Dr. Dr. Abby Whiting
So a few months ago I got my very first death threat from a client. I have been practicing for nearly a decade and I have had my share of upset families. I am blessed to have a great mentor who jokingly reminded me, “If this is your first threat in 9 years of practice, its not cuz you’re good, its just cuz you’re lucky.” While I found this piece of advice helpful, it also made me mad. We as a profession have come to expect this level of emotional abuse from our clients; from those folks we are partnering with to ease the pain and suffering of animals…and maybe it’s partially our fault?
I’ll say that in this particular case myself and the hospital staff actually did everything right. As a matter of absolute fact: we got the diagnosis spot on without any diagnostics beyond a good history and physical exam. When the client finally consented to the confirmatory tests we discovered in fact we were correct: this pet had cancer and it was serious. The discovery that a beloved pet has a serious and terminal illness is hard on anyone, and for some of us the perfect excuse to inflict emotional harm on others. Now, I didn’t give this pet cancer…the diagnosis was present long before I met the pet. Whether we had done these tests immediately stat at the moment, or scheduled with proper protocols, safety measures, staff etc. like we did…at the end of the day nothing would have changed. But you know what has changed? Me…I’ve changed.
It was a busy day in the clinic, lots to do. I was finishing up about 4 hours after my “scheduled off time”. (I am type A over achiever; work a holic, overly dedicated practitioner). I went to check my mailbox before leaving and discovered a card. It was a lovely envelope with flowers drawn on the outside. I was hoping it was a thank you card…it was not. I don’t possess the language to describe the wave of emotion that washed over me. It seemed like the world stopped spinning. I probably read it 47 times, partially in disbelief. Not only was this a threat of violence against me, and a list of why I deserved it…the author even stated how they realized Vets are at a higher risk of suicide and that they hoped I would “make the right decision and do it myself”. They had done some research: they knew me…too well. They knew what municipality I lived in, what type of pet I owned, that I was a board member on Not One More Vet, etc.
Well, I had recently helped a clinic through a similar situation and I knew what to do…sort of. I called the authorities. I’ve had great relationship with the local first responders: we care for many of their personal family pets and the working dogs, so they are super familiar with our hospital and me. Here’s where I went wrong. I should have scheduled a time for me to bring the note to the station and be interviewed in private…but not thinking it through, I said thanks when the dispatcher told me they would send someone to get my statement and make the report.
Because most officers have been to the facility with their own pets, and because I rarely separate first responders from their working dogs: The officer walked right on back to the treatment area to locate me. This would have been fine: except there was a brand new grad on duty with me that night and I hadn’t told her about the threat and wasn’t planning on it. Needless to say it caused her concern and emotional terror. She is altered from this experience too: less trusting, less enthusiastic, prone to burn out and harsh self judgement. I should have known better. I love vet med and I am eager to help new vets find their love and passion for it, not destroy it.
The report was made, the paperwork filed. I was given instructions on how to proceed. I changed my car’s plate number, I changed my daily routines, I stopped leaving work alone, and I started being afraid. Not afraid of this client, or this threat, but afraid of every future client. I became afraid to open an exam room door, to offer care at all. I saw the new grad afraid too. We are different because of client experiences like this. I am more reserved, I am not loving my job as much. I live fearful of the next threat against me, my mental well being, my ability to make a living; I am tired more than I should be. My spouse was stunned and utterly shocked. He never dreamed in a million years a vet would have this happen, and he is harboring disdain in his heart for my profession.
I started to get angry. I was (or am?) suddenly angry about: my educational loans, my long work hours, my inability to provide for my family, my acceptance that I am a vet and a part time untrained human behavior counselor, my hyper commitment to my patients to the detriment of my family.
I went into veterinary medicine to help animals, that’s true: but more than that I wanted to help people. I am blessed to have a fantastic support system and a unicorn of a clinic to work for. I’ll be ok. But I feel an obligation to start this conversation and to share some of what I have learned.
What I’ve learned about myself:
1). Being an incurable stage 5 people pleaser is not a compliment. Boundaries are critical to success and wellbeing: they are not a negative or a sign of failure.
2). Someone’s failure to manage their own emotions in a challenging situation in no way reflects failure on my part, unless I jump in the mud too.
