The year’s end is a great time for looking back at what has been accomplished and looking forward to what lies ahead. I don’t think it is any different for those of us with animals, or for those of us who care for those with furry family members. The year has again passed in a blur. I have spayed and neutered many young dogs and cats, extracted dead and painful teeth, counseled despairing owners at the sight of fleas, removed stones from bladders, cleaned wounds, and tried to keep healthy animals healthy.
Our animals have again given us unconditional love, kept us warm when we were cold, brightened our hearts when we were sad, and been a general companion for all of the insignificant moments we can’t remember when we look back.
I have seen a Rottweiler puppy who tore her e-collar to shreds after her spay, and her frazzled owners overjoyed when I told them they could finally let her run around in the backyard because her incision healed.
I have seen an overweight animal on the verge of euthanasia due to arthritis lose weight and become mobile and energetic again.
We have seen animals with very painful teeth begin eating again after we extract the diseased or abscessed teeth.
We have seen two injured kittens come to us off the street – one of them had an eye that was so diseased we had to remove it. Both of these kittens made a great recovery and were adopted into fantastic homes.
Two animals have been brought in by complete strangers and cared for with love despite a very poor prognosis. Both did not make it, but both received love, affection, and relief of suffering at the end. These endings are not happy, but still show us that we are still making a difference with help from our clients, even in the lives of those not long for this world. (See previous blog “Mae” for the story of one of these.)
I have lost many furry friends and have seen many of you struggle with the loss of your best friend or family member. I have given out more bad prognoses than I would like to count – diseases that I cannot treat and that only end with relieving pain as best as we can. Some of these animals are still hanging in there, but many have been euthanized that they may not suffer any more. Still, I find that this validates my position as a veterinarian and your position as an animal lover rather than destroying it. To heal is a great honor, but to soften the blow of loss and to care for these animals with dignity and respect is unfortunately the flip side of working with illness.
I’m sure I have seen a lot more, but this is what comes to mind at the beginning of the new year. I look forward to the privilege of making more memories in 2014. Here’s to healthy pups and cats in the year to come! Happy New Year!
– Doc Cleland