Dec 31 2012

End of Year Musings

We have had an emotional roller coaster of a week or two.  Since the Wednesday before Christmas, it has been crazy busy around here.  With a limited staff and all of our furry family members trying to get seen before we closed for Christmas, it was a little hairy 🙂 to say the least.  As usual, some cases ended happy, and some ended sad.  The nearness of a meaningful holiday combined with the emotional ups and downs crammed into such a short period of time made it a very emotionally draining experience for us all.

So, with the end of the year approaching, I thought this would be a good time to break from education and try to come to terms with why we care so much and hurt so much with the animals and families we see so regularly.

When cases don’t respond like they should it stresses us.  Sometimes we are trying to work with a poor prognosis, other times it is an animal that has hid its disease for too long, and often we are trying to make the most out of an exam on a squirmy patient.  Animals don’t always cooperate, and diseases most certainly don’t.

Its tough.  We have to deal with death right up next to life.  People love animals.  We love animals.  But tests are limited, time is limited, animals don’t respond like they should, finances are limited… We don’t care less when we can’t run a particular test or fix a particular problem – instead, if anything we care more.  In fact, sometimes we are in over our head with a condition that is rare and a specialist would be able to address better (both equipment and expertise), but because of finances or the animal can’t travel we have to take our best shot at it.  We just have to apply our “jack-of-all-trades” training and treat as best as we know how – but this is stressful, even if all turns out ok.  We are here to fix problems and restore illness, and when we can’t fix it or fail to reverse a disease we grieve the loss of life along with the family.  What’s worse is we internalize it – we have to go into the next room where there is a smiling puppy or aggressive animal, and our sadness from 5 minutes ago gets pushed down to deal with later (hopefully in an appropriate manner). 

Maybe the stress and sadness makes us even happier when things are running smoothly.  When cases do respond, we are estatic.  Animals love to recover.  They start eating and stop puking and run around with their tail up as soon as they are on the mend.  The many tests are forgotten and the disease, even if it is still resolving feels like but a memory.  

Still, at the end of the year, its good to take stock and make sure that we realize our limitations, learn from our mistakes, and celebrate the lives that we touched.  I guess the good news is that we stress because we care – and as long as we can claim a victory or two over sickness, death, and sadness and turn it around, then its been a pretty good year.

Happy New Year.

– Doc Cleland

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