By Lauren Smith, DVM
"That's life and as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks, stomping on a dream."
"It was the summer before vet school. Like any good, future vet, I had taken a summer job as an assistant at a local animal hospital. It was a small hospital in a strip mall. The owner, let's call him Dr. O for short, was currently the only vet working there as his associate had recently left; not that two vets were needed. The case load was small, some days only seeing three or four patients. Dr. O spent much of his day doing Shutzhund training with his German Shepard.
In between the few appointments that we did see, I would sweep, organize cabinets, stock shelves and sweep some more. After sweeping for the third or fourth time in a single morning, I would get bored and go up front to chat with the lovely ladies at the front desk, much to Dr. O's chagrin.
"I don't pay you to socialize," he would say. Honestly, I wasn't sure what he paid me for, since there was hardly any work to be done. Not that I was there for the pay check; I was there for the experience working with animals.
Of course, neither of us were getting what we wanted out of this gig. With such a small case load you'd think perhaps Dr. O might be able to take some time to teach me a thing or two, but you'd be wrong. He seemed eternally vexed by my restraining technique. He would complain every time I held an animal for him, but never once showed me a preferred way to restrain.
One time, after having me wrangle a particularly frightened and understandably uncooperative dog down on the exam table, I must have let up for a second. I can't remember if it was because I just couldn't physically hold the dog, or because I felt bad for torturing the poor creature. Either way, the dog got his head free. No one got bit, or hurt in any way. Dr. O went off on me.
"Never let go of a dog when you're holding for me. I don't know where they taught you how to restrain a dog, but you have no idea what you're doing. This is a dangerous job and you're not cut out for it. You should seriously consider doing something else."
I was devastated. I was already enrolled at Ross. My deposit was paid. This was my dream; one I was ready to leave my family, friends and country to achieve. And here was someone telling me I wasn't cut out for it.
Of course, it was ridiculous to let this man get to me like that. There wasn't one thing about him I respected. He didn't show respect for his clients or his patients, he treated his staff like crap. I knew that in my head, but my heart was still hurt. My nagging voice of self-doubt was suddenly manifest out of someone else's mouth.
I kept the job, knowing that it was only for a couple more months and all the other summer jobs at vet clinics had undoubtedly been filled. Dr. O's words stuck with me as he continued to berate my performance, but I soldiered on; determined not to let a small, unhappy man and a toxic work environment dull my excitement for my dream.
I survived the toxicity and went on to succeed in vet school. After a very short stint in another toxic work environment after I graduated, I found my place at first one, then another supportive clinic where I found mentors who helped me grow into the vet I am today - one who strives to offer not just excellent medical care to her patients, but kindness, compassion and empathy to her clients and who tries to always remember to respect and support others that she works with.
A few years ago, when a new graduate joined our practice, we got to talking about our experiences and lo and behold, I learned that he too had spent a few months working for Dr. O. He too had been told by Dr. O that he shouldn't be a veterinarian.
Mr. Sinatra was right - some people will always get their kicks, stomping on a dream. If they try to stomp on yours, pick it up, dust it off and dream."
About the Author
"Dr. Lauren Smith graduated in 2008 from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and completed her clinical year at Cornell University. Her professional interests include internal medicine, preventative medicine and client education. Dr. Smith lives and practices on Long Island with her cat, Charlie and dog, Frankie and loves to read, write, and run in her free time. You can check out more of her writing at LaurenSmithDVM.com"
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