I often get asked, “Why did you want to become a veterinarian?”
As many of you know, my father is also a veterinarian. He just recently retired after over 50 years in practice. What an amazing professional career he had devoted all those years to helping heal animals and keeping them well. I wish all of you out there the opportunity to meet him because he is nothing short of a true saint to animals. Still to this day I call him almost every day to keep him up to date and consult with him on cases from the day.
The funny thing is from an early age I remember my father always encouraged me to become a human doctor. I don’t know if it was because during those times he worked seven days a week and even took emergencies in the middle of the night, having to get out of bed and drive his old red Volkswagen bug, with no heat, down to the hospital to see patients or if it was because I showed a passion for sick children. Either way, one thing was clear science and health care were the focus around the St. Clair dinner table.
But as I grew older, my calling became undeniable. I still remember to this day when I called my mother and said, “Mom, I finally figured it out, I know what I want to do for the rest of my life.” There was a moment when everything came together and it was loud and clear, like a highway billboard. It was the innocence and purity that I saw in the eyes of every animal that drew me in like a magnet. I realized it was the same thing that I always saw in children. Animals and children embody the purest essence of what life is all about:
When they love, it is in the purest form.
When they show excitement, it is in the purest form.
When they are sad, it is in the purest form.
Imprinting on My Young Mind
While my father tried to steer me away from becoming a veterinarian, many of the experiences that started me on that path happened because he was one himself. I remember growing up as a child and going with my father on the weekends to take care of the sick animals at the hospital. I would crawl into the cages with them, closing the door from the inside and just sitting with them, trying to comfort them for hours while my father worked. But what stays with me the most are the three occasions I was with an animal during the last moments of their life. Looking into their eyes at such an early age, I realize now that I was truly mesmerized by their innocence and purity. Their eyes told amazing stories and I was humbled to be able to simply be there with them during those last moments and offer them comfort.
Although my calling was clear, don’t be fooled – my path to veterinary school was not that easy. The road was riddled with distractions from relationships to continuing academics to meeting the demanding requirements. Finally, with a lot of hard work, I was accepted into veterinary school and from that point forward I was committed, focused, and set to make my mark on the profession and improve the lives of as many animals as possible.
Beyond the Love of Just Animals
It truly was not until I entered into practice and started working with individual animals and their owners that I began to analyze my original perception of why I choose this profession. I quickly realized that there was far more depth to my passion than simply helping as many animals as possible. The animals themselves became just one small part of the much bigger picture. It was the people who were in love with those animals that began to capture my attention.
The more I focused on the people and their relationships with their pets, the more I began to fully appreciate the diversity and depth of those relationships. I experienced firsthand that the majority of people truly feel in their hearts that their pet is a member of their family and that bond was magical!
Discovering the Truth Behind the Passion
Over the years as a practicing veterinarian, I have worked extremely hard at always being mindful and respectful of this relationship because the reality is that it is very different for each pet owner and one is not necessarily better than the other. For some it is a close friendship, for others, they serve a functional utility and for many, they are literally like their birth children. I have come to describe it as, “the space in between our pets and us.” This is the intangible space that connects us to our pets. It is the relationship space and every relationship in life carries a different meaning to our souls.
What does this space look like for you? Ask yourself: What does my dog truly mean to me?
Everyone’s answer to this question will be different, and this has been one of the keys that have transformed the way I practice medicine. I’ve found that the more in-tune I become regarding this space as it applies to each pet owner, the more I’m able to connect with my clients and therefore the more effective I become at guiding them regarding their pet’s health – and this is simply better for everyone. Every relationship is different and everyone is equally special and meaningful.
In my practice, we are family and I care just as much about my clients as I do about their animals. By taking the time to understand and connect with my clients on a much deeper level, I can provide an exceptional level of care and compassion for both them and their pets.
I now know I became a veterinarian because I love people and I care deeply about their bond with their pets because in that space is love and love is the greatest gift of life.