It had been a bad month. There were staffing issues, including an employee with a serious dog bite injury. Our basement flooded, creating a big mess. A flu-like virus struck the whole family one at a time and I spent many nights caring for sick children so I was sleep deprived. But the hardest of the month was losing our beloved thirteen-year-old schnauzer to cancer. Through all this, I maintained a positive attitude. I dealt with each situation as it came along, searching for the silver linings.
Then Monday came. I woke up with a sore throat and feeling achy. We were too busy for me to call in sick so I took some ibuprofen and headed in to work, hoping I would feel better as the day went on. My morning was filled with appointments, including three of my most difficult clients. By noon, my positive attitude was gone. All the stress of the past month hit me and I was done. All I wanted to do was go home, curl up on the couch, watch daytime television and let myself be miserable. I sat at my desk having a pity-party of one, and glanced at the afternoon schedule, hoping I could sneak out early. But the receptionist had added another appointment. It was my favorite client Bruce and his little dog Bean.
Bruce is a special client. He is always so kind and appreciative of the care we provide his pets. He makes us all feel like heroes. But today I didn’t want to see Bruce. I was concerned something was seriously wrong with his little Bean, which would make my day even worse.
The last time I had seen Bruce, we had to euthanize one of his beloved dogs. Bruce was heartbroken. After the euthanasia, he and I talked for a while about how much joy our pets bring us. Shortly after that, I read “A Dog’s Purpose” by W. Bruce Cameron and I immediately thought of Bruce. I bought a copy of the book and planned to give it to him as a special gift. But life was busy and the book had sat on my desk for six weeks.
As I got up from my desk to see my appointment, I glanced over and saw the book. I hesitated on whether to bring it with me into the appointment. It was supposed to be a special present and the timing didn’t feel right, given my sour mood. But I didn’t want the book to sit forgotten about for another six weeks, so I reluctantly picked it up. “Maybe I should write something in it” I thought, but talked myself out of it. It was just a simple paperback book and Bruce may not even like it. He may think it’s dumb if I write in it.
I walked into the appointment and handed him the book. I quietly said “I remember our conversation when Lake died and I thought you may enjoy this book.” As I handed him the book, his face lit up. He smiled and said “What a special gift! And the author even has the same name as me!” He opened the front cover and said “You didn’t write anything. Please at least write your name so I remember it came from you.” I took the book back and said I would think of something to write, then examined little Bean. While waiting for Bean’s test results, I took the book to my desk and thought about what to write. I realized my mood lifted by seeing Bruce. His appreciation of my little gift showed in the smile on his face. I realized that Bruce has this affect every time I see him. He is such a kind person and I always feel better after talking with him.
I picked up my pen and wrote “To one of my most favorite dog lovers. I hope this book brightens your day in the same way you always brighten my day.” Then I signed my name. I gave the book back to him and told him he couldn’t read what I wrote until he was home. I also gave him the great news, that Bean’s blood tests were good, nothing serious was wrong with Bean.
As Bruce was checking out, he said he had something to tell us. He was moving to be closer to his son and would be too far away to bring his pets to us. He said “In light of this, do you want to change what you wrote in the book?” I laughed and kidded him “Well, I was going to sign it ‘from your favorite veterinarian’”. He said “Oh please do! You know you will always be my favorite veterinarian and leaving everyone at this clinic makes this move hard.” He handed me the book again and I added “(your favorite veterinarian)” below my name.
He left and I had a huge smile on my face. My pity party was over. I felt much better and more energized. I thought about why my mood had improved. Yes, Bruce’s sunny personality and his kind words helped, but what really lifted my spirits was his reaction to me giving him the book. It was a small gesture, something I initially did reluctantly and half-heartedly but it gave him joy, which in return brought me joy. To get out of my bad mood, I needed to stop thinking about myself and focus on someone else. Doing a nice gesture for another person and expecting nothing in return was the best thing I could do for myself.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Jennifer Shepherd received her DVM from Colorado State University in 2000. She is currently the owner and head veterinarian at Cloquet Animal Hospital, a small animal practice in Cloquet, MN.
When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband Paul, three children, and her dog Coal.