Veterinarians, like anyone else, tend to fall into a routine at work. We see a variety of pets and people, but we also spend a lot of each day the same way – returning messages and calls, doing charts, discussing preventive care, and treating the same ailments. On busy days, when I’m sleep-deprived, or when life outside work isn’t going well, it’s easier than I care to admit to forget for a moment that behind every exam room door are people who love their pets deeply and are about to trust me with their health. But please believe that the more years I spend in practice, the more grateful I am for that love and trust – they are the reasons I became a vet.
So, as we leave another year behind, I wanted to say thank you.
Thank you for coming to me in the first place, because that tells me you believe I have your pet’s best interest at heart.
Thank you for giving me the chance to hold your puppy and snuggle her while we talk, when she’s so new and tiny you can barely stand to let go of her yourself.
Thank you for being honest with me about what you can spend. Discussions about money often lead to revelations about your life at home, and I know how hard it can be to trust a relative stranger with that information. And thank you for spending what you can and for knowing I can’t do this job for free.
Thank you for saying, “I trust your judgment,” when I ask you to let me do something expensive, or something that scares you. I spend a lot (a LOT!) of time and energy trying to earn that trust, because to me it is the cornerstone of everything we do.
Thank you for letting me be the one to sit with you and weigh the quality of your pet’s life against the heartbreak of saying goodbye. Believe me when I say we don’t forget how that feels, and that we carry those moments with us through the rest of our lives.
My own dog, Franklin, became seriously ill this fall after eating some toxic mushrooms. Franky is my little man and my best buddy, and when he got sick I couldn’t be his vet. I became a terrified pet owner who needed to have someone warm, capable, and calm to take him gently from me and make him better. I needed update calls – not just about his test results but about how he was feeling and whether he was eating – and clear discussions about our options. I needed someone to say to me, “I know it’s really hard. We’ve got this. Try not to worry.” And I needed to find the strength within myself to step back and let them do their work – that was the hardest part of all.
Franky got better, and he’s sitting me with me now, snoring gently as I type. His ordeal made me more determined than ever to be that warm and capable presence for you and your pets and to remember, when a phone call comes in on a chaotic evening shift or when uncertainty hangs in the air around a sick pet, that you are the reason I come to work each day and try my hardest to do a good job, and that I am the one with the responsibility not only to keep your pets healthy but also to make you feel how important this is to me.
Being even a tiny part of the precious relationship you have with your pets is an honor and a privilege. Thank you for sharing an exam room with me. I wish you and your family, both two- and four-legged, incredible joy and good health for the new year.
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. Katie Berlin is a small animal general practitioner in Mechanicsburg, PA. She is also a reader, a rider, a runner, a lifter, a teacher, and an art lover. She graduated from Williams College in 2000 with a degree in Art History and worked in art museums before going back to school and earning her DVM from Cornell in 2009. She is an avid supporter of Fear Free practice and the battle against compassion fatigue in the veterinary profession.