The Tribe

I belong to the tribe of veterinarians.

There is an internist near me who is naturally gregarious. She walks in to a clinic for a consultation and cries out, “Brother!” or “Sister!” when she spies the veterinarian, and goes over for an enthusiastic handshake or hug, depending on the level of touch that the person is comfortable with.

I like the greeting ritual. I respond with an equally eager, “Sister!” and it becomes a high point of my day. My positive interactions with clients or staff can’t equal this one, because of the recognition that flows between us that we are fellow warriors. We are of the same tribe.pexels-photo-590510.jpeg

Tribe is a good word. To me it implies a group of individuals woven together with a common thread, and there’s a bit of an unpredictable wildness implied in the word as well. There is room within a tribe for unconventional thinking, individuality, innovation, and plain weirdness without compromising the underlying concept of kinship. There is room for the crazy uncle, the funny brother, the kind grandfather, the eccentric cousin. Within a tribe we are relatives and we’re okay with the “different”.

Veterinarians are all of a tribe, whether they know it or not. If you think about it, we have common interests, and at a very fundamental level, common experience and feelings. I like to think back to when we were all 8 years old. I bet every veterinarian had a real soft spot for animals in childhood, a natural affinity or affection for them. That is our common bond. No matter what drove us later to follow through with becoming veterinarians (because we all have different drives), no matter what paths our careers took, or what influences came from our personal lives that might have warped that original affinity, we come from the same foundation “stuff” – an abiding respect or love for (or fascination with) animals.

The love of animals is so much a part of our constitutions that it’s nearly impossible for most of us to imagine not having it. If we look at every other veterinarian as being first and foremost a person who shares that most basic, most elemental trait, it causes a shift in our attitudes toward one another.

It is easier to empathize with one another in times of strife if we consider that we are arguing with a sister. It is easier to understand and forgive mistakes if it is an uncle making them. It is easier to reach out and help someone in need if it is a brother who needs our help. It becomes natural to mentor rather than condemn if it is our little cousin who is struggling. And it is easier to let unimportant things go if it is in the interest of the tribe to do so.