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.
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.