There is another reason why my blog posts may often address canine health issues. From the time I was three years old, I wanted to be an animal doctor. When adults asked me and I told them what I wanted to be when I grew up, they smiled and patted me on the head. They thought it was a phase I'd outgrow.
My art teacher was so convinced that I should study art, that he contacted not only my mother, but his art school. He tried his best to convince me to visit and study there. I liked art and spent a lot of time sketching and painting, but I didn't want to study art.
Only my biology teacher listened and took me seriously. He knew how difficult it would be to get into the school I wanted to attend, Cornell, but he encouraged me and took me to visit the campus on several occasions. He was really the only adult in my life that accepted my choice. My family also thought I should study to be a teacher or a nurse. I never considered either.
It wasn't just family that was the problem. At the time that I was ready for college, veterinary medicine was considered a man's career. The vet schools only accepted one or two female applicants each year. There were waiting lists of women and I would have to go to the bottom of the list. I'm not famous for my patience and I refused to wait, so I gave up my dream to become a vet and went out into the business world to earn a living. Today vet classes are 80% women, but in the sixties, women were considered too weak and delicate to handle the physical aspect of the job. I guess I was born too early.
Before I had given up on the dream, I lived in a small village in Central New York. There had been an old vet that lived in town but he was long retired. When I was 15 a newly graduated young vet moved to town. He rented the office of the retired vet and set up practice. Most of his cases were farm animals because at that time people didn't give their household pets the care they do today. I had a couple of puppies at the time and took them to him for vaccinations and to be spayed. Many evenings he was alone in his office with no one to talk to so I began hanging around on his free evenings and he explained all sorts of interesting things about canine health and care. I credit him for teaching me to pill a dog and how important it is to train them early to take medicines without fuss.
When I moved to the city after giving up on my dream, I watched the newspapers for a vet tech job opening, but those were much sought after jobs that were usually handed from friend to friend and I never did find one.
When I lived at the beach for three years, one of the first things I did was get a dog, of course. Libby was my pal but she had one very bad habit. She got sick on holidays, Easter, Christmas Eve and New Years Day. These were really serious sicknesses, not just the normal run of the mill dog sicknesses. Fortunately, I had a neat vet who saw her on those holidays and also made house calls when she was too sick to travel to his office. He encouraged me to go back to school since by that time women were being accepted in much larger numbers, but I was used to a regular paycheck by then and couldn't face the routine of being a student again.
Then we moved here and added even more dogs to the family. Bentley and Pylon were aging and both had some health problems so we needed to find a vet. It was a great stroke of luck to walk into All Creatures one Saturday afternoon and meet Dr B. Over the years we've seen a lot of him as dogs have needed help leaving and puppies have arrived. He's been kind enough to take time to answer questions and I have an unending stream of questions. He explains and draws diagrams and gives me lists of reading matter. I have learned so much from him and am grateful to him for sharing his knowledge with me.
Are my dogs sicker than the average dog? No, but because of my long love of animals and their health, I may spot things that arouse my interest and or concern more quickly than some dog owners. I may feel the need to question my experts or get advice more urgently than many. Yes, I'll admit, I'm a frustrated vet on the inside. I want to know why and how and when. I probably drive Dr B and the staff nuts at times but it's a compulsion that I can't control.
So, if I write a blog post yet again about a tummy upset or a sprained leg or a strange bump, don't think that I have an unhealthy pack of dogs on their last legs, just remember my background and give me a little nod of encouragement.