At this point, I know I want to be in practice somewhere. But, the short year and three-quarters ahead of me does scare me a bit. Where will I end up? What animals will I actually be seeing? I remember getting a stuffed puppy once for Christmas when I was little (my brother spoiled the surprise, actually). It was one of those “life-size” equivalents, a yellow lab, something I had always wanted (for real, not a stuffed version). I was four or five, though, and not ready for a real dog yet, so I went with what I had.
I pretended to take care of the stuffed dog, and my other stuffed animals, too, and I always dreamed I could do that for real, I think even then, that I could do something deeper, more meaningful to me, than taking care of a pet. I wanted to be there for ALL dogs, ALL kitties, ALL of those animals that kids think are cute or worthwhile. Even the goldfish I buried with a small stone in my backyard when they died.
As I grew older I gained a fascination, and reverence, for birds. I took a class in college that taught me about the birds who lived where I lived. I got some binoculars, and I started seeing them, truly, for probably the first time. These birds represented so much for me. They grounded me with their flight. They taught me about the place where I lived. And they needed my help, I thought, and I needed to help them. Birds became a focus of mine then, though I never lost sight of my love of dogs and cats, and my love of the human-animal bond. At this point, I had just also added a love of the wild.
Fast forward to now, and, among the core medicine classes for small animal, I’m taking several exotics electives as well—from avian medicine down to pocket pets. The more I learn, the more focused my career goals become, and even though I consider myself an idealist, I am starting to recognize what exactly it takes to be a veterinarian with more than one animal interest.
It’s tough. It probably won’t land me the best job ever right away. It causes this sort of crisis of careers—should I follow my heart? Where does the money come from? What can I realistically do for wild animals? Could I really ever live without dogs and cats and their people? Even though I have had to think long and hard about whether I can combine all of my interests somehow (eventually, I still believe I will), I am amazed by how broad the spectrum of careers in the veterinary profession really becomes when you take the time to look.