Should I marry my dog?
Over the last thirty years there have been many times when a career change seemed a better idea than sticking to a job that was at times an emotional roller coaster. Although I took off the better part of 4 years to complete a PhD, it was an inevitable decision that I could never stop being a vet. The joy of helping a sick animal and easing a client’s fears outweighed all other considerations. Being in a self-owned business compounds the stresses, but I have found that if you focus on patient and client wellbeing, the income always meets the outcome.
A friend of mine is a veterinary lecturer and he me asked me why I didn’t stay in academia. An answer was difficult to find. I mumbled something like ‘I enjoy the work.’ The lecturer intimated at how boring the work must be; endless neutering, vaccinations, common illnesses. He was right but it takes a certain type of intellectual to be an academic and though I once had a photographic memory, I often times forget why I walked into a room. Though boredom is the seed of creativity, I still find time in my 60+ hour week to be a novelist.
One has to have a high intellectual IQ to be a vet, but having a high emotional IQ is necessary if one is to continue as a clinician.
One of the main problems I see facing the profession is the financial IQ. Mirroring human medicine, veterinary costs are getting more expensive and pet insurance is used more and more to cover the rising costs of routine fracture repairs and treatment of long-term care of debilitating pet diseases. When I graduated, a cat was just a cat but now it is a family member. The rise of the nuclear family and single households has contributed enormously to these changes. It is not unreasonable to expect that in the near future, the legal rights for pets will be almost on par with marriages. Many divorces have already involved settlements regarding their pet.
Although technological changes to vet science have rapidly changed in the last few decades, the rights of animals as sentient beings has been enormous. Legally they will never have equal rights to humans, and perhaps higher than AI, but their role in improving human wellbeing has been immeasurable.
The number of my clients who have had to chose between a spouse and a pet has been too many to count. Personally I find this disappointing, but it is a reflection of our dysfunction as a society. Sometimes a trip to my wife’s home in Thailand is necessary to remind me that poverty and happiness can coexist in a large, extended family. We care for pets, but we must also care for the carers of those animals. For some people, the death of their Trixie is worse than their spouses death (again a remark I have heard too many times).
Fond memories to me in this profession have always been the buzz associated with a pet overcoming an illness or a client showering me in chocolates or a sincere thankful. These small joys are worth more than financial wealth, and are what have sustained me throughout a challenging career