3). Do not accept critique from someone you wouldn’t ask advice from. People like this should get to occupy 0.00% of your thoughts. Don’t give them the power to make your inner thoughts a dangerous neighborhood to walk in alone.
4). Every time I close an exam room door I need to ask myself “Did I do the best job I could, given the situation (this includes the financial constraints, the available options, the client’s willingness to trust the process of medical diagnosis and treatment)…and if the answer is yes, then I must be proud of myself.
5). It is ok to tailor my scope of practice. I can choose to focus on clients able to trust the process of medical diagnostics and treatments, or I can choose to offer the best I can given the restrictions the client chooses. But if I am going to expect the same quality of diagnosis from myself in both situations I am insane.
6). 97% of my clients are grateful and truly appreciative. I get verbal thank you’s and thank you letters and reviews all the time…and I just let those wash over me…choosing to focus all my thoughts on the 3% of disgruntled people. I am reversing this. Instead I will pause at each thank you and try to really be present in the moment. I will let the folks like the client who threatened me go. They are not worth the space in my head.
What I’ve learned about humans:
1). We are complicated creatures. Being upset gives you no right to lash out at those trying to help you.
2). Guilt, shame, and regret can cause serious irrational behavior in a stressed human.
3). Grief takes many forms, and always calls for compassion.
4). Veterinary healthcare costs money. Holding your vet accountable for the outcome or diagnosis without granting them access to the tools to make a proper diagnosis is like asking to the plumber to fix a leaky pipe from the phone. It is totally ok to decline diagnostics: but know and be able to own: that this puts the vet at a disadvantage in guiding treatment for your pet. We will do whatever we can to help your pet: but we are a team, and each of us holds responsibility in the outcome.
Some of this is my fault. This client’s intent was to frighten and terrorize me. They needed to feel like I was undergoing as much pain as they are. We are, after all, addicted to stories of the underdog being wronged by the system. And: I let them. While I have not been truly afraid I would be physically harmed: I am still afraid to do my job…and that is my fault. I have given this insignificant person the power to direct my self-talk, the way I interact with future clients, and my passion for the profession I love. I am a work in progress. Like I said, I am lucky and I’ll be ok. I fully intend on a 100% recovery for my emotional and intellectual self, and a return to the veterinarian I want to be.
By Carrie Jurney DVM, DACVIM (Neurology), CCFP
Over the last four years of moderating this group, I've seen a lot of people talk about difficult work environments and I have seen a lot of casual advice to "leave that job". And I don't think that advice is always wrong. In fact, I think a lot of times a change of scenery can help us.
But there are two places where I see that advice fall down:
1) The actual reality of life is more complicated than that. Yes, there are lots of jobs available for veterinarians- but maybe there aren't any in your hometown. Maybe your spouse has a great job that they don't want to leave. Maybe you have kids that are very settled in the community. Maybe you have family or hobbies or other things that tie you strongly to that place. Sometimes the reality of life means we decide to accept imperfect situations because on balance that's what works for our life.
2) That moment doesn't really take any ownership of the situation at hand. Look, there are very rarely heroes and villains in real life. There are really usually just imperfect people doing their best in an imperfect world. Before we nope out of a situation, I think it's pretty important that we do an unemotional inventory of our part in the situation.
That inventory is so freaking hard. It's hard to step out of the exhaustion and the hurt and say "yeah, I could have done that better". But if we want to grow, if we want to find balance and happiness, we have to take on the responsibility of that analysis. And sometimes that growth takes a lot of difficult conversations with the people we surround ourselves in. Personal growth is not often comfortable.
So, when we are thinking of bailing on a job, you gotta do some adulting. You gotta make the list of pros and cons of this job vs. the other job. And you gotta be really really real about the part of the situation that's still going to be there in the other job, and that's you and your quirks, behaviors and weaknesses. Because nothing sucks more than to go through the struggle of finding a new job, only to find out that what really needed to change was you. And please believe, I have been guilty of that. In hindsight, I left my first job for the wrong reasons. I put the blame of my overwork, my burnout on them, when the reality was it was my boundaries that needed tending. I blamed them for working hours that were under my control. My perfectionism was making me stay far later than any work schedule. And I put myself in a situation that was actually worse for me because I didn't do an honest inventory of what was wrong. It took burning out a second time to really get the slap across the face I needed to get real about my contribution to my own burnout.
