A good day for me can be a lot of different things. It could be hanging out with my kids. Doing things I remember as a child, like baking in the kitchen or collecting frogs, and watching my childhood memories become new memories for my kids. It could be a date with my husband, with grown up conversation, not interrupted by the continual chatter of a 3 yr old. Or, it could be seeing a patient who feels terrible and helping them, relieving their pain, mending their wounds and treating their sickness.
Maybe I should back up a little bit. I’m a veterinarian, wife and mother of two boys. I have a lot of wonderful, important, fulfilling (challenging, strenuous, exhausting) things in my life. It’s a lot to live up to: a supportive, loving husband, my rowdy boys so excited to see me when I get home from work, my wonderful patients, and their owners, who trust ME to look after their fur-babies. Phew, it’s a privilege, and a responsibility. I don’t want to let anybody down. It can be hard to juggle the demands. At the office I wish I were home, knowing I’m missing something with the kids. At home I feel anxiety not being at work. I’m so fortunate, my husband is a great parent, and the boys adore him. The other doctors and staff at my clinic take excellent care of my patients even if I can’t be there. But I still feel like I need to be in both places at the same time. One very early Monday morning was different. While my early bird kids were still sleeping soundly, I was not. My husband was out of town and I was somewhat anxious about the start of a hectic week. I woke immediately when the phone rang, and a name popped up in my mind, “Ziggy’. My technician was on the phone and confirmed my suspicions. ‘Ziggy’ has had two puppies, another puppy is stuck, and she is on her way to the clinic. The clinic will not open for several hours, but Ziggy and her pups cannot wait.
Time to back up again. All of my patients are special to me, but Ziggy is exceptional. Like many black labs she is sweet and gentle, affectionate and trusting. However, she is not just a wonderful companion, she is a hero, as these puppies, like her last litter, will enter the training program for Autism Dog Services (ADS). ADS dogs, like Seeing Eye dogs, are specially trained service dogs. They are companions for children with autism, helping them stay safe, cope and succeed in a world they don’t understand. Every one of Ziggy’s puppies was invaluable. Each of these puppies was going to change a child’s life for the better.
Driven by these thoughts I manage to get ready at a speed I would normally be incapable of on a predawn Monday morning. Question: What to do with the kids? The Question is answered as my oldest wakes up wondering what I’m doing. I explain, he announces he’s coming with me! “Ok, but you have to get ready quickly”, and surprisingly he does. The little one is still a challenge. At 19 months old he is all action with very little sense of self-preservation. There will not be anybody extra to supervise him at the clinic this early. I wake him, get him dressed and gather their breakfast’s to go. Both boys are still sleepy but a little excited, breakfast in the van? This is new! En route to my clinic I am updated that Ziggy’s stuck pup has been born and is doing well! However, he is huge, she is exhausted and her x-ray shows 2 more puppies are waiting to come out. Everyone sounds stable so I quickly divert to daycare. A few teachers are there, opening early. They are happy to see Lennox have no problem finding shoes and socks for him, which I now realize I forgot. He’s still into his breakfast as I kiss him goodbye.
Back in the van, I check in with kid #1,
“Are you sure you want to come to work with Mommy?”
“I’m going to be very busy, you will have to stay out the way, and not touch anything without permission “
“I know, mommy” (exasperated now)
“I’m going to do surgery on a dog, you’ll probably see a lot of blood…”
“I know, Mommy” (excitement, this time)
Harry is no stranger to my clinic, he has watched procedures and seen pets with some fairly gruesome injuries. He has always handled it well.
We arrive and assess our patients. The 3 pups are active and squirming around. Ziggy, already on IV fluids, is looking proud, but anxious. She is having a few weak contractions and a vaginal discharge that is a concerning color. Ziggy’s owner and I make the final call to go to surgery and the treatment area becomes a flurry of activity. I send Harry over to a stool at the counter to finish his breakfast. While scrubbing for surgery, I notice him wordlessly stuck halfway on the stool. He hasn’t asked for help because he knows I’m busy (heart melts). As I’m getting tied into my surgical gown Harry looks at me and says, “Mommy, you look like a doctor!” (heart fills with pride). Surgery starts and Harry appears at the doorway of the surgery suite, he wants to watch! The surgery moves fast, I want Ziggy’s pups to get as little of the anesthetic as possible. I hand off the puppies to the recovery team who work quickly to revive, warm, and administer oxygen to the pups while they figure out how to breathe. Harry, who has been chanting ‘blood, blood!” for a while now, loses interest in surgery and is now fascinated with puppy rubbing (the technical term for recovering C-section pups).
In surgery, one of my favorite noises reaches me from the treatment room It’s the first squeaks and cries of new puppies finding their voices! These little guys’ sound a bit irritated about the vigorous rubbing! That sound is soon followed by Harry now chanting “puppies, puppies!” Once surgery is done, puppies are nursing and everyone is recovering nicely, I take Harry back to his daycare. He is ready to be an ordinary kid again and zooms away to play with his friends.
I drove back to the clinic I knowing that the love of my family helps me be a better vet. I also love being a vet, but the long hours and crazy shifts take me away from them. That day was a good day, though. That was a day I got to be in both places at once!