The roller coaster of veterinary medicine

The roller coaster of veterinary medicine

From the highs of newborn puppies to the lows of euthanasia, establishing a career in veterinary medicine takes stamina and determination through all of the ups and downs.
Dec 01, 2012
By staff

I began my career in animal health at Portland Community College in Portland, Ore. It was my first college experience, and for the first week I was in a serious panic about whether I was smart enough to actually be there. After a few weeks of barely controlled panic, I settled in and realized I did belong there and made it through the program.

If there is one lesson I have learned from my 17 years on the job, it's that veterinary medicine is a wild roller coaster ride of emotions. And who's sitting in the seats around you on that coaster is oh so important.

Tomorrow had to be better

I graduated in 1994, passed my CVT boards, and started working at a local clinic. On my very first day, we had a German shepherd that had been run over by its owner's car. Hysterical owner, crying kids, sad, sad scene. Euthanized. Second case: beautiful harlequin Great Dane. Diagnosis: Lyme disease. Euthanized. Third case: ancient cat with kidney disease owned by sweet old couple. No quality of life left. Euthanized.

I went home to my husband in tears, once again questioning what I'd gotten myself into. This was the saddest job in the world. He cluck-clucked in all the right places, assured me tomorrow had to be better, and calmed me down.

Day two on the job. First case: emergency cesarean section on a bull mastiff. We delivered nine puppies, and every one of them lived. There we were, standing in various sections of the clinic, rubbing squealing puppies and smiling. Second case: exotic farm owner brought in a bobcat. After the doctor sedated it, he brought it into treatment, plopped it down on the table, and said, "Hand scale these teeth, please." Really? I paused for a moment to appreciate just how terribly cool that was, then scaled the teeth. Third case: another hit-by-car dog. This time we set the catheter, got the oxygen going, injected the drugs, and saved the dog. The owners were ecstatic and grateful.

I went home to my husband, overjoyed: "This is the coolest job ever!"