Yes, you read right. This Adventures in Veterinary Medicine post is about me, not one of the animals I encountered in my years of working in the profession.
In Buckley’s Story, I share my story of how Buckley helped me take the leap to start my own business. But this wasn’t the first step on my journey toward finding my bliss. Prior to starting my Healing Hands business, I worked in various facets of the veterinary profession for twelve years.
It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I started my professional life by translating manuals for a computer manufacturer. Then I wrote and translated ad copy for a magazine about diesel and gas turbines. After that, I worked as a travel agent for a while. Eventually, I ended up at a financial services corporation, beginning as a receptionist and working my way up into middle management. After fifteen years in corporate America, I had enough. At that point in my life, I was looking for purpose and meaning in all areas of my life, including my work. That’s where veterinary medicine came in.
Feebee, my first cat and the love of my life for almost sixteen years, who got me through a period of great upheaval in my life in the mid-90’s when my marriage of thirteen years ended and my mother died, all within a four month period, developed bladder stones (most likely, as a result of trying to absorb some of my stress). We ended up spending a lot of time at various veterinary hospitals while he was going through treatment, and ultimately surgery (he fully recovered and lived for many more years). One afternoon, I was sitting in the waiting room of an animal hospital while they were taking x-rays of Feebee in the back, and I looked around and found myself wondering what it might be like to work in an environment like that. The thought wouldn’t let go. I started to do some research, and saw an ad for an office manager position at a nearby vet clinic. I knew I was well-qualified for the position from a business perspective, even though I knew very little about the inner workings of a veterinary practice at the time. I applied, and was invited for an interview. The clinic’s owner offered me the position. Sadly, I couldn’t afford to take it at the time. The one aspect of veterinary medicine I hadn’t researched very well ahead of time was the pay – the salary offered was not enough to support myself. So, instead, I asked whether I could volunteer at the clinic . The clinic’s owner laughed and said sure, why not!
My first day as a volunteer at the clinic arrived. I was so excited. I didn’t really know what to expect. I was introduced to the head technician, who I was going to be shadowing all day. I was told that, due to insurance restrictions, I wasn’t allowed to touch any of the animals there, which was a bit of a disappointment. I had sort of figured that if I was going to be allowed to do anything, it wouldn’t be too terribly glamorous. I was prepared to do lowly things like cleaning cages and emptying trash if that’s what it took. I just wanted to be in a clinic environment and learn as much as I could through observation and by osmosis.
The first thing the technician showed me how to do was to set up a fecal test. In retrospect, I think it was a test on her part to see how dedicated I was to this volunteering gig. She showed me how to separate out a small amount of stool from the (giant! smelly!) sample the dog’s owner had dropped off, and how to set it up in a small plastic vial with a solution that would allow any parasites that might be in the sample to float to the top. Icky, stinky, nasty work. I was in heaven. That’s when I realized it – I had found my bliss. If I could feel this happy playing with a fecal sample, surely I had found my calling!
It was the beginning of a twelve year journey. I was eventually hired as a part-time receptionist at this clinic, then went to work part-time at my own vet’s clinic, where I was trained as a veterinary assistant. I did everything from cleaning cages to answering phones to giving injections and monitoring anesthesia. I reduced my hours at the day job as a business analyst at a financial services corporation to part-time status, and for the next three years, I worked pretty much seven days a week at either the day job or the vet clinic. Being at the vet clinic never felt like work, no matter how many hours I spent there – another sign that I had found my passion. In 1998, I quit the day job and took a hospital manager position at a vet clinic, in essence combining my business background with my newfound love for veterinary medicine. It was the beginning of my adventures in veterinary medicine.
You really can find your bliss in the most unexpected places.