All of that being said, there are a few things I learned I will not tolerate in a job anymore:
1) I am not a slave. I deserve and require time off. You cannot expect me to work for you 24/7/365. I'm happy to be accommodating. I'm happy to discuss schedule changes, and try to be flexible. But deviation from our agreements is a two way discussion, not an order. My time off is my own. That includes answering my phone. If you breach in to my personal time, it should be rare and truly an emergency.
2) If we are having a business discussion, it's a business discussion. Personal attacks and emotional or manipulative language have no place there.
3) Contracts protect everyone, and when we are making them, they should be a mutual agreement. There should be give and take, and there should be clarity. If someone resists that, proceed with caution.
Finally, I want to tell you the most empowering thing I ever took to heart for my balance: This is a job. Just a job. When you elevate it to something sacred like a calling, you run the risk of martyring yourself. You can still be an excellent compassionate doctor who does tremendous good without crucifying yourself on the altar of veterinary medicine. In fact, I think I'm actually a better doctor because I've gotten a little space and perspective on this. Objectivity is far more helpful than passion when you are problem solving around difficult situations.
You can be proud of your job. You can work hard. But at the end of the day you deserve to be more than just a veterinarian. It can be an important part of who you are, but it shouldn't be the total of it. Be a friend, a spouse, a parent, an artist, an athlete, an amateur basket weaver- it doesn't really matter what else, but it needs to be something. Because the reality is, at some point our job is going to kick you square in the teeth, and it's really crucial that you have some other parts of your life to fall back when that happens.
Dr. Carrie Jurney DACVIM
We’ve all had that moment when the client says something that makes you do the internal eye roll. Something like, “He’s had trouble walking for three months, and has been vomiting every day for weeks, but he was perfectly healthy until he collapsed this morning.” Something that is so obviously false, when, clearly, they’ve made some very bad decisions that have led to a less than ideal situation.
I had the opportunity last week to be that client.
I fell down the stairs on vacation a month ago. Let me be clear. I’ve never been graceful. I am known in my family for “tripping on air.” This was a bad fall. Gave myself a black eye, had a good knot on my head, bruises everywhere. My foot hurt. I thought I sprained it, maybe broke a toe. But you don’t fix toes, so I figured I would just try to take it easy. At the time I injured this, I was training for a marathon. So, my version of taking it easy was swapping some run workouts for bike workouts, skipping a half marathon and “only” running a 10k on it, even though I knew it was still injured.
After a month, it wasn’t healing. I went to the doctor. We were talking about the person who referred me, also a veterinarian and marathon runner, so the doctor knew what I did both professionally and as an athlete. She took off my shoe and looked at it. “It’s really swollen.”
And I swear to god, it’s like the doctor part of my brain finally, after a month, engaged. “Huh, yeah, I guess it is.”
Incredulously she asked, “And you’ve been running on this?”
I, the doctor who authored a three-page handout on the importance of cage rest, a doctor who gives out advice on the importance of rest literally every day of my professional career, had to sheepishly nod and say “Yeah, but only like 10 miles a week.” She gave me the look. You know the one. You’ve given it to someone before. The one that says, “You are so incredibly stupid and professionalism is all that is keeping me from slapping some sense in to you right now.”
I can tell you the multitude of excuses for why I did what I did. How running is so important to my mental health, how I didn’t think it was that bad, how I was so excited to run a race with my work team. How I had cut back so much! But let’s get real: They are all terrible excuses. Just as bad as when my clients tell me that their dog “hates the crate” or “needs his exercise.” But none of them matter and I should have known better. But I’m human. I thought it wasn’t a big deal. I ignored things I shouldn’t have ignored, and now I’m going to pay the price for it.
I appreciate that doctor for her patience with me. And I’m taking the lesson to heart. Sometimes very smart, well-intentioned people make bad decisions and stupid choices. Life is busy, and we are all a little too good at soldiering on through pain and inconvenience. It’s easy to just sink in to a routine, to just clean up the vomit or ignore that limp every day and not think too deeply about what it means.
