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Why did I become a veterinarian?..And why am I still here?

Posted in Our Community @ May 12th 2016 - By Dr David Challen, East Bundaberg Veterinary Hospital
Why I Became A Veterinarian 1

A question I am asked many times – why did I become a veterinary surgeon and why do I still want to continue doing this profession even as I enter my senior years?

This is the story of Jack and Jill (no, not the one about a hill and a pail of water) – a true story and one that is played out in my animal hospital on a daily basis –the names may change but the concept never does

The Jack and Jill story

I stood at the door of the consultation room and watched the group walk towards me. It was a family affair – mum and dad, along with two daughters and one son and one total ball of mischief (a 6 week old female Boxer puppy) had started their new journey through life. Even though they were in my animal hospital – their entire thoughts centered on that little mischievous animal the son carried in his arms.  The things they all had in common were the smile on their faces and the love they radiated for each other and their new family member.

The young son (around 2 years of age) placed the 5Kg brown and white bundle on the consultation table with all the care that a 2 year old boy can do – the small puppy rolled over onto its belly, picked itself up and started to wag its tail. The effect was electric – the body attached to the tail now was moving from side to side causing the back end of the body to sway massively from side to side. The puppy’s face had the widest smile you would ever see on a dog, the entire body quivered with excitement as the puppy realised that there were people to play with. But the biggest effect was on the people in the room – the father and mother smiled, the children laughed, the nurse started to giggle and as I looked around the room I understood (again) WHY I became a veterinarian.

The young boy looked at me with his big blue eyes still dilated with the wonder of all things fantastic (as only a young person can) and said “Jill” as he pointed to the puppy. And then to emphasize that Jill was only here for a visit and not to stay he added “Mine”.

Well if the mother and father had just won Gold Lotto they could not have been happier or prouder – the mother gave her son a hug and said “Dr David knows Jack – he is only going to make sure Jill is healthy and stays that way”.

Are you sure this man is qualified?

But Jack was not 100% sure – he eyed me off as I approached the table and you could read on his face the thoughts going through his head. “You hurt Jill and I am going to come under that table and bite your leg off”, “Are we sure this man is qualified?”, “If you even leave a finger mark on my dog I am going to pee on your floor”, “Why are we here Mum – I would rather go and have some ice-cream and give half to Jill and the other half over the hair of my sisters”.

Over the next 30 minutes I spent time making sure Jill was healthy and happy (she was) and spent some time discussing the more clinical aspects of owning a puppy including vaccinations, heartworm control, worming, flea control, feeding, desexing, dental care and my recommendations for pet insurance. Then it was time for my nurse to fill out the vaccination record and explain the Year Life Chart that we give to every one of our clients (it explains the “Road to Health and Happiness" and the preventative programs that we recommend over the next 12 months).

While she talked to the mum and dad I watched the children interact with Jill – the hugs and kisses from the girls, the dragging around by Jack, the smile on Jill’s face, the small barks of joy and the laughter from the whole family. This young puppy had been accepted as a full member of the family and loved the fact that she was the centre of their universe. Finally Jack sat on the floor – Jill crawled into his lap, licked his face and then lay down in his lap, put her head on his crossed legs and watched everyone in the room from her “safety spot”. The pup loved the family but had bonded with Jack.

Oh! What joys lay ahead for this dog.

In my mind I could envisage Jack and Jill chasing butterflies together, ranging through the garden on the quest of finding knights and dragons, being amazed with beetles and grubs, finding paths in the undergrowth that led to magical castles and damsels in distress, running on the beach while chasing sea gulls. Jill leading the charge but Jack not that far behind, digging together in the sand for hidden treasure left by some pirate hundreds of years ago – Jack digging downwards and Jill getting caught up in the excitement digging so that the sand went back into the hole and covered Jack at the same time. Jill eating kangaroo poo and Jack trying it before spitting it out with a weird look on his face, swimming in the calm water of a creek at high tide, crabs and other shells to taste and then spit out (or swallow in Jill’s case), rolling around in the grass in the back yard laughing and playing together. Chasing water from the hose as mum or dad tried to water the back garden, curled up together at night while mum or dad read them a story and finally falling asleep together with Jill firmly wrapped in Jack’s arms so that together they could attack the next day and do it all over again.

Jack's sidekick in life...

Jill will be fully grown in the next 18 months but will always be Jack’s sidekick – his Robin when Jack is Batman, his Tonto when Jack is the Lone Ranger. She will never want to be the leader and will be more than happy being his “mate”.  In his imaginary world they will fly to the stars together, dive to the bottom of the deepest oceans, they will climb mountains and stand on the shoulders of giants. They will fight against “bad guys” and always win, they will build structures only to knock them down, explore strange lands and swim wild seas. The world of imagination (Jack’s) will always be their oyster but they will always come home to eat at night and to sleep in their own bed.

She will protect him when the wind blows at night and the branch makes weird and fearful noises on the window. She will lick off his tears when he falls and hurts his knee, she will be his rock so he can lean on her when times are bad and she will always be there full of excitement when times are good.

As Jack ages and goes to school she will wait at the gate for his return and greet him like she has not seen him for the last 6 months, She will lie at his side has he struggles to do his homework, she will run like the wind when they play football in the backyard – never complaining and always wanting to go “one more kick”.

She will have a full and fun life and he will always have a friend and a companion – their future will be terrific.

My role in all of this?

In the playhouse of life when Jack and Jill are Centre Stage and acting out their companionship – my role is to stand in the wings giving advice on health and happiness issues. Always having my first aid box ready for the times when Jill “falls and skins her knees” and only rushing on stage when necessary to get Jill “back on track” so the two of them can charge off to another adventure.

I will have done my job well, if in the years to come, when the final curtain falls on Jill as she stands Centre Stage with all her family and friends clapping and cheering and calling “A life well played”, she looks into the wings, nods her head and says “Thanks Veterinary”.

AND that, ladies and gentlemen, is WHY I do this profession.


Gillian Shippen @ May 13th 2016 9:26am
Where is that damn "smiling face" and "Heart" icon on this thing? A gifted writer as well as an awesome veterinarian. Well I was just about to write something about why I became a vet nurse but I can't possibly top that one
Judy @ May 13th 2016 11:44am
I totally agree Gillian and I'm hoping Dr Dave will write some more posts for us! Although I still think you should write why you became a vet nurse :)

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