Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A-Z of #Dog Rescue: Vets, Unsung Heroes — #AtoZChallenge


So you think rescuers have it bad? Putting their lives on the line with strange, scared dogs capable of anything? Yeah, it’s a rough life. But you know who else does that? Every day? 

Vets.

In fact, vets may well be the most undervalued of animal welfare heroes. They do so much, and get so little recognition. 

Being a vet is kind of like a mash-up of all the negative aspects of being a doctor (for humans), without any of the pluses. Think about it. Veterinary med school is just as hard, takes just as long—but with one crucial difference: you can count on one hand the ones who’ll ever come close to making the big bucks people doctors make. Their patients can’t talk, can’t say where it hurts or what they last ate. At least pediatricians have a parent to fill in the blanks—and a mom or dad can usually be trusted to follow instructions, call if something looks or feels wrong. (You wouldn’t believe how many dog owners don’t.) Also, people doctors restrict themselves to either general medicine (for anything more complicated than the common cold they’ll give you a referral) or to a particular specialty—and only for a single species (humans). But vets are expected to cover all the specialties, from reproductive health to ophthalmology to X-ray technician to pathology to diagnostics to odontology—even surgery! And they’re expected to do all that not just for dogs and cats but for all sorts of species.

Try asking your ophthalmologist about your digestive problems. Try asking him about your dog’s digestive problems.

You small, pathetic piece of feces. I am a doctor. I don't poke around in—in animals. Take it back before I sue you.
No, being a vet isn’t easy. And, as if all of the above weren’t enough to qualify them for most challenging profession ever, they get all sorts of crap over their fees. You’ve no idea how often I hear people—smart people—complain about the vet bills they have to pay. Not long ago, at the vet’s waiting area, I witnessed a woman who refused to pay her bill. She’d brought in a puppy who had been diagnosed with parvovirus, too advanced to do anything but give him a painless way out. But his owner, this woman, didn’t want to pay for the euthanasia. “Why do I have to pay? He’s going to die anyway, right?” 

She preferred, rather than pay a measly 50 bucks, to take the puppy home and let him die on his own, in pain.

(The vets waived the fee—which is to say, they paid for it themselves—and put the puppy down anyway. The woman left happy.)

This is why, back when I was around 15, I decided against becoming a vet. This situation, with me as the medical professional, would’ve ended in a lawsuit. Or me in jail. And this is, too, why vets are my heroes. The idiocy they put up with, the costs they absorb, the strength of character and the patience they exhibit to educate the more-often-than-not clueless, and only sometimes well-intentioned people that walk through their doors… 

And then there’s the actual patients. A vet’s physical integrity is on the line with every single animal they see, Chihuahua dog or Arabic stallion. We rescuers talk about building trust and taking our time, we talk about kits and traps and tranquilizers, and then we celebrate when, after three weeks, we finally get a dog into a car. The vet? S/he won’t get time to make friends, or to earn the dog’s trust. S/he’s got a job to do—and that job means putting fingers and even noses closer to those unfriendly and very strong canine jaws than any rescuer. Do they balk? Do they say, Ah, well, let's try again tomorrow

No. They GET THE JOB DONE.
Comics got it wrong, y'all. Clark Kent wasn't a journalist. He was a vet.
Oh, and then there’s the rescuers themselves. “But this is a street dog. You should be doing it for free.”

Look. Vets volunteer enough of their lives to animal welfare already. They’ve committed their entire careers to low wages and the hardest, broadest, most challenging of medical professions because they care. No one becomes a vet for the money, or for glory, or even for academic recognition. No one’s going to win a Nobel for veterinary medicine.* No one’s going to name a hospital after you. No, if you chose to become a vet, it's because your desire to help animals trumped everything else. 

Compared to vets, then, us rescuers are nothing but dilettantes.


Seriously. Hug your vet today. Bring them some coffee next time you visit. Some homemade cookies. And, please, don’t complain about your vet bill. If you have reason to believe you’re being overcharged—I won’t deny it happens; there’s unscrupulous people everywhere—then change vets (because, if their ethics are faulty that way, then your dog isn’t in safe hands anyway). But do your research. And check why a certain vet might be more expensive than another. If it’s talent, or commitment, I suggest you pay up. 

*  This guy actually did win a Nobel. Even if the research that earned him the prize had to do more with human well-being rather than with animals', it gives me hope that maybe the world is beginning to realize we owe veterinarians huge, and long-overdue, recognition.


Coming soon (in May, after we've all slept a week): HOW TO CHOOSE A VET
Hint: not because they treat you nice.


Thanks for the visit, everyone! This has been the most rewarding A-to-Z I've done (it's my 5th)—and it's all thanks to you. Your comments, the stories you've shared, the insights you've provided... It's been one heck of a special April. Masha danki! (That's thank you in Papiamentu, the language of Curaçao.) Tomorrow there'll be a special treat waiting here for you: Michele Truhlik, of Angels Bark, will be here to tell the rescue story of one of her own dogs; it's guaranteed to stay with you for the rest of your life. (Bring Kleenex.)

