I often get asked, “What were your reasons for wanting to become a veterinarian?” Though a simple and direct question, my answer to this now addresses more the question of, “Why do I love being a veterinarian?”
As many of you know, my father is also a veterinarian. Come next year he will have devoted 50 years of his life to this incredible profession. 50 years…. That is Five-Zero! I wish all of you out there the opportunity to meet him because he is one man who has touched so many lives with a gentle heart and every day makes this world a better place. To this day he still actively practices with me, teaches me, guides me, and, yes, gives me a hard time as all great parents do.
So at this point, you might be thinking, “Dr. James became a veterinarian because his daddy was a veterinarian.” That could not be farther from the truth. There is no doubt that in some way it played a role, but it goes much deeper than that. He discouraged me for years from pursuing a career in veterinary medicine and tried to steer me towards pediatric medicine because of my profound love for children.
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.” At the time, I was working in Boston with my uncle at a university for summer break. Everything at that moment came together and it was loud and clear, like a highway billboard. It was the INNOCENCE and PURITY in those animals’ eyes that drew me in like a magnet. 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 Mind
I remember growing up as a child and always going with my father on the weekends to take care of the sick animals and the ones being boarded at the hospital. I remember crawling into the cages with the sick animals, closing the door from the inside, and just sitting with them, trying to comfort them for hours while my father worked. But what I remember the most are three separate occasions where I was with the animal during their last moments of life. Looking into their eyes at such a young age, I did not realize that I was truly mesmerized by their innocence and purity. Their eyes told amazing stories and I was humbled to be able to just be there with them and comfort them.
Don’t be fooled though, my path to veterinary school was not that easy. The road was riddled with distractions such as relationships and continuing academics, to meet 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 Simply Love of 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. The animals, although my original, primary focus, 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 truly appreciate the diversity and depth of those relationships. The majority of people do truly feel in their hearts that their pet is a member of their family. On one end of the spectrum, some people treat their pet or pets as if they gave birth to them. Yet, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are those pet owners who solely see their pets as a utility, a co-worker to fulfill some job requirement; such is the case with many hunting dogs. I am not saying that all hunting dog owners perceive their dogs in this fashion, but many do. You get the point I am trying to make.
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. I have come to describe this 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. Answer this: What does your dog truly mean to you? Everyone is different and that needs to be respected.
I found that the more in-tune I become in regards to this space, the more I was able to CONNECT with my clients. The more I was able to connect with my clients, the more effective I was at guiding them regarding their pet’s health and this is simply better for everyone. But in the end, it was me who was awarded the greatest gift of all: the JOY and FULFILLMENT I get every day from being a veterinarian.
In my practice we are family and I care just as much about my clients as I do about their animals. By connecting with my clients at a much deeper level, I can provide an exceptional level of care and compassion to both them and their pets.
I now know I became a veterinarian because I LOVE PEOPLE and I care deeply about how important their animals are to them.