|This is me, Dr Liz.|
When I was growing up, I used to read alot... and most of the books I read were about vets and their lives (oh, and about horses, dogs, ghost stories...any normal teenager read). A vet's life sounded exciting.... happy puppies, lovely owners, and a happy life. It was a promise of happiness.
They don't write about the cruelty cases (the obvious as well as the subtle cruelty), the convenience euthenasias (this is those based on finances or convenience), the "it's only a dog" attitude, and the compassion fatigue and physical exhaustion that caring vets often suffer from.
I wonder if I had known what my veterinary life would be really like, and understood what I would be sacrificing to be a vet, whether I would still have chosen this career choice. Well, that thought is academic, because I am what I am.
I am a humble, local vet, who, most days, can honestly say "I love the difference I make in the lives of my animals and their families." And I should add, "I can't imagine myself doing anything else or be anywhere else" (although lying on the soft sands on a beautiful tropical beach somewhere sounds nice too).
Please remember as you read this that Russell Vale Animal Clinic is open Mondays to Fridays, from 9 am to 6 pm, and Saturdays from 9 am to 12 noon - ish, and the only vet there is me.
So that is 48 hours a week alone, assuming I arrive and leave on time. And no, I don't get a regular lunch break either.
patients which we brought home with us for monitoring or extra care. If, as happens sometimes, the pet cannot be moved, then I usually stay over at the vet hospital to monitor them as needed. Even though I get to miss getting my own children ready for school, I hate the thought of a pet, alone in a cage, in a strange place. Being sick, well, it isn't pleasant, and we try to minimise the stress of it as much as we can.
Then comes the drive in to work. We live in Dapto, which, on a good day is a 20 minute drive, and on a bad day, one hour. We used to live in the flat at the back of the vet hospital, when we had two children, as it is a 3 bedroom flat. But when the younger two arrived, we needed a bit of space. And, we couldn't afford to buy in the northern suburbs, so we looked to Dapto.
9 -am ish - I arrive - there could be 2-3 people waiting with their sick pets, or I could be lucky, and get a chance for a quick coffee before the morning appointments. Some days, the waiting room can look the proverbial picture photo of a range of animals, with alot of owners attached to them.
During this time, our patients which have been admitted for "Day Surgery", have their blood tests done, and their pre-anaesthetic check ups performed, before they are receive their pre-anaesthetic sedation. By the time the morning appointments are over, we grab a quick mouthful of coffee, and get everything set up for the day's surgeries.
Now, we aren't a production-line practice, nor are we, what is called, a highly leveraged practice (this is one where the vet nurse does 90% of the work load) and my goal in my veterinary life, is not to have so many animals in hospital, that I can't think! Each pet deserves my individual time, and attention, and this is what we give them. So we schedule accordingly.
All of the equipment is checked, and the surgeries are started. As a fully operational veterinary hospital, we are licenced to perform all sorts of major surgeries. And then it comes down to the fact that I do alot of soft tissue surgeries, and buckets and buckets of oral dental work (due to our ability and training in dental radiographs and advanced procedures).
A mouthful of food between procedures usually is our "lunch time". And then, comes 3 oclock, when we start our afternoon consultations. Between these appointments are our check ups of the patients who have had surgery, just to check that they are OK to go home. No one is allowed home until that happens.
And then it is six oclock -- our door says that it is close up time, and really, I wish that was the case. Sometimes I sneak away early (naughty me), but most times, as my neighbours will testify to, I am not home before 7 pm. And some nights, we stay back to perform emergency surgery, or stitch ups, or look after sick pets, and I never make it home!
What about the after hours? Well, we do have a mobile number which clients do call when their pet is unwell, and we try to help where we can. But sometimes we can't, especially if we are already tired and exhausted from working during the day, so please don't get upset with me if I deem myself too tired to look after your pet properly out of normal hours. I am not slacking off my responsibility - I am probably just too tired. As I wouldn't want a tired human doctor to look after my sick child, nor should you accept a tired vet looking after your best mate.
My veterinary life is a life I chose, in as much as I chose a veterinary career, but it is not a life I would've chosen if I had been given a crystal ball which showed my life from day to day, especially the impact that has had on my family life and my personal interests. I blame those romantic books I used to read.
But then, when all of the dust settles, I still couldn't imagine myself doing anything else, and so, I don't stress about the things I cannot change, but enjoy doing the things that make my pets feel better, safer, healthier and happier.
As for my family, well they get the joy of having a new pet most nights when the patients come home, and they can see that the work their mum and dad does, well, it has made a difference in the lives of many pets and their loving pet owners.
I don't doubt they wished their mum could do canteen more often, or be home for them when they come home from school, or perhaps watch their Saturday morning soccer game.
We haven't signed World Peace treaties, nor found a cure for Cancer, but we feel grateful to be Australian, grateful that we are able to dream about big things and achieve them.... well we are grateful to all our loving pet owners who have chosen Russell Vale Animal Clinic as the best vet for their pet. As pets need vets, so do vets need pets! As I said, I am a humble, grateful local vet, who just cares for pets.
So thank you for making this vets life a special one.