Professional Loser

I hope everyone had a safe and happy transition into 2014. 2014! How did this happen? It seems like just yesterday I was sitting on the edge of Lake Union at the turn of the millennium, looking out over the Space Needle and wondering whether it was going to go dark and topple into the water (it didn’t.) The thought of 2014 seemed very far away at the time.


Old and Boring


I would have thought 14 years would bring a vast amount of wisdom and insight into my world, that I would be me but wizened, like Gandalf. Instead, I feel just like that kid from 2000 except with nicer electronics and a sudden worry about sunscreen, with all the same personality flaws and unanswered existential questions I had back then. What did I know? We still navigated by Thomas Guide, for god’s sake. I would have said, hmm, 2014, I will probably be set in my career, old, and boring by then.

I admit, we were old and boring this New Year’s Eve. We went to a neighbor’s house where there were about 5523 small children running around, and because we’re on the West Coast it’s easy to pass out a bunch of horns at 8:50, watch the ball drop in New York and have everyone in bed by 9:30. That is not what makes me old and boring. What makes me O&B is that I was totally fine with that plan.

I met a couple with kids the same age as mine, and they were very nice. “I hear you’re a veterinarian,” the man said. “Where do you work?” I explained that I worked with a home visit hospice practice, and he said, “Oh wow. Hard stuff. We just lost our cat.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “When?”

He looked at his watch, then his wife. “Hmmm. 5 hours ago?”

And I paused, because he seemed mildly bummed but generally pretty nonchalant, and I guess by now I’m used to people like me who tend to melt into a chasm of grief and despair for at least 10 hours, or in my case, a month, when their pet dies. But they weren’t bad people or horrible pet owners, they just knew the cat was 17 and on her way out so this was a natural part of the process for them. They had a different sort of relationship with their pet. I keep forgetting this is how it is for a lot of people.

Expert Loser

I have a few goals this year, some simple, some a little more challenging and unexpected. One of those goals, probably the main goal right now, is to finish the book I’m due to deliver by March (gulp). Right now it feels like a pile of viscera, just me spilling my guts out all over the keyboard about Emmett and Kekoa and how their lives and loss affected me, and it was hard to relive but I always took comfort in the fact that so many know what that particular type of loss is like.

Then I talk to people like these folks from the party, and think, oh my god, this book is going to bomb.

So I have a backup career, you know, like continuing to be a veterinarian and all. Lately, my thoughts have turned more to hospice care, since that is my current focus. I have some goals there too, to better understand and define what I can do as a veterinarian to help people through the loss of a pet. People who may be adrift in their grief surrounded by people like the guy at the party from yesterday have a really hard time when they don’t know that they too are perfectly normal, that profound grief is normal. We vets turn these people loose a lot of the time and leave them to fend for themselves. We can do better, at least I can, and that is where I am going to start.

I have, in the last 14 years, become much more of an expert on loss, so at least I have something to work with. I am an Expert Loser of Pets, which I guarantee was not on my future goals list in 2000 but that’s life for you. Much of our resolutions are based not on gain but on loss, shaking off all the garbage stuck to us like lint over the year previous: weight. Exes. Negativity. Addiction to reality TV. We gain much by learning to let go with grace, so in that respect, being good at losing is actually a decent thing to want to accomplish. 

Welcome, 2014.


Taking lots of pictures of Brody is, as always, a goal as well.


Filed: Blog, Daily Life Tagged: , ,
  • JaneK

    Happy New Year!

    • Thank you, and the same to you!

  • Annette

    Tough topic! Sadly there’s only one way to become an expert at anything. I know exceedingly more now than I did with Lambchop and that’s just 1 (intense) experience!

    It is a good reminder that everyone has their way and that no one way is right, even if it’s not our way.

    • So many paths, no two the same. Makes for an interesting albeit challenging job.

  • Lisa W

    Pictures of Brody always make things better. 🙂 I can’t wait to read the book!

    • Thank you! Brody’s always happy to pose. 🙂

  • Pamela | Something Wagging

    No, your book is going to be a massive success. Because there are many people who intensely grieve their pets who are looking for someone who understands.

    And don’t forget, the guy who lost his cat had probably had a few glasses of wine by the time he talked to you. He was just being macho.

    • That is a good point. We never do know what people are really thinking.

  • Megan Taliaferro

    Very nicely said! It’s always so interesting to see the range of people’s emotions when confronted with the loss of a pet. Similar to when I go over advanced diagnostics and some people are so grateful to have options while others just look at me like I’m nuts. So many ways to look at the same situation. By the way, I’m just like you. Just thinking about losing my 15 year old lab takes my breath away so your book will never be a bomb in my world… 🙂

    • I wish I could hand out a questionnaire ahead of time: Before I upset you by making you feel guilty or by not being thorough enough, are you a) I will do anything for love, b) “tell me every option but no guarantees” c) “nothing over $50”? Would save a lot of exam room awkwardness.

      • Megan Taliaferro

        Oh man, that’s brilliant! 🙂 That’s exactly what I need before I begin waxing poetically on CT scans and university referral. Or maybe some sort of secret hand signal a client can make that indicates ‘stop talking, I’ve hit my limit.’ Would certainly eliminate some awkwardness for sure. 😉

        I’ve made some of my own 2014 resolutions as a vet here:

        Never thought I’d compare my pets to cobbler’s children, but I think most vets can relate to that concept 😉 Love reading your blog, us vets have a lot in common!

  • ivypt

    I’m on my way to being an expert loser… Had to say goodbye to my 17yo calico this past Monday. Been on an emotional roller coaster since then. Our vet makes clay paw prints of the ones that have have gone on to Kevin, which I will be picking up tomorrow… Not sure how that is going to go.

    Thank you for blogging and looking forward to your upcoming book release..

    • Oh, I’m so sorry about your sweet kitty. All losses are hard but I don’t know, those around the holidays have always seemed extra rough to me. Big hugs to you.