During my senior year of undergraduate school in Vermont, I was on the day technician shift at the large animal clinic where I worked. I had already been accepted to veterinary school. I was, in many ways, on “Cloud 9” as they say. However, on this given day, we had a very ill donkey in the clinic. She had been in critical care, but it seemed she was becoming weaker by the minute. With an equine veterinarian, I was waiting for her owners to arrive so that we could euthanize her with them next to her.
During the euthanasia, I remained quiet. After a long time of silence, spent with my hands together, so thankful that this wonderful creature could pass on in peace with her loving owners, one of her owners said something to us that remains one of the proudest moments of my career to date.
“Thank you both. It is so wonderful that a place like this exists where you can do the work that you two do.”
That statement hit home for me. That was what I needed to hear. That was the answer to so many of the difficult ethical questions I’ve been struggling with for weeks (years, in some cases). The questions that I had been struggling with are ethical questions that every pre-veterinary student should ask themselves as they progress with their education. That day reminded me that we are the ones who will stand by owners during the hardest moments of their pet’s life. It is not only our jobs, it is a privilege. Although our jobs can sometimes be emotionally challenging, it can be very revitalizing to hear how appreciative owners are for the care we provide for their beloved animals. We may not always receive praise in this way. Those are the times when we must find praise from within. But there are those special moments, like this one, that glitter brightly and provide us with reassurance that our work is helping other people as well as their animals.