Certainly, Christmas is a time of giving. And receiving.
It’s also a time of reflection.
Coming on the heels of Thanksgiving, when we stopped our hectic pace for a few moments to count our blessings, the Christmas season can be a continuation of that state of mind.
It’s a good time to stop and think about what a blessing we get from one of our most precious gifts: our pets.
I had a wonderful experience just the other day. A client had brought her dog in to have it spayed. Nothing unusual about that…it happens every day. But, when she came to pick her dog up, and we were all through with post-op care instructions, she reached out and hugged my neck and said, “Dr. Randolph, thank you for all you do for our Keto, for all the good care you give her.”
Those comments made me realize something I’d not seen in this particular human-animal relationship: how much Keto meant to her and her family. I’d been caring for Keto for years, and her owners had always been punctual about preventive care. She’d never had a major problem or illness. Life, and our relationship, had been pretty “routine”.
Until that hug.
Keto’s story was one that commonly goes in some variation of this: Child gets dog (or cat). Child keeps dog until adulthood (sometimes the child’s, sometimes the pet’s). Child goes to college or gets married or moves overseas. Child gives pet to parents, vowing, with good intentions, “I’ll take her back as soon as circumstances (fill in the blank) change.” Parents fall in love with pet, and she’s theirs forever.
Veterinarians see a lot of tragedy in our careers. Irresponsible pet owners let their dogs run loose in the street and injury results in tragedy. Irresponsible pet owners don’t keep up with simple preventive care and preventable disease results in tragedy. Irresponsible pet owners fail to spend time training a young puppy in proper behavior, and the now-unruly now-adult dog stays chained in the back yard. Ignored and alone, another tragedy.
But, every once in a while something happens that makes us remember why we wanted to be veterinarians. Like a special hug. And a special comment I’ll never forget.
What a wonderful Christmas gift.
This story first ran Christmas, 1997, but it is still a heartwarming memory for me.