We’re all human. Adaptability is one of our greatest traits, but it can also be one of our greatest weaknesses. So, the next time one of my clients tells me about all those symptoms they’ve been ignoring for months, I’m going to remember my foot, and how I nearly PRed a 10k when I should have been resting.
By Dr. Jason Sweitzer
While I love what I do, and helping others, I have accumulated complaints over the last decade as a vet. Each complaint takes a very little piece of my determination and happiness from me but none of them does so like a board complaint.
I am fortunate that it took 10 years to receive my first board complaint. Many of my colleagues are not so lucky. Some might attribute it to how much I communicate. I frequently run over my 30 minute appointment slot talking to clients, listening to them, teaching them, and working with them. I give so much to every client and pride myself on my devotion and client service. A vast majority of clients appreciate my efforts and my job satisfaction reflects that. However, you cannot please all of the people all of the time. I have had complaints and all of them had a kernel of truth, an opportunity to improve from them, and something to be thankful for. Sometimes it takes deep searching but they are there.
Then came my board complaint. I was accused of not meeting standard of care when I hospitalized a case that was in end stage organ failure. I received the complaint nearly a year after the incident. Upon opening the complaint I couldn’t remember the case as I had seen well over 1,000 patients since then. I pulled open the chart and read my notes. My more than a page exam notes and client communication. I opened the signed form by the client that they took their animal home against medical advice (AMA), which I rarely ever use. I opened the notes were they declined all treatment I offered. I opened the communication notes where they spoke to many staff members over the next several days and declined all recommendations. I opened the notes where their animal had sadly passed and they were looking for someone to blame. I read through each, time and date stamped note, with each initialed message, and all essential information recorded including what was discussed, what options were given, and what the client planned/elected to do.
I printed out the 10+ pages of notes, explained any abbreviations, wrote a summary, and sent it off to my board. Now I wait months to years to hear back. I mentioned that every complaint has 1. a kernel of truth, 2. an opportunity to improve from them, and 3. something to be thankful for. So I forced myself to critique this complaint and find my three take aways from it.
1. I had indeed not met the standard of care - I was not allowed to due to the client declining all care I offered and leaving AMA.
2. I learned to gather my information before making a judgement. When I opened the letter my brain went to all of the dark possibilities and questioned myself and my medicine. I learned to trust myself and my staff to each do their jobs and to do the best they can within the restrictions from the owner. I learned that my first reaction to a complaint is often overly dramatic and not accurate. I learned I am trained how to handle life-threatening emergencies and that most things are not one, so take the time to do it right.
3. I am thankful for thorough records. I am thankful for my awesome staff who also made thorough records and showed compassion despite an emotionally trying struggle of having to support a case without being allowed to actually help. I am thankful for my amazing colleagues and coworkers, including my boss whose response, was “I’m sorry! How can I help?”
If you have been through a board complaint, a client complaint, or are struggling for any reason, or if you have some emotional reserves and want to support others who don’t have any reserves, please reach out to Not One More Vet, Inc. Everyone can help in some way. Please remember, You are not alone, we are ALLONE!
Dr. Melanie Goble
The past month has been a painful one for the veterinary community. There have been many deaths, some to suicide, some to cancer, some to other illnesses and accidents. My heart breaks for the families and friends of each of these veterinarians, veterinary students, technicians, and assistants.
I have spoken with family and friends of those lost. I have been asked to critique suicide awareness content. I am happy to do all of these things if they will help bring some measure of peace or understanding to others.
One of the things that was brought sharply to my attention was the wording that many people use “committed suicide.”
The term committed, indicates that it is a crime that was chosen. What people often fail to remember is that suicide is the culmination of disease of the mind. The mind is not healthy when this choice is made. Just as a body eventually “gives up” after a chronic illness, or even old age, the mind gives up and death by suicide is the outcome of that disease. We don’t say someone committed cancer or heart attack. We say they died from cancer or a heart attack. We recognize the underlying disease. Even when a disease is the result of life choices, such as smoking, we don’t say they committed suicide. They didn’t want to develop lung or throat cancer from smoking. They likely didn’t want to die if they were in their “right mind.” The same is true for those with mental health conditions. They do not want to have a mental health disease. In their “right mind,” they likely didn’t really even want to die, but they saw no other option.
