I’m a fairly cynical person. It’s not a trait I’m necessarily proud of – while sarcasm is fun at cocktail parties it sometimes really poisons the genuinely good moments in life. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or maybe it’s because in this line of work I’ve seen some truly heartbreaking events. I might just be tired today but I find myself more sensitive to the negativity and cynicism among my colleagues. And I’m not just talking about my immediate coworkers - I’m talking about my veterinary medicine peoples worldwide.
As many of us can probably say, I participate in the massive time-suck that is social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the ever widening wormhole of articles, videos, funny cats, puppies, and comments brought to me via the magical internet. And the negativity is astounding. Not only negativity about the general nature of work, but about everything. EVERYTHING. Rather than lecture all of you about how a negative attitude will just drag us all down, I’m going to rally in the season of thankful and give you a blog of all that is good.
I have a job where I make a difference. Think about it. What I do as a veterinary technician directly impacts the lives of animals and people. Even when I was a poop scooper at a boarding kennel I was making a difference to those dogs. Not everyone can say that they see the direct results of their work. I protected that puppy from a deadly disease. I noticed that arrhythmia and brought it to the doctor’s attention. I comforted that nervous cat. I helped that owner understand how to administer SQ fluids. It may not be glamorous, bring me attention, make me rich, or keep me clean, but I make a difference each and every shift and that’s a reason to be thankful.
I work with incredible people. The people who choose to do this work do so because they want to make a difference. They are helping, fixing, compassionate, hilarious, generous people. This applies to my DoveLewis family, but also to my extended veterinary medicine family. As an introverted ‘fear of the weirdoes in the universe’ person, how else can I explain my fast friendships with people I’ve barely met? There is a bond that we share that is easily recognizable. If you can get around the negativity on social media you can meet some unbelievable veterinary people – that’s a reason to be thankful. I am lucky enough to travel and meet these people, all of which have become fast friends after spending less than 15 minutes together. We are awesome. All of us.
I get to work with animals. This is an easy one. While they can be frustrating, for every one devil cat or hound from hell I have to work with, I get 20 perfect angels who eat all of their oral medication in canned food meatballs or devour their activated charcoal no questions asked. Why then, do we have to focus on the difficult patients? Instead, think about that dog who perks up when he hears your voice, or the cat who refused food for days and finally ate from your hand. This may be a very Pollyanna way to look at life, but it’s true. I live in a society that values animals enough to provide medical care, and I am thankful for the opportunity to provide that care.
I’m helping. I make a difference for my patients, but I also make a difference to their people. I may not always agree with the people and the decisions they make, but I don’t focus on those. Focus on the thank-you cards posted outside our ER. Focus on the emails we get with videos of the post-ventilator dog frolicking in the flowers (It made me cry. Seriously. Amazing). We may not get more than a tail wag from a patient, but when an owner thanks us with pizza and donuts? I’m pretty thankful for that.
I’m trying extra hard this year not to be grinchy. It’s the holidays, and while the unrealistic expectations surrounding this time of year can make it a challenge emotionally, I’m going to combat that with focusing on the positive things about my life, and the job where I expend so much time and effort. Can we all try that? Can we go an entire week where the groups dedicated to veterinary professionals DON’T focus on rants and complaints and anger? If we succeed for a week let’s try a month. Let’s not be positive just because of the time of year, but because we are smart, compassionate, hilarious, supportive professionals who deserve the respect of our peers. Sure we might not make tons of money, sure we punish our bodies wrestling with giant dogs, sure we enter the gladiator ring with angry cats, but for me it sure beats the alternative.