Mystery

Old houseGod, I hate a mystery.

I had two of them this week, which made the week both diagnostically interesting and somewhat frustrating. Today is Friday and one of the mysteries was solved (post-mortem, unfortunately) but I’m left with a lingering sense of having not done a good job.

It’s interesting that despite the “wins” this week (patients with complex issues that I was able to sort out, the rare disease I recognized at a glance, curative surgeries that went off without a hitch), I’m dwelling on the “losses”. I know I’m not alone in this habit. Most of my vet friends express the same pattern, where the great good they do and the many lives they save are relegated to the attic of the mind like the crazy old auntie, while the mysteries and failures occupy the main floors, making our heads into haunted houses. Continue reading

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If my mind was a person I’d unfriend it

I love my brain. Brains in general are great things to have, and I’ve got a good one. I can restore and retrieve information from it easily, it’s quick, can perform many tasks simultaneously, and seems to have an infinite capacity. Whatever makes a “smart” brain, probably a combination of genetics, training, and micro- and macroenvironments, seems to have come together in my skull.

It’s my mind that I find quite disturbing. It supplies me with a seemingly endless supply of thoughts that I don’t necessarily want and sometimes surprise me with their hostility. Continue reading

Reality check

A high school student came to my office the other day to discuss a job shadowing opportunity. In North America students take at least 2 years of undergrad study before being able to apply for the 4 year veterinary program, and most successful applicants have a 3 or 4 year Bachelor’s degree. The screening committees like to know that they aren’t admitting students with unrealistic expectations of what the job involves, so they like to see practical experience on an application as well as the relevant education.

I’ve had many students shadow over the years. They come in and hang out at the hospital mainly to have something to put on their application forms. I don’t think the experience sways them much; if they really want to be a vet, it’s what they want. And at that age it’s difficult for them to realize that this isn’t just “what are you going to do after high school”, it’s about an entire 40 year career. Continue reading

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

imageAs a veterinarian I have seen death aplenty. I have been responsible for the ending of thousands of little lives, inflicted the pain of loss on thousands of people in my own “professional” way, and experienced loss of my own – family, friends, pets, patients. There are times that I feel as though I specialize in death and dying.

This isn’t unusual for veterinarians, of course. Our dog and cat patients have short lives compared to ours. Many of my clients, like myself, feel empty without the love that a pet can provide and will have the opportunity to live with many animals over the course of a lifetime. They will also have the opportunity to say goodbye to those pets one by one, experiencing the pain of loss and the psychic and emotional toll that takes over and over again. Continue reading