Just as we fight to treat and end cancer, we fight to stop the epidemics of smoking and alcoholism, we also must fight to help those with mental health diseases. We must fight to provide them with the assistance they need to flourish rather than drown. We must try to extend them the honor of remembering the wonderful people they were while alive, recognizing that their fight was against a disease and they lost. They did not commit a crime, the succumbed to their disease.
If you are struggling with the pain of depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns, you are not alone. Please continue the fight. If you are a veterinarian, or have lost a veterinarian that was close to you, Not One More Vet is here for you. If you are struggling in the USA, please reach out to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or outside of the USA there is a list of international resources at https://www.nomv.org/support-resources.html.
Dr. Carrie Jurney (DACVIM Neurology)
I am a bit allergic to anything that sounds like “woo”. I don’t respond well when someone tells me that meditation will ground me- ground me to what? My feet and gravity seem to handle that fine already. But my analytic doctor brain really loves a good peer reviewed article, and I’m constantly on the hunt for tools that I can use to decrease burnout, increase resilency and decrease my ever present anxiety. So articles like this one (link;: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3772979/) that talk about mindfulness as a tool for reducing anxiety are always of interest to me. I even read a study recently that shows that the practice of mindfulness can increase the density of your brain (link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004979/)- and what sort of neurologist would I be if I didn’t want to increase my brain density.
It’s becoming clear that I need to get over myself and give mindfulness meditation a real try. But lord, the thought of sitting still for 30 minutes makes me twitch. I’m going to try to build the habit first, and gradually increase my time. I downloaded the Headspace app on my phone, and daily for the last ten days I’ve been doing the absolute shortest meditation available. 3 minutes. That’s it. Today, I’m going to try to up the ante and do a 5 minute meditation. I don’t really have an endpoint time goal in mind yet, but studies tend to recommend somewhere between 15 and 30 minutes a day. For now though, I’m building the habit, so the goal is to do some meditation, no matter how brief, every single day. I’ve even invited the NOMV community to do it with me- after all I’m going to be way more accountable if 16,000 of my closest friends are doing it too.
By Dr. Abby Whiting, cyberbully survivor
Recent events in our on line and globalized community have given me some food for thought. As many already know there was a case of a sick animal in St. Louis Missouri that resulted in some misinformation, cyberbullying, and threats of violence against particular veterinarians and their staff. I work at the targeted clinic and I was in the thick of it. This was the second time cyberbullies have hit me straight in the gut. I cannot thank NOMV enough for the support and resources provided to me and the staff.
Until you yourself have lived through a true cyberbullying attack or siege on your business, you cannot possibly fully comprehend the emotional damage and cost to the practice. As a profession that has a higher than usual rate of suicide, stress, anxiety, depression etc this needs to concern us, all of us. We are a group of compassionate givers, people who give their entire lives for the betterment of humans and their animals. To have such bile and hatred directed at us, shakes us to the core. It can write on the slate of innocent souls and change who we are, how we practice, and how we interact with the world. It can and has contributed to suicides in our profession.
This is not the only time cyberbullies have targeted veterinary medicine, and it will not be the last…but this time something was different. This time I suspect we as a community of veterinarians are somehow different, stronger, more committed to each other and our futures than ever before.
As a result of the unfortunate set of circumstances I saw veterinarians from all around the globe stand together in unity. I saw cards of support and on line words of wisdom from the US, Great Britain, Germany, South Africa, Australia, Canada and more. I saw a small community of local veterinarians band together in complete solidarity: the “We are ALLONE” motto came to life before my eyes. These practices pooled resources, and spoke in a single voice. There was no me, it was WE. The staff at the affected practices banded together and with woven arms held each other up. Outreach from across the world poured in, almost as though all veterinarians knew something powerful was about to happen. I saw, I heard, I felt all of us declare our worthiness.
