One would think that working as a switchboard operator would not make me a very important member of the veterinary team. One would be sadly mistaken for being a switchboard operator in a veterinary teaching hospital is a front line position. I perform "telephone triage," asking questions much like a 911 dispatcher to determine the degree of urgency and the most expedient way to satisfy the needs of the patient. In the meanwhile mine is the voice of calm when a life is on the line. In emotional times people can lash out and I am the recipient of that lashing. They often apologize afterward, taking much of the sting from their words, then they go on to tell me more about their pet. The stories I hear along the way are heartwarming and can be heartbreaking.
Owners come from miles away to ensure their pets receive the best care possible, often spending days in area motels while their pets are being treated. They spend large amounts of money without blinking an eye because these animals are no less than members of their family. I've often wondered at the farmer's true motive behind his spending hundreds of dollars to save a cow. Is it just because she is an easy calver? Or does he harbor some affection for his herd?
The elderly are especially close to their pets. With their children gone and their work days behind them, they dote on their pets like no one else. Unable to carry their dogs, many wheel them in in carriages resembling the baby prams of old, some decked out in all manner of fussy finery. I’m convinced Yorkshire terriers have lost the ability to walk as I’ve seen no Yorkie touch the ground in months.
There are times, however, when anger rules within me. As with humans, illnesses and freak accidents happen with animals; but there are cases where negligence endangers an animal’s life. A case in point was a call I took one night where a female Chihuahua had been bred to a much larger dog and now was unable to have her puppies and lay dying in agony. I wanted to scream at this person and demand to know how they could have let this happen in an area where spay/neuter services are available at reduced rates? Why hadn't they consulted a vet when the breeding first took place? Was it a planned breeding? That particular thought horrified me. Fortunately, nearly everyone who calls wants only the best for their animals.
From the dean to the janitor, no matter what capacity you fill in this place, you know you are working for the greater good of the animals in our care. They come to us sick and injured, some still able to prick their ears, some no longer able to muster the energy or the interest, but the fight fought for them is no less than heroic. All life matters. It really is that simple.