The number one reason I love being a veterinarian is because I can help people and animals. As a child, I always knew I wanted to be a vet, but I didn’t really know why. Sure, I thought it was because I loved animals and wanted to help them. How many young vets-to-be picture a poor puppy dog with a broken leg, and think, “I want to save him!”
Not surprisingly, veterinary medicine is so much more than helping that poor puppy with a broken leg. It’s medicine. It’s an art. And, for right or wrong, it’s a business. A veterinarian can’t provide quality medical care if he/she doesn’t charge appropriately for it. If the practice isn’t run like a business–if it’s run like a subsidized clinic providing low-cost or even free care because the staff “just wants to help”–then no one can make a living, and the people who love animals so much will be forced into other professions where they can make a living. (And yes, this happens all the time.)
My point with this apparent digression is, there’s a person attached to that animal. And in order to help the animal, you have to help that person understand what’s wrong and how you can help. It is this exchange that allows me to learn so much about people, and humanity, and to be thankful for my opportunity to help. Because during these conversations about diagnostic and treatment options for a family’s beloved, sick guinea pig, I feel the anguish. I feel the love. I feel the anxiety about the uncertainty of the outcome. I don’t just want to help the guinea pig (or whatever the patient may be)–I want to help that family get their pet back. And if it’s not in the cards, and I can’t save the pet, then you can bet your life that those children will remember what comes next for the rest of their life. My purpose then becomes one of guidance. I want them to remember how kindly and gently their pet was treated, that their vet really does love this pet too, and that we’re saying good-bye because we love him so much.
It’s true, there are times when you can hear me say, “I hate people.” But the real reason I love veterinary medicine is because I do love people, and their animals. If I didn’t, I would be in the wrong profession.