With veterinarians in such high demand, we wanted to ask our two current veterinarians why it was important for them to work here.
It’s cool and bright, the way an early autumn day should be in KC, and Dr. Cruse is doing what she loves most.
It seems so anyway.
The wind kicks up some leaves that skitter across our waiting room (aka: the parking lot) as she stands in the sun and talks to clients about their dog. And though she’s never said it, talking to clients seems to be high on her list of things she really gets into. But, then again, I’ve seen her on the floor in our clinic plenty of times cradling a pet’s head gently in her hands while she talks to it in the sweetest, kindest way.
Maybe that’s what she loves …
When I asked her why she’d choose this over, say, private practice, she was emphatic. “I really liked how it felt here, how committed people were when I visited,” Dr. Cruse said. “And I like that we’re making a difference for pets and people.”
“It’s just another day …”
Not so long ago, a few weeks before, we had one of those days. Cars kept coming and coming. Most were just for vaccines, to pick up a pet after surgery or maybe some parasite prevention. But several seemed to show up at once with bigger problems. There were ear infections, stomach problems and a number of parvo cases.
All of it seemed to crash into us at the same time.
While our chief veterinarian, Dr. Nichols, and Chris, one of our vet techs and a member of our outreach team, calmly assessed a steady stream of puppies, the parking lot swelled to capacity as cars lurched into every possible position.
It was bright and hot. Uncomfortably so. While I worked to document everything that was happening, a subtle nausea kept nagging at me. I was worried about the animals and anxious about how many difficult cases kept coming at us. I wondered silently if our team would buckle under the strain.
“This is just what we do and why we are here. To help people and their pets.” – Dr. Nichols
And, yet, Chris and Dr. Nichols were unfazed the entire time.
Without a moment of hesitation, they donned protective gear and began assessing the situation. I stood back and watched, entirely in awe of how they moved together with the precision and efficiency of a well-made watch.
At one point, while Dr. Nichols was testing a dog, Chris held his head and looked down at him and I saw this look come over his face. I can only describe it as love. And that helped the dog relax and feel safe.
Without missing a beat, the team did exams, prepared go-home treatments, educated owners, stripped off protective gear, disinfected everything (including themselves), and put on new hats, gowns, masks and gloves before moving on to the next puppy. Most of this, by the way, occurred in the backseats of cars. That’s because parvo is so contagious and deadly that we keep them where they are to prevent the spread of the disease.
As it turns out, the team handled what was – truthfully – a handful of life and death situations with such calmness and compassion it’s still hard for me to wrap my head around it. While I felt waves of anxiety and sadness, they never lost focus or took their feet off the gas. No second guessing or hesitation; they just kept moving forward, providing reassuring care that was also filled with compassion.
Afterward, as I exhaled for what felt like the first time in hours, I asked Dr. Nichols what it was like to save several lives in a day. “It’s just another day,” she said without flinching. “This is just what we do and why we are here. To help people and their pets. And, yes, it’s rewarding and I’m glad we can do it but this is what we signed up for and what we expect. We’re just glad we can be here for people.”
See the video we put together about that day and our struggle to find enough staff.
The good news: we have two new veterinarians starting soon and they’ll help us continue to reach pets and their people with resources and care.
Keeping pets and people together
So, there you go. These days, the ones that feel like they’re going to get away from us, the ones that are hard to hold onto, those are the days when this team shines.
But it’s also the days when it’s ordinary, the days when Dr. Cruse gets to go out into the community in our mobile unit and make a difference for a family facing struggles during the pandemic. The calm, reassuring way she provides information that is easy to understand. And the protection provided by those vaccines, the exam that helps identify something that is causing a pet to feel uncomfortable or ill, that has real power, too. Although it lacks the high-wire electricity of life saving, it changes lives. Because there’s something we never lose sight of … when we help pets, we help people.
I’m fortunate to be a witness to an amazing number of actions nearly every single day. And so I want to help people understand why our veterinarians – and the rest of our clinical staff – are here.
It’s because they want to be.
“We do this because a lot of people with pets have nowhere else to go,” says Dr. Nichols. “We can help them and do our part to keep those families together. That makes this the right place to be.”