Yesterday I was introduced as a veterinarian to a German woman. “Ah, my father was a vet,” she said. She gave me a knowing smile, “You have a lot of pets, don’t you?”
It’s a universal truth—If you work in the veterinary field you’re bound to adopt multiple furry and feathered family members. Whether perceived as bane or bounty, it’s a common professional hazard.
My husband didn’t grow up with a plethora of pets; he struggles with the ‘madness’ of our cluttered household. The kitchen is a particular area of contention. As Husband bends down to retrieve a pizza from the oven, our one-eared cat, Tadg, rubs against his ankles, the hens squawk at the back door for an apple core, our dog, Juno, barks to go outside, and our two year old daughter manages to climb over the kitchen child gate and reaches up to touch the hot oven. He burns his arm as he nabs our daughter, opens the back door for the dog, and accidentally steps on Tadg’s tail.
Tadg yowls as I rush in from attempting to use the bathroom for two minutes by myself. Husband angrily mutters to himself and runs cold water over his burn. He juts his jaw forward. “Lauren, I can’t do this anymore! This is madness—no more animals!” And he throws a tea towel into the sink. Weekly bans on more adoptions began after the birth of our daughter. However, the addition of our third cat, Camilla, managed to win out over the ban.
While working my afternoon shift at the animal clinic last summer, a black kitten was dropped into us. She’d been hit by a car. There was severe swelling around her forehead, and her leg was badly injured. The couple who brought her in didn’t want to take financial responsibility for her, but didn’t want her to suffer and left her with us.
I sipped a cup of tea in the break room and and the head nurse approached me with the kitten. “Should we euthanize her?” she asked.
Sometimes being a veterinarian is a far cry from the idealized notions of playing with animals and saving lives all day. Instead I’m often mopping up poop and vomit, giving Fido a rectal exam, or euthanizing those furry companions I’m so passionate about.
It didn’t surprise Husband when I arrived home with a head trauma kitten in an ICU shoe box. I swore to Husband once nursed back to health I’d find her a forever home that wasn’t ours. But by the time she recovered and I had to amputate her damaged leg, Camilla was a permanent adoptee in our menagerie.
It’s true, there’s a lot of work in looking after all of them—constantly vacuuming the house is my least favorite labor of love. But Camilla and the rest of our animal clan are not just mouths to feed and tails to avoid trampling. They contribute to the family as lap warmers, lowering blood pressure (Husband may differ in opinion), providing exercise and entertainment via walks and laser pointer chasing, making breakfast (the hens lay eggs), decreasing the likelihood of my daughter developing allergies, and above all, loving us unconditionally—Husband is baffled that we have a whole house for the creatures to roam, but if we’re on the couch, all three cats are beside or in our laps, Juno’s laying at my feet, and the chickens are staring at us through the windows.
So, the ‘madness’, the jaw jutting, and throwing of tea towels continues—but it’s worth it.