I always wanted to be a veterinarian! You must have a cool job. What’s it like to be a veterinarian?
I get this a lot. It seems like everytime I meet a new group of people, I hear this from at least one of them. But I don’t mind it because, 1) I always wanted to be a veterinarian too, 2) It is a cool job, and 3) I think it’s great to be a veterinarian.
It’s really hard to describe a typical “day in the life of a veterinarian” because every day is different. When I walk into that exam room, I might be faced with a happy, healthy puppy or kitten, or a senior pet who is beginning to show their age. I might be face to face with a bird that talks back to me (“Hello Doc, Hello Doc”), or a snake that wants to wrap around my arm for warmth. I might have a troubled senior citizen whose best friend is ill, or a scared youngster whose hamster isn’t feeling well. Yes, there are happy times and sad times, but I practice veterinary medicine with one underlying philosophy, and that is to always do the best thing for the animal. In my mind, the pet comes first, and everything else is a distant second. So with that in mind, I thought I’d give you a taste of a typical “week” in the life of a veterinarian.
Recently, Mr. and Mrs. K brought their 17 year old dog in for a second opinion concerning an ongoing problem. Bella (not her real name, but she certainly was a beautiful dog) meant everything to the K family. She was a beloved family member ever since the K’s were married, and they were very concerned about her. While investigating her problem, I unexpectedly and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), discovered a potentially cancerous tumor in her abdomen that was completely unrelated to her current problem. The K’s were shocked, and were now faced with a difficult decision. They could either have me attempt life saving surgery, or be prepared that Bella could become seriously ill very soon. They did not hesitate with their decision. “Do all you can to save Bella.” To make a long story short, Bella did well with her surgery, and hopefully the K’s will have much more valuable time with her. When I saw Bella for suture removal a couple weeks later, it was the first time I saw the K’s smile since I met them. I think Bella was smiling a little bit too. This was one of those good days to be a veterinarian.
A few days later, Mr. S came by with his dog Brutus (not his real name, but he sure was a big, strong dog), because Brutus had been coughing for awhile. I have known Mr. S for many years, as he was a true dog lover, and I have had the priviledge of caring for many of his dogs. When I saw Brutus, I was very concerned, because he clearly was not himself. Again, to make a long story short, I sadly discovered that Brutus was suffering from advanced, incurable cancer. Mr. S was devastated, as was our entire staff, as they had also known Mr. S and Brutus for many years. Mr. S took Brutus home so the family could all say goodbye, and we humanely euthanized Brutus the next day. This was one of the sadder times I remember as a veterinarian. But you know what? There was still a sliver of goodness in this, because even though Brutus passed away, I know that we still did the very best thing we could do for Brutus. We prevented any further pain and suffering. In a strange way, this was still a good day to be a veterinarian.
The next day, I came to work still a bit bummed about Brutus. But guess what? My first appointment was a happy, healthy, crazy little puppy who was trying to smother me with his wet, slobbery kisses. This truly was going to be a great day to be a veterinarian!