By Dr. Jessie
I love animals. Shocking, I know. No one ever just comes out and tells people that they love animals anymore, right? It’s just that bumper stickers, T-shirts, tattoos, Sarah McLachlan commercials, rear window decals, and crazy cat lady hair just don’t seem adequate to express how much many of us obsess over our childer-uh, pets.
I get it, really, I do. Animals are amazing, frequently hilarious, and often a joy to be around. As a small animal veterinarian, I chose a career that allows me to be around them and the people who love them all day, every day. Then I go home, sometimes even before 10 pm, to relax with my two cats, dog, and however many alligators have decided my front porch looks comfy. It’s a wonderful, hairbally life.
Now that I’ve established I number among your animal-loving ranks so you don’t kill me and feed my remains to your fifty-two cats after you’ve read this article, I’m going to take some liberty here to tell you a bit about your friendly neighborhood veterinarian.
We are generally fairly reasonable, good-hearted people who want to do everything we can to make sure your pet is happy, healthy, and lives a long time. We are willing to do just about anything we can to accommodate your needs, whether that means skipping lunch, staying after hours to wait with Cuddles while you finish your shopping, or paying out of our own pockets for treatment he needs that you swear you can’t afford (despite the new Rolex and Coach purse we have to pretend we don’t notice). We do our very best to take care of you and your little one.
We also have seen upwards of 6000 patients in the past twelve months. Do we remember that you told us last year that Pooky likes to eat the tiny Milkbones, not the medium-sized ones? Probably not. Do we remember that he had a Grade 2 mast cell tumor that was completely resected five years ago and has a chance of recurrence? Absolutely. Because we genuinely love our patients and what we do, but we have to prioritize the information we retain due to sheer volume.
When the day is over and we see you walking toward us in the parking lot after twelve hours of being on our feet and a stressful rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows, we still smile and coo over your new puppy and offer free advice on food and toys and training. Hey, we love animals, too! But do we want to stare at your blurry cell phone photos of your puppy at birth, three days old, five days old, one week old, all the way up to the picture you currently are taking as we are standing there looking at the previous photos?
We do not.
Allow me to break this one down for you, in case you can’t fathom why. Your Shih Tzu puppy, though admittedly cute, is by no means even the cutest thing I have seen today, let alone ever. I’m a vet, and besides, I own a mirror. Anyway, of course I’ll agree with you and nod along as you describe the littermates, parents, grandparents, championship lines and tell me that my rough guess as to his final weight is probably wrong. But like virtually every other small animal veterinarian, I’ve treated show dogs, pageant dogs, professional groomers’ dogs, Snoop Doggs…you get the idea. It isn’t that I’m not excited for you and your little one, because I am. But when I look at Bella at 9pm in a rapidly emptying parking lot, I think, “Probably needs airway surgery to correct genetic defects,” or “That cough sounds like infectious tracheobronchitis,” not how Bella is the most perfect non-breeding quality specimen imaginable.
Being a vet is not glamorous. It isn’t playing with kittens or kneeling in a field of lilies with a Golden Retriever while recommending various products. Veterinarians and their staff deal with the gross, dirty, dangerous aspects of owning a pet on a regular basis. Our white coats need to be laundered several times during an average day (and what genius decided to make the coats white?). Looking at still photos or video clips of your dog doing the same things every other dog does lost its luster sometime after we cleaned our zillionth kennel as a teenager.
In summation, your vet loves animals. Your vet loves to see your animals. But please understand your vet sees a lot of animals. When you see your vet at the grocery store, do not expect your vet, without the benefit of medical records, to give you an extensive consultation in the checkout line because you do not want to pay for an office visit. Those tabloids don’t read themselves. And please don’t show your vet dozens of pictures of Fluffy in various positions on your sofa. Your vet is more likely to notice your poor choices of interior décor than Fluffy’s adorableness after a full day of being bitten, scratched, clawed, and smeared with various bodily fluids by twenty-five other animals who look remarkably similar to Fluffy.
Trust me. Fluffy is a lot cuter during regular office hours.
Dr. Jessie is a veterinarian. She has a menagerie of animals and a farm in her backyard that may or may not be against every rule her HOA has ever conceived. She also remembers the Latin words for things, which makes her better than you.