When people ask me why I became a veterinarian, I usually tell them it was to help animals stay healthy and to cure them of illness. I share these similar desires with my friends who are human physicians. One of the things we talk about regarding our differing careers, is that veterinarians meet most of our patients as babies then see them through their entire lives. Physicians rarely have this opportunity while veterinarians are faced with handling both euthanasia and pets’ natural deaths on a daily basis.
It is a very tough part of our jobs, especially since we know our patients and clients on a very personal level. We learn a lot about medicine in school. However, dealing with the hardships and trauma of death and pet loss were not stressed at all. Instead, we were taught to hide emotion in front of clients, not to interfere with their very individual loss, and simply to be a supportive presence.
I have never been good at following those instructions. Over the years, I did become stronger in the face of death, until two years ago, when I lost my beloved dog Mia.
There is a deep infinite emptiness that accompanies the loss of a pet and member of the family. Many pets are viewed as ‘furry children’ and losing them at 10,12, even 14 years is a tragedy.
Our pets love us unconditionally and never feel sorry for themselves. They are a gift we are lucky to have.
Mia was one of a litter of seven puppies abandoned by their stray mom while I was in veterinary school. The puppies were born in my yard and though I took care of them, I had no intention of keeping any.
This little girl, however, had other ideas. While her siblings played and chased one another, she sat in my lap and stared at me. There was no denying we were meant to be together.
That dog helped me through countless rough times. She sat with me as I studied, kept me laughing when times were tough, and reminded me every day why my career was so important.
She was crazy and obnoxious and always in some kind of trouble.
I loved her. She was my rock.