I confess: I listen to way too much NPR programming—and I generally enjoy myself. During yesterday’s drive home, however—exhausted and looking forward to a calm night of childcare responsibilities (not!)—I listened with mouth agape at the salaries some newly-minted attorneys take down relative to their student loans (numbers like $150,000 annual incomes relative to $70,000 debt). Transpose the numbers and read the parenthetical statement again. That’s where the highest paid fresh-faced vets find themselves.

I want to holler when I hear that people think vets make too much money. Especially when my salary barely covers my mortgage, student loan payments, food and kid expenses. Savings? Not yet. Vacations? When someone else pays—and never, ever for more than a long weekend. How many professionals do you know with twelve years of experience driving a thirteen year-old car (apart from our unfairly financially maligned educators)?

And I think I earn a decent living—for a vet.

Practice owners are another matter. I know a few that do rake in the big bucks (a quarter of a million a year or so), I’ve even heard of some in the US that make over a million. But these are a tiny minority. And these elite players have taken pretty huge business risks to get where they are today. I think of them more as business professionals who happen to be vets.

Somehow, though, these big-practice, big-money vets are the ones who everyone looks to as exemplary of industry standards. Most pet owners don’t see the vets who will never afford to get out from under their pile of debt long enough to save a stash for practice ownership. By the time they relieve themselves of their debt burden, the risk of owning a practice seems suicidal—what with the kids’ tuition and/or retirement staring them down.

But perhaps you might think that ours is a lifestyle tradeoff. We don’t really have to work so many hours, you’d say, so—what the hell—it’s not so bad, right? Don’t tell that to the 80 hour week vet-slaves among our newbies…all for having the privilege of working with animals.

And that should be enough. Except that it’s not…not when you have to decide whether to take time to eat dinner or sleep…not when you regret not taking on that roommate (since you can’t afford the rent and you’re never home anyway).

I know I’m dropping off at an uneasy spot but—never fear—you’ll hear more of my diatribe tomorrow. After that? I promise a post full of sweetness and light.