32 comments :

  1. Yes, yes and yes! I was nodding along to this the whole time. It drives me crazy how vets are somehow vilified. It's simple - if you don't want to pay vet bills, you must not get a pet. Ever.
    My mum always used to say GPs were just failed vets lol, always makes me smile but it has a certain ring of truth to it!
    Debbie

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    1. GPs are failed vets — LOVE it, Debbie. It's probably true, too :D And YES on the no pets if you don't want vet bills. f you can't afford the vet, you can't afford the pet. Right?

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  2. Excellent post and such truth! I love my vet: she's compassionate, loving, thorough, more than competent and an absolute angel. She's not cheap...but I wouldn't take my dog anywhere else.
    You said it right: vets are unsung heroes. And I believe too that vets got into the business not to make money but because they wanted to help animals.
    I used to take my dogs to donate blood at the Texas Animal Blood Bank. These folks also own and run an emergency animal hospital. You can't imagine the stories I've heard of people running out on bills (big bills, after surgery and treatment is already complete), about people dumping animals on their doorstep and leaving them to care for them --- which they do: they don't ever turn away an animal in need. Hearts of gold. Unsung heroes is right.

    Thanks for the sweet plug at the end of your post Guilie. I'm excited to be a part of this magnificent series here. You have a book here. You should definitely publish this series in book form. It's fantastic! XOXO

    Michele at Angels Bark

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    1. Your vet sounds perfect, Michele. It never ceases to amaze me how much more competent vets are than GPs, or, really, any people doctors, in terms of thoroughness and compassion. I've seen vets research a complicated case for weeks—and then give the owner a discount in the bill because they knew s/he can barely afford to pay. There's a lesson here for all of us, I think :)

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  3. Wow! I had no idea about so much of this. You have given me a lot to think about this entire series. Especially about vets. Not having a pet, I never would have considered any of this. You've helped me see things in a great way, so if I ever do decide to own a dog. I'll keep all of this in mind. Especially about where I acquire a pet from. Certainly not a pet store, and I will make sure to give vet proper dues.

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    1. Jeffrey, that makes my day :) Because you've never had pets, the fact that this series has captured your interest feels like a huge, huge compliment—and I'm glad these posts have opened new perspectives for you. Thank you!

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  4. Vets have to deal with so much especially, and mainly, from humans. If you can't afford the vet then you should not have a pet. I used to go to a vet and the place looked all nice and chic but I felt like the true care wasn't there. It was more to do with how they looked and they charged a large amount. I found another vet, a bit farther away, it doesn't look chic, it's pretty bare bones but the care shows up big time. He is an old fashioned vet who really helps out and takes his time. I look forward to what you will say in May. Hmmmm...I seem to be rhyming a lot.

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    1. Eeek... I hear you, Birgit. There are a couple of those chic vets here in Curaçao (and I know several in Mexico)... What it tells me is that they care more about impressing the human with superficial trappings rather than with excellent care for the animals. The sad part, though, is that so many people fall for it. They actually prefer a nice-looking waiting area done up in this year's trending color scheme rather than the best medical care for their pet. Ugh...

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  5. Very insightful about vets, they are unsung heros. A peeve of mine are people who can afford it being incredibly cheap concerning their dogs. As a teacher, I have seen people who did the same with their children's care.
    It is good to read this side of vet care. In Macon, GA, there are several vets who make a point of treating homeless people's dogs.

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    1. That annoys me too, Ann... People who are well-off and still insist on cutting whatever corners they can with their pets' health. Drives me insane, actually. And how lovely to hear about these vets caring for homeless people's dogs! I can't imagine how horrible it must be to not be able to afford your beloved dog's care... To be forced to leave him/her at a shelter simply because you can't take care of him... The bond between these two homeless hearts must be so strong. I'm glad there are people who help them stay together.

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  6. The few vets I've met in my life have been incredibly warm people. What a lovely idea to take around some steaming delicious coffee plus some cookies. Thanks Guilie!

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  7. I can't believe the story about the woman unwilling to pay to have her dog put out of its misery. People like that disgust me. My vet is awesome. He used to treat elephants etc in South Africa.

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  8. Seriously, vets are the unsung heroes. My maternal uncle is a vet. Human doctors have to learn about and treat only one species. On the other hand, vets have to take care of all other species. Plus, the patients don't speak our language. Hats off!
    Points To Ponder

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    1. Too right, Natasha... Vets really put the people-doctor professionals to shame :)

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  9. Words cannot express the respect and admiration I have for veterinary practitioners, for all the reasons you goive and more. I have often said that they have to cover multiple phyla and classes, none of which can express their health issues and many of which actively conceal them as a means of defence.
    Thank you for bringing this one up, Guilie, and if it makes just one person appreciate the profession more, then it's done a grand job!

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    1. "... they have to cover multiple phyla and classes, none of which can express their health issues and many of which actively conceal them as a means of EXCELLENT point, Keith! Indeed, vets are fully deserving of our deepest admiration and respect. I'm so glad you feel that way, too.

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  10. I love my vet! she has seen my babies (and me) through some rough times, all the time balancing my financial limits with the pets need. She always offers both medical/drug options and holistic options and lets me make the choice. I love her for the difficult job she has - especially because she treats my babies like they were her only patient!

