Today was one of those reinforcement days. A classmate of mine had a rough morning on our service, and when she went to pre-medicate the next patient, a very large Belgian Shepherd, he lunged and tried to bite her. She came back to the main desk to ask the technicians for help while holding back tears (we’ve all had these days), and I offered to go give a hand instead.
I worked slowly with him, and every move I made was a deliberate one. His ears were pinned the minute I unlatched the kennel and actively turned away from me, with wide eyes and quick glances back to me, hair raised. There were lots of factors that led him to lunge – and not because he was a mean-spirited dog but truly just in a horrible situation for his temperament. It took me a few minutes and a few confidence-gaining techniques, but I was able to get a slip lead on and move to a better environment for him. I worked with him for a few minutes back in a quieter space, and he eventually tucked his head into my chest and moved as close into me as he could – all the while shaking. We were able to very easily give him his injections and work with him the rest of the day to get his procedures done without any trouble.
I don’t mean this as a pat-on-the-back kind of story. It took me a – very – long while to really find what I love, even within veterinary school, and animal behavior is the most rewarding discipline to me. When I have free time and not studying, I often have an animal behavior book with me that I’m pouring over, trying to pick up tips on making my next interactions more favorable. Being able to empathize with a patient to make their visit as smooth and painless as possible and see them leave with a positive experience makes my whole day. With so many huge career decisions being made in the next few months, it’s hard to tell where I’ll be and what it is I’ll be doing – but I know that wherever/whatever it is I’ll always bring that level of empathy and compassion with me.