Monday, September 3, 2012

Internship Reflection

As stated throughout my blog, I’ve really enjoyed my internship.  I learned and experienced so much, and enjoyed every moment of it.  In reflection, there are several things I’ve realized after working at a Veterinary hospital.  The hospital that I worked at was a large, 24-hour emergency hospital, which was also associated with a kennel next to it, so we had to deal with more than an average/normal Veterinary hospital does.  Some surprising things I discovered during my internship were:  1) how many strays there are; 2) the amount of people who didn’t realize how much attention, money, and/or care an animal needs; and 3) the realization that these two issues actually overlap.  In addition, I also learned that being a Veterinarian is more than just taking care of animals; it also requires a great deal of counseling  of families.  I discovered that being a Veterinarian (and working in a Veterinary hospital) provides you with:  1) a greater sense of empathy towards both the animals and the owners, 2) the realization that no matter how much you would like to save every animal, it isn’t always possible; and 3) the acceptance that, sometimes, the right decision isn’t always the easiest decision to make.

As I noted above, I really can’t believe the number of strays there are.  We had so many stray cats and kittens at the hospital that we had to begin putting their cages in other areas of the hospital because the designated Stray Cat Room was filled to capacity.  As far as stray dogs, most of the dog runs and cages at the hospital were filled with stray dogs.  On top of all the strays housed just at the hospital, the kennel next door was also filled to capacity with stray cats and kittens, along with a few stray dogs as well.  The amount of strays there are is a serious issue in the animal world, with the fact that they keep reproducing, which causes the stray population to grow even larger, and causes diseases to spread even more.  During my experience this past summer, I unfortunately witnessed the euthanizing of many stray cats and dogs, even ones that were perfectly healthy and loving.  While I understood why it was being done (for disease, aggression issues, or because there just wasn’t enough room to house all of them, especially if no one was adopting them), it was always a sad and unhappy time.  There were even a few times that I teared up when it was a dog or cat who had been with us for a while and was perfectly adoptable—except for the fact that no one seemed to want them.

I also couldn’t believe that most owners don’t realize how much effort and money goes into the care of a pet.  Anyone who has a pet needs to be able to dedicate the time to taking care of their pet, loving and playing with their pet, and be able to attend to their pet’s medical needs.  It’s almost like having a child.  The most important thing that people need to do if they have a pet is to put the pet’s needs and best interests ahead of their own.  I couldn’t believe the amount of people that came into the hospital who either didn’t have money to have a needed medical procedure done, or the amount of people who put their own selfish desires ahead of their pet’s needs.  Working at the hospital and being involved with these situations really caused me to become even more aware of the issue of animal rights.  When most people think of animal rights, they think of animal abuse; however, it also involves what’s best for the pet.  People need to understand that what’s best for the pet HAS to come before the owner’s own interests.  Where’s the pet’s say in the situation?  Unfortunately, they have no say.  They rely on their owner to make decisions for them, and hope that each decision made will be what is best for them.  This is where the issue of animal rights comes into play, and I never realized how much of an issue/occurrence these kinds of problems are.  If the animal can’t even trust their owner to look out for them, then who can they trust?  Seems like all too often the animal can only painfully wait to pass away on their own.  Pets rely on their owners, so their owners should do what is best for them; just like they would do what is best for themselves or their children, when in a similar situation. 

I did find that the two issues I spoke about in the previous paragraphs do overlap with each other.  There are a lot of people who get pets without putting much thought into what it will take on their part to take care of that pet, and then end up just releasing them into the wild.  We knew this was the case with some of the strays that we received at the hospital because the animal would have a microchip implanted in them or a collar with tags still on them.  When we contacted the owner to tell them we had their pet, the owner would refuse to take them back.  This really shocked and saddened me!  People who do this don’t care about their pet, and they also aren’t helping the stray pet cause either.  Since the owner decided to not take responsibility for their animal, they should, at the very least, have the decency to take their pet to a shelter or adoption agency where they can release their ownership of the animal, so it can be put up for adoption.  Releasing their pet into the wild does the pet absolutely no good since they have no idea how to survive, because they’ve been dependent on people.  It really shocked and saddened me that people would actually do such a thing.  It really helped open my eyes to the fact that people will try to take the easy way out of a situation, without considering the consequences and effects of their actions.

A lot of the things discussed in the previous paragraphs also have some things in common with each other.  For instance, we had to do a lot of counseling of families based on a decision they needed to make or one they had already made.  We also had to inform families about all the things that are required by them in order to have a pet, because most families/owners don’t realize the time, money, attention, etc. that goes into having a pet; besides informing them about food, behavior, medical issues/fixes, etc.  We needed to do this because we wanted the pet to be in good hands and taken care of properly.  We also spent a lot of time comforting owners after they found out that their pet had a serious condition, that they might have to euthanize their pet, or after the euthanization decision had been made.  These decisions are always hard to make, and, thus, shows that the right decision isn’t always the easy one.  I remember how heartbreaking it was for my family when we had to finally put our Peekapoo (Pekinese-Poodle mix) to sleep, since she was such a loved and treasured member of the family.  When the decision was made to put her to sleep, she was very old and had all sorts of issues, including renal failure.  As hard and heartbreaking as that decision was, we knew that it was the right thing to do for her because she was in a lot of pain at an old age.  Everyone who works at the hospital either currently has pets or has had them in the past, so we all know how hard this situation is to go through.  This was why we always tried to make time to comfort the families who had made the decision to euthanize, as well as assure them that as hard as the decision was, it was the right thing to do for their pet.  We also spent a lot of time talking to people who were undecided about euthanasia or surgeries, discussing why the Veterinarians believed that decision to be best one for the pet.  The final decision was always still up to the owner, of course, whether we agreed with it or not; but we tried to comfort and inform them as much as we could, hoping that the owner would make the decision that was best for their pet.  As much as some owners really irritated me in the way they treated their pet or with the decisions they made, some owners really touched my heart with the amount of love, care, and devotion they had towards their pet.  It’s times like those which I just spoke about that were always really heartwarming to see and be a part of, and made my time at the hospital very rewarding.