Tuesday, January 1, 2019

One Year Later. The Impact Of A Rant

It has been one year. My life, almost everything about how I see and live it, has changed over this past 365 days. It has been one year since the video I made about a pet who had not been given enough options to help them found me and we saved her life for a fraction of what had been offered a few hours earlier at the ER. It is a story I hear daily. People being told they have three options; fork up the deposit immediately (often 2 am), euthanize (always, as I hear it from these clients, too strongly encouraged if the deposit can't be produced), or, go home to let your dog suffer. My video opened the dirty secret of how limited the options given often are, and people were angry.

I struck a nerve. A painful, deep, resonating nerve. It followed full circle. It came to haunt me, humble me, and cause we to seriously reconsider the path I had spent my whole life, over 4 decades, building.

The consideration to bail on everything vet related, was on the table more than once. You can live life, hard already by any measure, and consciously decide to try to make it easier. At some place, affectionately (hopefully) before you slam into the bottom, it helps to try to make your life easier, or, at least not create your own landmines and road blocks.

I considered hiding, running, bailing, abandoning my calling, repeatedly. I told myself over and over again "that this job wasn't worth dying for." I live in a profession that has grown almost immune and indifferent to bailing. suicide-risk-highest-among-small-animal-female-veterinarians. I was blamed by numerous people for being part of the cause of this abysmal fact. I was even removed from the groups dedicated to helping vets in danger of hurting themselves. The profession took my voice as an attack when its intention (who everyone outside of medicine saw as it was), was a plea for a pet to be given more than she was.

Turns out the reality is that this being a veterinarian gig isn't just a job, and the problem doesn't go away because you hide or kill yourself because you got lost in the pain of feeling helpless and hurt.

Never was I the one to take the road less traveled. Me, no, i will jump into the poison ivy to make a point. The message can get lost in the delivery if your too battered to enunciate or stand at the podium.

Here's what I have learned, and how my plea for help to those we rely on and serve changed me;
  • Don't make a point out of anger. Nothing good comes from that place.. it's cathartic, but not constructive. That is my only regret. A voice of passion is more powerful and lasting than anger. I was met by anger and I contributed to it. I have learned that lesson.. (the hard way of course,.,).
  • Let the lunatics hang themselves.. don't feed them. I stopped responding to the hateful diatribe early on in the 4,000 plus comments left on that video post. It turns out the other side of the angry mob (the distraught pet parents) did a better job than I could.
  • Keep records,,, screenshots are important. Karma is King. And, nasty people live nasty lives. Let them live them. I, and they, know who you are. You can only kill so many animals for all of the awful inexcusable reasons that you do and before you know it you have built your own legacy. Maybe indifference will help ease the burden? Maybe blaming others will? Maybe your cost of living needs to be reassessed instead of the clients standard of care? There is a #MeToo movement on the horizon in vet med. I'll be one of those women pointing the finger and reciting my experience to those some of the men and women who bully to intimidate and threaten to coerce. 
  • Take the high road. Even if you have to gag yourself to do it.
  • Be ready to stand by what you believe in, but always be prepared for sacrifice when you do. Remember at the end of this journey you will only have to face yourself. No one else's opinion matters. You die alone, you might as well like the person you share your grave with.

Sacrifice became a consistent theme over the last year. I repeatedly had to ask myself what I was willing to sacrifice. It was made more apparent when ER's, private practitioners, (some of them I used to believe were friends), and a few of the angry online mob all sent the cases they could have taken care of to me,,, some just showed up to say, "my dog needs a pyo surgery, my vet down the road, said you do it cheap." I did A LOT of surgeries last year. I made a real difference in peoples lives, and best of all saved a boat load of pets who would have otherwise been relieved humanely of their suffering economically. There is more to this profession, to the lives entwined in it than a simple linear mathematical equation dictated by an economist. There is more to every life than DISEASE + FINANCIAL ABILITY = OUTCOME. There is a pet, a person, and an emotional tie that far outweigh the scales ability to measure "equals."

Me and my pup Storm.
To all of the squawkers who proclaimed that the video was a "marketing ploy" I have to admit that I wasn't that calculating, nor, divisive. But, I also have to admit it worked. Business has never been better. But business doesn't last because of a catchy ad. There has to be substance to that client experience. Truth is that video, that message, was honest and compassionate. If you are trying to run a business, most importantly, a service based business, people can see through the bull, the sales pitches, the fake motto's. Don't tell people that you "treat their pets life family" and then send them packing to find help because they aren't profitable, convenient or as prepared as you expected them to be. Your family must really have their shit together, unlike all of the rest of us.

There were days of phone calls. All of them set-ups from "fake clients" trying to get us on tape declining to help them "for free." When we began to question them, like "please let us have your number so we can call you back to discuss," click. Or, yelling, screaming, cursing at us on the phone.

It seems to me after this year of questioning who I am, what kind of vet I want to be, and what my veterinary legacy will be, I have come to understand that I am really not afraid anymore. No matter what you threaten me with, no matter how long I feel that I am walking alone, no matter how tired I get from doing the pyo's everyone else wants to send my way to teach me my lesson, I am who I am. I am not for sale, I cannot be shamed, silenced, beaten, abandoned, or castigated to a quiet place. This is a profession who kills themselves at unprecedented numbers, I won't be sent there, I won't retreat there, and I won't feel lost in the finding of a place of peace. Its there inside me. ranting.

There is a peaceful resignation to knowing what you are capable of, how you can survive feeling so alone. A sense of  transcendent maturity.

I accepted months into this bashing quest to ruin me (three letters sent to the Board, multiple calls from "veterinary groups" to fuel their fires, shutting down all social media outlets, and numerous private warnings from people I didn't even know to "be careful" people are "out to get you." that if someone wants to get you they will. You can't walk through life always afraid. It just isn't sustainable if you are trying to live in and through it.

I would rather walk away from veterinary medicine proud that I never euthanized a treatable pet, gave every option imaginable and faced the wrath of a profession set out to destroy me, than let the ghosts of the voiceless steal my soul.

We all pick sides. It is the nature of conscious awakening. I picked a side a long, long time ago. I went to vet school to take care of animals. I will continue to do so. I stand with them.

There is more to come. Promise.

Here is the original Veterinary rant video,,, after being chastised by almost every veterinary group and organization to "Take It Down!" it stands. Perhaps simply as a voice for those who have been wounded by us, this profession, perhaps, as a small symbol of freedom of speech (after being challenged by the State Board to be removed/and have me punished for an ethical violation), and maybe perhaps to be a rallying cry for change?

Side note for those of you paying attention. It has been longer than a year since the video went viral. When the anniversary came around I was grieving (terribly) over the loss of my beagle pup Jekyll. It consumed me, and, the thought of trying to put words on paper about anything other than him was impossible. I took time to grieve him, and I took time to reckon this subject. It really comes down to deciding what you can and can't live without. I had to live without him (two very sick puppies to refocus on have helped me more than I can measure), and, knowing that there were people who wouldn't let me feel alone.

My slogan for 2019 exists in two parts; #transparency #getoutalive

For more information about our veterinary clinic, Jarrettsville Veterinary Center,  please visit our Facebook page, or, our website.

If you have a pet question or a story about your pet to share so we can start to help others who might be in the same situation you are (or were), please visit us at Pawbly.com. It is free to use and open to everyone.

If you want to learn more about pet care visit my YouTube channel here. 

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