For the first time in cyberbullying history an organization in veterinary medicine stood up and spoke. They spoke in a single clear loud voice. They spoke with love, compassion, and truth. It was such an honor to see us stand up to the emotional renegades. The Missouri Veterinary Medical Association laid the ground work for development of more resources for cyberbullying attacks. They were brave enough to speak. Years from now when we look at cases of cyberbullying we will refer to the MVMA’s statement this February. Their words and their courage are a catalyst for positive change in our profession. Through all of this I have seen new leaders take shape, and I can tell you the future is bright! We are no longer afraid. These bullies will not control us through fear and emotional extortion.
Statement from the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association:
“The MVMA has reviewed the facts of the recent events in the St. Louis area involving Veterinary Specialty Services and St. Louis Animal Control. We have spoken to the parties involved, and with many of you, our members.
The laws of the state of Missouri, the county of St. Louis, and the Missouri Veterinary Practice Act were all followed. We stand behind the actions of the veterinarians and veterinary team members involved and will continue to support them.
We condemn the social media cyberbullying and backlash that has and continues, to take place.
MVMA supports our veterinarians and veterinary teams, and their important role. They give their hearts and their expertise in service to the public every day.
If you have questions or concerns on this matter, you may email them to email@example.com. Veterinarians and team members: we encourage you to visit the AVMA’s Cyberbullying Toolkit for resources. Again, know that the MVMA supports you. “
When I saw the collection of cards and supportive letters and gifts I cried, but when I read the MVMA statement I cried again. I am so excited for our profession. I am beyond grateful to be a part of a state VMA with this level of commitment and grace. We are stronger together !
I want to share a great story... recently at the Missouri VMA annual meeting we offered a QPR class. 31 brave individuals got QPR ( Question, Persuade, Refer) certified to help identify and intervene in order to aid in suicide prevention. I'm honored to be a part of a state VMA who is so progressive. A 2016 study of all state VMA executive boards indicated only 37% of them were aware mental wellness and suicide was a problem in the profession.
In class there was a retired veterinarian sitting quietly in the back...during our small group role play practice the QPR instructor, a NOMV native!, Noticed he was struggling. She intervened...to find out his wife had committed suicide 2 years ago to the day. Since that time he noted he has really been lost and alone. When I say she saved a life in the lecture...she did. She helped him exchange numbers with her and another recently retired vet and made him commit to calling them and allowing her to help him get into therapy for himself. It was powerful...it was inspired. I see these little touch points of light in our community every day. Checking in on a friend or colleague, a quick text, a message from a stranger on line…reigniting the tiny spark of light chases out the darkness.
NOMV Nation you are changing our profession for the better.
If you are not yet QPR Certified it is free for AVMA members on line.
Thank you Dr. Marcy Hammerle for being g a QPR Gatekeeper.
Abby Whiting, DVM
A few years ago I was getting ready to graduate from veterinary school, a lifelong dream about to be reality! I was in what I thought was a soul mate/partnership relationship….it should have been the happiest time of my life…but life has a funny way of sending challenges and obstacles our way when we least expect it.
I excitedly moved home from vet school just days before graduation. I started my new job, with eager anticipation. I also started working towards “the life we were building”. Finally all that I had sacrificed for was coming….or not.
Within hours of moving home I was informed my spouse was cheating and madly in love with the other. To say this was devastating doesn’t really do the emotion justice. Divorce is something so hard and so powerfully emotional that until you have gone through it, it is genuinely difficult to really understand. Boom my world was shattered. I was struggling just to make it breath to breath. My anxiety and depression took on new meaning.
Here I was the girl trying to pretend she had it all figured out….trying to pretend at a new job that I could in fact be “the doctor”. I was trying to be “strong” in front of family and friends who had gathered for my graduation parties. But inside I was completely demolished. There were days when I couldn’t stop crying. There were days when my anger ruled every moment. There were days I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
I am a very lucky and blessed person…I had many guardian angels at this time. I had friends who showed up late at night with cupcakes and beer and just sat with me so I wasn’t alone. I had family who knew better than to ask if I was ok. I also had this new little spirit enter my life….”Piglet”.
I was a volunteer foster for a canine rescue group that frequently rescued puppy mill retired breeders…and since my life was in shambles I figured at least I could help a tiny creature…but little did I know she was sent to save me.
