Whenever I tell people I’m a veterinarian, I see their eyes light up, and I know exactly what’s coming next: “Oh my gosh! It must be so amazing to get to play with cute puppies and kitties all day! You’re so lucky!” But being a vet isn’t just showing up in the morning and then frolicking with adorable animals from open till close. Many people are surprised to learn there’s actually a lot more to it than that.
You have to remember, I also get to kill quite a few of the animals.
That’s not to say these folks aren’t partially correct. As a doctor of veterinary medicine, it’s true, I really do get to pet some of the cutest, cuddliest furballs you’ve ever laid eyes on. Dozens and dozens of them! But if we’re being totally honest, that really oversimplifies a lot of what a vet does. So I like to gently remind people that another, equally satisfying part of my job is injecting those same cuddly furballs with enough barbiturates to stop their little hearts.
Generally, about three or four times a day.
When people put themselves in my shoes, I guess it’s easy for them to fantasize about rubbing tummies and handing out treats. And while I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, I do think it’s important that I nudge perceptions of my profession a bit more toward reality. This job is hard work, I explain, but one of the most rewarding parts is being able to terminate the lives of cats and dogs and rabbits and other pets. I describe just what it is I get to do: give the animals a powerful sedative so they don’t convulse violently on my examination table, administer a lethal drug, and then sit back and watch while the light fades from their eyes.