I love Christmas. But I hated Christmas working emergency as a veterinarian.
I euthanized more pets in the two weeks surrounding Christmas than I did in the surrounding three months combined. This is a consistent, repeatable phenomenon common to all clinics- a combination of holiday stress, low funds, and the uncanny knack of pets to get very sick at the most inconvenient of times.
Yesterday, in a clinic in the Pacific Northwest, a woman went into the emergency clinic with her beloved dog, who hadn’t been feeling well. The dog developed a pyometra, which is a terrible, life-threatening condition if not treated immediately with surgery. The vet presented the woman with the estimate: $2,000.
And the woman just did not have that much money. She just didn’t. So she sat in the waiting area, sobbing over the reality that this Christmas, she was going to have to euthanize her pet. I’d like to say that this is an uncommon thing, but this is the reality that plays over and over in veterinary hospitals everywhere on this holiday.
Another couple was in the waiting area with their cat, who also needed to be euthanized. This is Christmas in the ER. It stinks. Not a happy place to be.
But this couple saw this stranger, and said to themselves, how sad that we both must be in this sad situation on this joyous day. And they said, well, we can’t save our cat.
But we can save her dog. And these anonymous strangers gave their credit card to the receptionist and paid for this woman’s dog to be saved, asking not a thing in return.
I have worked in the field for ten years, and I have heard of these stories, but I’ve never seen it happen myself. But I know this woman, and I know her dog, and this did, in fact happen.
The kindness of strangers, the love we have for our pets, transcends so very much. Every time I think I’ve just about had it with people, I hear a story like this, and my faith in humanity is restored. That kind of gift is something that boggles the mind.
I was sitting in the middle of a pile of wrapping paper when I heard this, my dogs licking my feet, the kids running around, and my curmudgeonly mind was utterly blown. A very Merry Christmas to you all, and I hope every day to have in my heart the kind of compassion these strangers showed to a woman and her dog (who is now at home, safe and sound.)
May your days be merry and bright!