Vet Med, You ARE Essential.
"In your community, there are pets who are alive and and healthy because of you. Pets who live with human beings who may not have survived this past year without them."
You, dear veterinary professional – you are a superhero. And I love you.
In what might be the least shocking characteristic I could reveal about myself, I love animals.
What I realize, as an adult, is how much of that I owe to my delightful mother.
I cannot recall a single moment in my childhood that did not, in some way involve or include one of our pets. From cats to dogs to parrots to turtles and fish, there were always non-human critters living with us. That’s because my mom is an animal lover, through and through.
In 2019, after living abroad for a few years, my mother returned to the States. She lived with my wife and I for a few months as she got herself settled. Toward the end of the year, mom found a cute little apartment in a town not far from us. This would be the place she could make her own and call home.
Shortly after moving into her apartment, she went to the Humane Society and found herself an adorable little pooch.
Lolo is roughly 10 pounds of absolute cuteness. She’s also a “big” change for a woman who has almost always had large-breed dogs. Still, despite her size, she gave my mom companionship – no small thing for an elder woman living by herself.
Little did I know, at the time, how massive a gift Lolo would become.
As I write this, we are exactly 1 year into the global COVID pandemic. When things first got serious my mother’s part time job gave her several weeks of paid leave so, as a high-risk person, she could safely quarantine at home.
A home that consisted of a few hundred square feet, herself, and Lolo. Thinking about it now, I cannot fathom how alone she must have felt.
In what felt like overnight, things changed drastically for my mother.
She grew incredibly anxious and fearful – far beyond what most people I knew were showing. I’d speak to her daily on the phone to check in and with every passing day my worry grew.
Sure, those were challenging times for us all, but something was not right with my mother in a way that went beyond the “typical” COVID anxiety. She was clearly struggling.
I’m not going to share all the details here but, after some middle-of-the-night breakdowns and a couple hospital visits, my mother learned she suffered from generalized anxiety disorder. The pandemic, the detachment, the worry, and uncertainty were more than her mentally unwell brain could handle.
I think three things got her through – her children, her doctor, and Lolo.
All of us in this profession know, and celebrate, the special bond humans and animals share. It’s at our core. But despite more than 20 years in this wonderful work, I think I’m just now realizing how important that bond really is.
Over the past year, people like my mother have endured challenging situation wrought with difficult emotions. We all know this.
I’ve been fortunate. Between the incredible life partner I share my home with and deeply meaningful work, I’ve felt strong and capable through it all. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I also had some amazing animal companions by my side.
Not everyone is as fortunate as I am.
In communities all around our country there have been people who’s only source of companionship and resilience this past year is the pet by their side. Through fear and uncertainty, illness and struggle, and challenges that, at times, may have felt like they’d never end, for some the dog they cuddle or the cat they pet has been foundational to their capacity to endure and persevere.
And through it all, you. Yes YOU. Despite the same fears and anxieties. Despite the same uncertainty and challenge. Despite clients not at their best, fractured work teams, masks glued to your face for 10 or 12 or 16 hours straight.
Despite all of that craziness you’ve gotten up every day, gone to work in your hospital, and continued to provide amazing care to both clients and patients.
You have been a lifeline.
In your community, there are pets who are alive and and healthy because of you. Pets who live with human beings who may not have survived this past year without them.
Research consistently finds the most resilient people are rarely like Superman, taking on their life's challenges on their own with brute strength and will. Rather, we find, human resilience is powered in large part by social support and connection.
You have cared for the animals who provide perhaps the only source of support and connection - foundational pillars of resilience - to the people they share a bond with.
In the most difficult year most of us have ever endured, you have saved lives. And you continue to do so.
If that is not “essential” work, I really do not know what is.
I am grateful for you and all you do. You have my respect, my admiration, and my most sincere thanks.
I adore you.
You are fucking superheros.