Today is World Kindness Day. Taglines about kindness are everywhere: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind,” “It doesn’t cost anything to be kind,” and “Practice random acts of kindness” are just a few examples. Ellen Degeneres has an entire line of products, including T-shirts, socks, mugs and even shoelaces with the simple phrase “Be Kind.”  

What is kindness?

If you search online, you will find many definitions for kindness including “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate,” “acts of goodwill,” and “a behavior marked by ethical considerations, a pleasant disposition, and concern and consideration for others.” My favorite definition is from the Urban Dictionary: “respect and helping others without waiting for someone to help back.” True kindness is doing something for someone else without expecting anything in return.

How does kindness apply to veterinary medicine?

The field is already filled with some of the kindest and most compassionate people you will ever meet. We have devoted our lives to helping animals who can’t say thank you and sometimes don’t even appreciate our help.  But people in the veterinary field also suffer from stress, burn out and long days with little free time. Some days we can barely keep our heads above water, how do we have time to perform acts of kindness?

Kindness doesn’t have to be a grand gesture.

Many times it isn’t. I remember a day this summer when our clinic was crazy busy. We were short-staffed and double booked. It was midafternoon and we weren’t sure how we were going to make it to the end of the day. The door chimed again and we groaned at the thought of another appointment. But instead of a sick patient, it was the husband of one of our former technicians. He had driven by and seen all the cars outside the clinic. He knew how stressed his wife used to get on days like this and he also knew our favorite way of coping with stress – CHOCOLATE! It took maybe ten minutes and $5 for him to drive to the nearest store and buy us a bag of Hershey kisses but his little gesture had a huge impact on our day. The mood around the clinic instantly lifted. Someone noticed we were having a bad day and performed a small but meaningful act of kindness to brighten our day.

I also remember a day this summer when I chose to be kind. It was another busy day. I was scheduled to only work half a day and leave at noon, but it was close to 1 PM by the time I wrapped things up. I was tired and hungry and just wanted to get on with all the nonveterinary things I had planned for my afternoon.

I was gathering my things and noticed two clients with their stressed-out chihuahua sitting in the waiting room. The clients had a scheduled appointment with the other veterinarian at 10:30 AM. I asked the receptionist if everything went alright with their appointment because they were still in the waiting room, even though it was supposed to be just a quick follow up exam. She said the appointment went fine but their car had broken down and they were waiting for a tow truck. Although they appeared to be waiting patiently, I knew they must be frustrated and as eager to get home as I was, especially with a nervous chihuahua sitting in their lap. So I pushed my desire to run out the door aside and offered to give them a ride home. After trying to decline my offer and me assuring them I wanted to do it, they finally agreed. I took the husband and their nervous chihuahua home while the wife decided she would stay and wait for the tow truck. They were so relieved to bring their scared little dog home and for the husband to get back to work. The drive to their house was fifteen minutes out of my way, but it was worth it. All of the stress of the morning melted away and I felt good about myself knowing I had helped make someone’s bad day a little better.

I know how busy veterinary clinics are and, although these examples took less than fifteen minutes, sometimes we just don’t have that amount of time or energy. But there are so many little things we can do to be kind. All it takes is to stop focusing on ourselves and notice the needs of others.

Here are a few examples to remember:

  • Help an elderly lady carry her cat carrier to her car.
  • Open the door for the client who has his hands full with two big dogs pulling on their leashes.
  • The overweight kitty with mats along his back because he can’t reach to clean and his owner can’t brush it out without getting bit – grab the wireless clipper and shave the mats.
  • A mom brings her young child to the appointment and the child is getting restless – give her some crayons and ask her to draw a picture of her pet.
  • Another child brought a stuffed animal with him – give the stuffed animal a quick physical exam and tell the child his stuffed tiger is healthy.
  • Your client doesn’t understand how to sign up for the online rebate program – enroll them as they are checking out.
  • Your client has her arm in a sling. Ask her how she feeling and if she is going to be able to give her cat the medication or if we need to come up with another plan.
  • You are going for a coffee run on your break – ask your co-worker who was up all night with a sick child if she wants you to pick her up a latte.

These are just a few examples of small acts of kindness that take seconds but can make a difference in someone’s day. Today is World Kindness Day. I hope you take a minute to forget about your own stresses and notice the needs of others. Not only will it brighten someone else’s day, but it will also help lift your spirits knowing you did something kind, expecting nothing in return. Once you realize how good it feels to be kind, you may find yourself practicing random acts of kindness every day!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.



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, Minn.

When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband Paul, three children, and her dog Coal.