a business i think i would have to hire someone or contract out billing because the negativity that comes with trying to collect what you are owed would just be too much to deal with and i know i would be a target for people to take advantage of. Keep up the good work and sleep well with the knowledge of the good deeds you do every day.

    1. hello,
      Thank you for reading and leaving me a note so kind. After a dozen years I think I have most of the hard stuff figured out.. in order to remove hostile resentment I set up a three tiered payment system. I also empowered my community to assist us in being who they need/expect us to remain. There is a back up plan for every plan, and I long ago accepted that the over whelming relief of feeling like I can make a difference in the lives of the most under served and desperate is faar better than a payment received on time and in full.
      No stray kitten is denied care.No treatable savable pet is given up on, and no one is left to feel that bringing in a pet will be served with judgement or scorn. It doesn't change the fact that our services are needed and a pet will suffer if we do not intervene. The rest is manageable. We use our network of rescues, friends, and community. We remind everyone everyday that we are better working together than pointing fingers, casting blame and expecting a neat balance sheet. Life doesnt work like that.
      Thank you again.