My 2 o’clock appointment Sunny, a 5 year old mixed breed dog, is waiting to be seen in examination room 1. My nurse approaches me, as usual, to present the case which typically begins with the species, age, breed, and then finishes with a detailed history of why the pet is here to see me. Today, my nurse can barely speak. All he can say to me is, “It’s just bad doc.” We start to walk towards exam room 1 and when I get 10 feet from the room, the smell is so overwhelming I stop breathing through my nose. As I walk into the room, I see this beautiful, sweet, trusting, and sad dog that is barely able to hold his head up and weak from dehydration and infection. He has wounds on his legs and head that are so deep I can see his bone. The infections are so severe, he lost his right ear, and I am worried he may lose his right hind leg, if not his life. Sunny’s story was a difficult one to hear. He was chained up in a backyard, attacked by other dogs, and unable to defend himself. With his owners out of town, he was left outside with severe wounds, in pain, and with no access to treatment or care. Sunny came to me a week and a half later feeling weak and desperate and fighting for his life.
I have been taught from the moment I began my training, be professional, make objective assessments, use your knowledge and training to make the best medical decisions, and try to keep extreme emotion from interfering with your treatment plan. These moments, although not common, are overwhelmingly difficult for me. I am fighting back tears in exam room 1, and trying to keep my professional composure with the clients that brought Sunny to see me. All I can see are these gentle sad eyes staring at me, begging for help, and can’t help but imagine the suffering he had been through for the past week and a half. I am a veterinarian, the ultimate animal lover, this is almost impossible for me to see.
Since I could speak, all I ever said to everyone that would listen was that I want to become a veterinarian and help animals. I was tunnel visioned in my goal from the age of 6. I worked and dedicated my young years to studying diligently, volunteering my time with animals, and doing everything I needed to do to become a veterinarian. As a child and young adult wanting to pursue this career, all you envision is puppies, kittens, and helping fellow animal lovers with their treasured pets. Unfortunately, when we graduate from veterinary school and are set free into the real world, we quickly realize we are about to see everything…being a veterinarian means dealing with the good, the bad, the evil, and the cruel.
I spend most of my days working seeing great stories, pursuing my childhood dreams and visions, and coming home at the end of my day with smiles, satisfaction, and great stories. But sadness from animal cruelty has no boundaries, and certainly does not exempt veterinarians.
Sunny’s owners surrendered him to us and we will be rehabilitating him in my animal hospital over the next 2 months. We will find Sunny the best home and his story will end happy, but I can’t help but think of all the animals that will not have a happy ending, or were not surrendered to my care. We have the best job and the most difficult. Veterinarians spend their days surrounded by innocent, sweet, good natured, and loyal pets, but because of our devotion and love for these animals, it is very hard when we become exposed to stories like this.
I guess my true love and devotion to animals is revealed in my desire to continue along this career path despite the sad stories. I get up every morning to return to the best job in the world despite the heartache, sleepless nights, and sadness I experience from handling cases like Sunny’s. I love my career, it is who I am, it is a part of me, and what I am passionate about. I sacrifice a piece of my heart when I see helpless, sweet, amazing dogs like Sunny, in order to devote my life to helping animals…and that is what I believe to be true love.