“Piglet”, then named “Iris”, arrived a hot mess. I picked her up from a kind USDA officer who had removed her from the breeding operation. She was honestly a parasite transport vehicle. She had fleas, ticks, ear mites, whipworms, giardia, coccidia, and hookworms. She had cystitis, mastitis (which had broken open and was draining), she was dripping milk (and who knows what happened to her pups(, she had ear infection, and she was poorly nourished. She was also albino. The first few times I touched or handled her, she panicked…human touch was so foreign to her.
But rapidly as she got healthier I began to see that she was sent to me for a purpose. This was meant to be. She was a teacher of joy. This little creature started each day eager and happy…truly happy. She explored the yard, the vet clinic, the couch with eager anticipation and true joy. She became the light that led me from the darkness I was submerged in. People who met her realized she was joy materialized. If this tiny creature who had never known kindness or health could rehab herself…so could I.
Many a night she spent lying on my chest snuggling. Many a day she spent wagging her bob tail and demonstrating for me that there is joy in every moment, if we can only look for it. She became my greatest teacher in joyfulness, gratitude, and living in the moment.
I am not sure if I would have been in real physical danger without her, but I suspect I was pretty close. I feel firmly she was sent by the Universe to rescue me. I look at her every morning and see her joy; it reminds me constantly that happiness is the gathering of little joyful moments. It’s not a lifestyle; it’s a choice about how I interact with the world. A choice about how I influence my own perspective. A choice in the moment. I know my heart break, depression, and anxiety prevented me from feeling joy: it robbed me of the opportunity to be present in a moment and feel anything but despair. But Piggy showed me, slowly, repeatedly. She is my angel in dog clothing.
Many times when I am feeling down: I like to try to approach life like Piglet does. Had a bad experience at work? A loss maybe, or an emotional client? Or maybe someone was rude? I go into the next exam room and sit being immersed for a millisecond in the new pet’s tail wag, or fluffy fur coat, or bright eyes. It brings me back to focusing on the joy instead of always on the negative. I have been Piglet’s apprentice and she my mentor.
by: An anonymous husband of a veterinarian
I write this to the public, to every single person living in the US. Please thank a veterinarian.
A few years ago I had no idea the many critical and crucial services that vets offer to each and every American…and then I met my wife. She has educated me and in turn I strive to educate others.
You see my wife does not pet puppies and kittens all day, in fact far from it. My wife, like thousands of other vets, is a hard working scientist. In addition to keeping the pet population healthy, veterinarians are responsible for biosecurity in this country (and abroad), food safety, research and development of medications, medical devices, medical implants, and medical monitoring equipment for HUMANS and animals. Without the tireless work of veterinarians, many of whom are not being paid during the government shut down; we would not enjoy access to clean water, healthy safe food, safe medicine, etc.
There are veterinarians right now ensuring the food on the grocery shelf is safe and wholesome. Have you ever thought about that? Have you thought about how the glass of milk you are holding (even if its almond milk) was made safe by a veterinarian? Have you considered the lifesaving medication you take was developed and safety tested first by veterinarians? Do you know that bio security provides not only food safety, and protects us humans from contagious disease, but it keeps our economy open for global trade and profit? Have you ever thought about the veterinarians deployed overseas that provide for our national security? Do you know right now an unscrupulous pharmaceutical developer is trying to get an untested unproven medication cleared for sale ….and will get stopped by the FDA, some of whom are veterinarians?
Somewhere in the US a baby is being placed under anesthesia, safely…he or she will have a procedure or treatment developed and tested first by a veterinarian. The supplements you take, the vaccine that kept you from getting small pox or measles…Think about the number of times that access to quality human medical treatment has impacted and lengthened your own life. My father in law needed a new heart valve: he would have died without it. The surgery that saved his life was first developed by a vet. The artificial heart valve he now has keeping his heart beating…it was tested and cleared by the FDA for use in people: 2 of the FDA reviewers on the team were veterinarians.
My wife and her colleagues don’t so this work for the thanks and the accolades, but surely they deserve some recognition. In this time of uncertainty I find myself grateful that they continue their mission. I don’t know how to help, so I wrote this hoping to educate a few people about the common misconceptions of being just an animal doctor.
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.