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    1. "... balancing my financial limits with the pet's need"—that's the surest sign of a good vet, I think. Unlike the majority of medical professionals, vets understand that most of their clients are either unwilling or unable to pay through the nose for medical care, so they've become very good at exploring different options and approaches. And the fact that she treats your four-legged darlings like they're her only patients... Man, that's worth gold. I'm so glad you have her!

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  11. Lovely story ... and a timely one, too, seeing that World Veterinary Day will be celebrated on 30 April 2016.

    Aneeta from
    How to Tell a Great Story

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    1. Thanks, Aneeta! I'm ashamed to say I totally missed World Veterinarian Day... This A2Z left me brain-dead, haha. Thanks for letting me know, though; I didn't even know it existed!

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  12. Guilie: that is so beautifully put. Vets really are heroic in so many ways. As you know, we had to put down one of our deeply loved dogs in February when his cancerous tumor began bleeding out. The vet met us at the door of the clinic, hustled us immediately into a back room, let us all sit on the floor near Murphy as my daughter held him and the vet injected him, then after it was done, left us in the room with him and told us to stay as long as we needed to say goodbye. Not to mention that in the weeks leading up to this, she had taken three different plaster casts of his paw for us to remember him by (as if we would ever forget him). I really feel like all 3 vets in this practice (as well as all the vet technicians) truly love our dogs and want what's best for them, whatever it takes. Thank you for this post.

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    1. Oh, Susan... I'm so glad you had vets of this calibre to look after you and Murphy at such a difficult time. This kind of care is priceless, and goes far beyond professionalism or even ethics. This is pure compassion. LOVE your vet :)

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  13. You nailed it, Guilie! A good vet is worth his/her weight in gold. We found one who was wonderful and took the time to explain everything in great detail, plus he helped Tasha, our Dalmatian, lead a better quality of life in her old age. That horrible woman who wouldn't pay to ease her dog's suffering is a heartless monster!

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    1. That bit right there, Debbie, about explaining everything in detail, is, I think, one of the key differences between a good and a great vet (or any medical professional). It speaks about an openness, a willingness to make you a part of the process, a partner even... And, when it's someone you care about on that examining table, that feeling really is the best one.

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  14. I wanted to punch that woman who refused to pay to put down that suffering puppy. Some people should be spayed/neutered. I think we've got this whole thing backwards.

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    1. I'm with you, Robin. And I'll take it one step further: some people should be put down ;) (Which is why I'm not a vet. And why I don't own a firearm :D )

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  15. I used to want to be a vet, though I think it's safe to say that's not a career path I'll ever embark upon in this lifetime. I'm not sure I could handle all the rigourous science courses necessary, and getting into vet school is very competitive. I also don't think I could put an animal down, even knowing it's the humane thing to do. It's just not something I think I'm emotionally strong enough to do, just as I don't think I'm emotionally strong enough to keep pets who only live a few years (like mice and gerbils).

    Some of my characters are vets, though. One of my vet characters, Yuriy, served as a medic in the Canadian Army during WWII. In an emergency situation, no one really cares if the person treating you has been trained as an animal or people doctor. If it were an emergency and there were no people doctors around, I'd let a vet help me.

    Welcome to My Magick Theatre
    Onomastics Outside the Box

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    1. Vet training is arduous for sure, Carrie-Anne. And I'll be honest, in an emergency I'd be more comfortable being treated by a vet than by a people doctor... They think out of the box ("What box?" ;) ), and they're not afraid of extreme solutions. Seriously, I think people doctors should start life as vets. They'd be much more effective. (And less wussy ;) )

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  16. From the depths of my heart, THANK YOU! Some days are easier than others as a veterinarian, but the bad days are really bad. I have shared your post with a little over 12,000 other veterinarians. Bless you for your thoughtfulness and your support. We are working so hard to defeat the suicide rate in veterinary medicine. We want to go to work, save lives, and go home to our families with enough money to pay our bills and feed our families, maybe have a day off or so. I will be using some time off to travel to Mongolia to train and mentor veterinarians for a month. I don't know how I am going to pay for it, as I haven't had time to raise the money, but it is important to do it. (Information on that trip is on my blog if anyone is interested). Anywho, thank you for your support of veterinarians. We don't often ask for help as we are the helpers, but I will ask for help for all of my colleagues. Please continue to spread the word that we are doing the best we are able in any given situation. We care, sometimes too much. When we act like we don't care, it is often because we have been hurt so many times that we have to hide the anguish. Hug your vet (if it is okay with them!), but most of all, just say thank you. It goes a long way!

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    1. You guys are heroes, Melanie—period. I have naught but the highest respect for your profession, and your dedication. This post does a flimsy job of expressing the extent of my gratitude and admiration; there is so much more to say.

      I did read a bit about your trip to Mongolia yesterday; how awesome! I'll do my best to share your fundraising campaign (and your blog in general; I love it), and will look forward to hearing all about it when you're back :)

      Thanks for popping over, Melanie. I'm so, so glad you liked this post. Thank you for all you do :)

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