Did you ever wonder what it feels like to be on the other side? I mean, what it feels like to be a chef in a busy kitchen, or a bus driver, an airplane pilot or even being a vet?
Let’s be honest, we rarely think about what it feels like to be on the other side.
Being a vet has two very opposite sides
The bright side is that it feels so awesome to be able to make a difference in the lives of animals. The darker side is the I get to see so much unnecessary suffering that is often preventable if people knew how.
I have spent hours, days, months and years trying to figure out how I can prevent bad things from happening.
The tough part is that animals can’t defend themselves. They are in many ways helpless.
Do you know the feeling?
Where you can see a disaster just about to happen but your friend or family member shakes you off when you try to warn them and tells you to mind your own business?
It is only a matter of time and bang…a tragedy strikes and it hurts to see:
A person without a bike helmet gets a head injury.
A friend without a seatbelt has a car accident and gets paralyzed.
A family member who feasts on bacon and croissants has a heart attack at the age of 50.
This is what I see as a vet:
A dog that gets processed food loses all of his teeth due to tartar build up and gets kidney disease or heart conditions.
A dog that pulls on the leash gets thyroid issues due to damage caused by choke collar pressure.
A dog becomes old and stiff way too early because his body is depleted of minerals and vitamins…
A dog gets paralyzed because his back injury was not recognized and treated.
I could continue describing many situations similar to these.
The point I want to make here is that often times, we are unaware of the connections between how disease happens or we do not want to see them because we worry that it will be something “bad.”
Why do most people wait until a serious problem happens instead of paying attention to prevention?
Here are the most common reasons:
- Many people simply do not like to think about the what if’s
- Some people may even have a hunch that something is wrong, but they delay action out of fear
- Other people are in a habit of thinking that they know better and reject any other idea other than their own, despite the lack of experience and knowledge
- Some people find it difficult to spend money on something that 'is not there yet,' even if it is ten times less expensive to prevent a problem than it is to treat it
- Others wait until something is obviously wrong and that may be one of the reasons why emergency clinics burst at the seams on weekends and holidays
- First, lets be kind to ourselves and each other. It is easy to judge, but I know everyone has been there…
- Second, beware of our mind playing tricks with us. Oftentimes it is not that we can’t really afford preventive care, but we do not see the immediate gratification, the results
- Remind yourself that even with a car, maintenance is important and I trust that you love your dog more than a car. I do not doubt for a minute!
Some people don’t even realize how funny it is when they say that they can’t afford to spend a few hundred dollars on their dog’s food or supplements and have to feed junk but they just finished a $30,000 dollar kitchen renovation and are also going on a month long vacation to Europe.
What is my biggest challenge as a vet?
Some of you may be surprised that it is not the part of looking after and caring for my patients and clients. As a vet, I have seen thousands and thousands of dogs and I often detect problems before they are visible and become serious. The challenge is that I can’t expect the same from a client who has had at the most four to 10 dogs in a lifetime.
When I give an honest recommendation to prevent a problem or address it early, some clients just do not see what I see. Some people even believe that I am just trying to sell them something and decline my suggestions only to face a much more serious problem down the road.
So how do I feel about my job?
It is awesome, it is fantastic to be able to help. I love the sense of purpose and being able to contribute, and make a helpless animal friend feel better is beyond exhilarating.
My job is also sometimes sad when saying goodbye to those who have reached the end of their journey but that is also when I get to see the most pure expressions of love.
The least favorite part of my job is that I have no way of proving to those suspicious folks that I do not think of how much money I will make when I make my treatment recommendations.
I try to pass on what I learned and make things better. In fact, I usually think of what I would do for my dog Skai if he was in my patient’s situation and suggest exactly that. The rest is up to my clients. They decide and there is no judgment. My job is to give advice but not to tell people what to do.
Some people have been so 'traumatized' by being constantly sold to in all aspects of life that they fail to recognize an honest advice.
Skai is twelve and I will be fifty in four months and people are often surprised. The truth is that on average, good health is not a matter of good luck but awareness and dedication.
We all are doing the best we can
I know there is no guarantee that Skai will not get sick or will not get cancer or will not get injured and immobile. What matters is that I am doing all I can do prevent this from happening.
I sense that deep in your heart, you are striving to do the same.
I would like to thank you for allowing me to guide you and following my humble opinions and advice. Yes, it is true that sometimes we have to spend a little to save a lot, but aren’t our dogs worth it?
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM