Veterinary medicine is a relatively small profession. In Canada there are around 12,000 veterinary doctors. Compare this to the much larger human medical profession where there are nearly 70,000 medical doctors in Canada. I am one of about 1400 veterinary doctors licensed to practice in British Columbia. Now that number might seem high or low to you depending on your perspective. Regardless, I would dare say that for most of my friends and acquaintances, I am one of a very few veterinarians that they know personally. So when I am socializing with these folks, invariably someone will ask, “what is the coolest animal you have ever worked on?” or “what is the weirdest condition you have ever seen?” or “you must not mind getting bitten?” There are, of course, other questions, but these rank up there.
When I was an undergraduate university student and I was making plans about my future vocation I received some awesome advice from a family friend. He said, “you are going to work a long time in your life, so pick a job that challenges you and one that you will look forward to going to every day.” This was sage advice indeed and veterinary medicine filled the bill with respect to my aptitudes and desires. And being the local veterinarian in Chilliwack and providing care for animals here has never disappointed in this regard. Every day is a little like opening a gift. You never know what is going to be inside. And so I strike out into each new day with a sense of wonder with respect to what opening that day’s gift box will hold for me. The day can be frustrating, maddening, heartbreaking, awe-inspiring and always challenging. And with the new day often comes the peculiar. And these are the things that friends want to know when veterinary medicine floats into the conversation.
So, here are but a few little snapshots into my life as a vet and some select answers to those burning questions:
- Coolest animal…..without a doubt, “Bruno” a massive black bear that played the role of Gentle Ben in the late 60’s TV series. He was in his late twenties at the time and being cared for in retirement. Suffering from fairly serious arthritis, I filled in for his regular veterinarian in treating him with a regime of medications to improve his comfort and mobility.
- Weirdest condition…..this list is way too long and gets longer practically daily. Just when I think I have seen everything there is to see, a new day brings a new kind of weird. Today, we performed surgery on a Dachshund who had a nearly fully development mummified fetus present within her abdominal cavity. The puppy developed outside of the uterus where it could not survive. The body “walled” this little invader off and was trying to re-absorb it….but it was simply too big to do so. So the process dried it out and preserved it perfectly within the abdomen. No one knows how long it was there for ; likely over a year of causing a belly-ache for the momma dog. Weird.
- Getting bitten??? I don’t like it. It hurts and I bleed.
Dr. Mark Steinebach