What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?

USAR-Vehicle Extrication

Ever wonder what you’re going to be when you grow up? I mean, now that you’re an adult, are you working in a good career, living the dream on the weekends, participating in great relationships with family and friends? Are you where you thought you would be when you were a kid and the teacher asked about your grammar school career ambitions?

My dad saved a picture I made in the third grade. I drew a smiling picture of myself with Sarge, the police dog, and Snowball, the horse. I was a veterinarian. I was going to help animals and their people.

I spent my school years being the “smart” girl. I was pretty shy in those days and did my best to go unnoticed in class and outside of school. As a good Catholic girl, I was proud of being a nice goody two shoes (thanks for the props, Adam Ant). I loved that St. Francis of Assisi was such a proud steward for the animals. I read all of James Herriott’s books. I was going to be just like him some day.

And I am. Sort of. I became a veterinarian. For twenty years, I practiced small animal medicine and surgery with special interests in trauma medicine and behaviour. Overall, I think I did pretty well. I was fortunate enough to work with a number of police canine units and travelled across Canada to attend police, military, and detector dog seminars. I joined our provincial urban search and rescue team as the official veterinarian-a first in Canada. I was (am) a bit of a workaholic, like many of my colleagues, and I loved it.

Life is a bit of a bastard sometimes. In a ten-day span in 2010, pretty much everything I knew about life was turned upside down. My mother was in a terrible car accident, my dog died from cancer, I lost a wonderful patient under anaesthesia, and a family member gruesomely attempted suicide under circumstances that left me and my relatives devastated. I couldn’t walk into the veterinary hospital that had been my home for 15 years. I had troubles leaving my house except to walk the dog and take care of family. I spent a lot of time rocking in the corner of my couch. My doctor told me I had a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD? Me? Nah. I hadn’t been physically hurt; all of the bad things had happened around me. I was just the witness. I was the helper. I had spent my adult life making things better for my family, my patients, and my clients. I could NOT make anything better during that time. I was doing my darndest, but every day for the first few months after that ten-day period brought me a new surprise. Trust me, there were no good surprises in those days. Rocking on the couch was much safer than answering the phone or leaving my home.

I went to therapy and learned lots about myself. I acknowledged that I probably have an over-developed sense of loyalty and justice. I accepted that I am a type A control freak (anyone that knows me will undoubtedly not be surprised by that revelation). I admitted that I had done a complete 180; instead of being the strong and able fixer, I kind of wallowed in my dysfunction. I was thinking differently than I ever had in my life, and it scared the crap out of me.

Honestly, I got bored with being helpless. I was bored staying at home. Heck, we didn’t even have Netflix in those days! I wasn’t ready to go back to being a clinical veterinarian, but I decided to look for a new job. I went to work for Petsecure Pet Health Insurance as their Chief Veterinary Officer. Super company, great team. I used my veterinary expertise and people skills in new and gratifying ways. I tried to bring the “reasonable” veterinarian to an insurance company to pay out legitimate claims. I learned how much I love writing and communication in general. I chatted on social media with clients and other pet lovers. I discussed cases with board-certified specialists and lectured at all four Canadian veterinary colleges. The experience really built my confidence and gave me time to heal emotionally and professionally. I am so grateful to have had such a unique and wonderful opportunity over the three years that I was with Petsecure and Western Financial Group.

My life plan had been to become a condo cat lady-except substitute “long-haired Weimaraner” for “cat”.   Who knew that just when I had decided to become a lifelong bachelorette business gal, I would fall in love with firefighter boyfriend. Who knew firefighter boyfriend would become firefighter fiancé and then firefighter husband and now police officer husband? Who knew that falling in love would allow me to move to a lovely city in Western Manitoba and go back to clinical practice? Not me, that’s for sure.

I am enjoying being a pet doc again. Meeting new critters and their families in this city with a small-town vibe has been terrific in every way. I work with a caring team in a great clinic. I belong to this great blended family that has brought so much joy into my life. My husband shares my thirst for knowledge and education. When he decided to go back to university, I was a little jealous of the textbooks and essay writing. I had to embrace the fact that I’m still a nerd! As many of us do, I looked to Dr. Google to help out. I discovered this new online Master’s program in Clinical Animal Behaviour from the University of Edinburgh’s veterinary college. I started my classes this fall and am loving my new challenges.

Am I grown-up? Hopefully not. The one thing I have missed during the last two years has been writing. I always wrote during quiet days at home. There are very few of those times in my present life lol! The thing is…every time I see a dog with his body half hanging out the window of a car driving down the street or a pregnant cat rescued by our local humane society, I want to share these stories. I hope you have time to drop by once in a while and join me on my journey.