by Dr. Elizabeth Holland
For those of you that don’t know already, I never even considered becoming a vet until I was almost out of college. I always thought I would be a human medical doctor. As a third year pre-med student I had a chance encounter with an injured German Shepherd and his owner and a light bulb went off in my head. I could work with people AND help animals! Since then, veterinary medicine has become my home. In it I can combine the challenge and rewards of being a scientist, a healer and a teacher. Add to that a small business owner, an active community member and (hopefully) a positive role model for my team members- I love it!
During this pandemic I am seeing MANY fewer patients, but their sweet eyes, wagging tails and soft fur continue to bring me joy and give me purpose. I am grateful to be “essential” and not miss out on this connection with pets. My heart lightens and the knots in my stomach ease when I see that we are still being “the helpers” in our community. When I see the smiles on my team members faces as they interact with our patients, it brings great joy to all of us here at Adel Veterinary Clinic.
But as the weeks drag on, I miss our patient’s owners. Sure, our patients look at us with pleasure (generally because of the tasty treats we always have!) but they look at their family with LOVE. Watching the bond between our clients and their pets is where the real sparks happen for me. The symbiotic relationship is a joy to observe and to preserve which is always our primary goal.
We are also limited to emergent and essential cases, which means lots of difficult discussions. Talking about end of life decisions is always difficult, but through a phone and a mask, it is stretching us further than we ever imagined. Social distancing during a euthanasia appointment is horrible, there’s no other way to put it. Our pets are a true source of comfort, positivity and strength in good times and in bad. Losing a pet right now magnifies the grief. A euthanasia appointment with no hug at the end- this is torture for a veterinarian. We remain resolute in our balancing act of preserving human health and providing compassionate service, but it is not easy and no one wrote an instruction manual for this.
These days are just so strange. I am home with my family more which is great, but my thoughts are always at the clinic. How can we continue to help our patients? How can I keep my staff safe? What is our obligation to public health? How can we help our colleagues in human health care? Will we be able to stay open? Will we be able to pay our bills? When will this end? Who will get sick?
When I’m at my best I am finding ways to be in the moment- listening fully to a team member when they are sharing a concern instead of worrying about the vomiting dog I just examined, watching my sons playing baseball without checking for text messages from the clinic. And taking the GOOD moments for what they are… a gift.
We have been spending a great deal of time in the beautiful woods that are behind our home. I grew up spending hours with my siblings in the woods and this is time with my sons that I never expected. Full days with nothing on the calendar! I am trying to soak them up. We have been watching a Broad Wing Hawk with a nest in our tree and if you said I would be spending a Wednesday afternoon behind binoculars instead of working at the clinic I would have never believed you. But here I am. Trying to breathe and just be. I hope you can as well. This is a scary time, but I am working hard to just be in the moment- because when I can, I feel better.
My hope is on the other side of this we pause a little more often. To just “be” and to be grateful. Grateful for the simple things. I know I will be most grateful to connect eyes over the top of your precious furry family members, hopefully soon, because I REALLY miss you!