Recently I attended a leadership conference. As part of that conference we focused on the story that every pet and every pet owner has. And it had a big impact on me.
We started by watching the following video. Some of you may have already seen it. If you haven't, have some tissues handy.
Many of my clients have bonds with their pets similar to that between Ben and Denali. Every vet has those clients. And we need to keep that in mind whenever we're talking to the pet owner and handling that pet.
That video was pretty powerful, but what really got to me was in a session where we had to write a letter to a pet that had made an impact on our lives. It could have been a personal pet or one we saw as a patient. I ended up writing to my cat, Galahad. He was the first cat I ever owned, and the first pet I owned by myself when I left home. For our first two years together it was just him and me in a one bedroom apartment, and we had the most incredible bond. I lost him to stomach cancer when he was 11 years old, and that was around 15 years ago. Yet I still miss him incredibly and wish I had him around.
I'm not ashamed to say that I had a hard time writing that letter and tears were running down my face. I wasn't the only one crying. In fact, there were few people, men or women, who weren't teary-eyed during this exercise.
Why do all of this? Why remember pets like that or watch Denali's video?
Sometimes we need reminders about why we got into this field. The day-to-day grind can make us burned-out and cynical. Compassion fatigue is a very real thing in any medical profession as it gets hard putting our emotions into our work 20 to 30 times per day, five days per week. I've been at that point many times in my career. So we need to be reminded about the stories that every pet and every pet owner have. We need to remember that one pet that impacted our lives, and keep in mind that the next pet we see may have that same kind of impact on someone else. We need to realize that Ben and Denali are not only ourselves, but are our clients.
You have to have some objectivity to be a doctor and can't get too emotionally involved with every patient. However, you also can't become cold and unfeeling and still be able to recognize the emotional needs that clients have for their pets.