There is probably not a vet student who hasn’t heard of James Herriot, and most of us have read through his tales as a rural veterinarian in the Yorkshire countryside. A lot of the subjects he wrote about are the same all vets deal with, independent of time and location: limitations of medicine, interactions with colleagues, the highs of successes and the lows of failures, dealing with the costs of medicine, and how clients affect vets’ personal lives.
Like Herriot, there have been times when I have had to be up before dawn to get a start on the day. Today, I am on a rotation with an ambulatory vet who makes house calls around the northern Colorado area. We are headed out to give more fluids to a horse who had been bitten by a rattlesnake and now her face is too swollen for her to eat.
Truth be told, I don’t always have a good attitude on these mornings. On occasion, I may have even questioned my choice in professions as I tried to convince my feet to get out of bed. Why do people choose to operate on only a few hours of sleep, rising before the sun (or on some occasions, go to sleep after the sun has risen), in any weather, to help patients who leave teeth and hoof marks?
I think that if veterinary medicine was actually a job though, not as many people would be vets. I have heard a statistic that said the average age that a person decides to become a vet is nine years old. At that point, vet med has to be a calling instead of a vocation.
This morning, we check in and give the snake-bitten mare intravenous fluids. Her heart rate is back to normal, the swelling has started to decrease and she is definitely feeling better.
As we drive in the early morning light, I see a doe drinking in a stream with the sun shining in through green branches. I can do without sleep, but I could not do without these moments.