The Veterinarian As Enabler (and Other Tales Told Out of School)
I have this client. And while I’m super-duper sure she’ll never read this, I will nonetheless obfuscate the true reality of this individual’s identity as best I can not just because it’s what’s right … but because her brand of cat craziness segues so perfectly into mine that I’ll finally have to admit the ugly truth: "Yes ... I am an enabler!"
That is, at least according to Wikipedia:
Enabling is a term with a double meaning.
As a positive term, it references patterns of interaction which allow individuals to develop and grow. These may be on any scale, for example within the family, or in wider society as "enabling acts" designed to empower some group, or create a new authority for a (usually governmental) body.
In a negative sense, enabling is also used in the context of problematic behavior, to signify dysfunctional approaches that are intended to help but in fact may perpetuate a problem.
Truer words have never been written. That is, on the "intended to help but in fact may perpetuate a problem" front. I mean, I’d like to think I’m nothing if not well-meaning, hoping to foster positive actions and all that. But the truth is undeniably more sinister.
Here’s the recipe:
- One client of extremely limited means with a feral cat problem outside her duplex.
- One veterinarian willing to help her spay and neuter them all.
- Add a creeping, increasingly delusional "must feed them all" mentality on the part of the client.
- Stir in some gargantuan colonies behind the Pizza Hut and Walmart and what do you get?
A nagging sense that things are getting out of control and that my assistance with this client’s increasingly overwhelming and very personal cat problem is ultimately feeding more than just the cats.
Because when the human being I’m supposed to be working in tandem with towards a tangible solution is unrealistically pursuing a larger goal of Sisyphean proportions, someone has got to call her out on it.
Sure, the truth is that I’d love nothing more than to spay and neuter the heck out of this individual’s entire population of cats (which now numbers into the hundreds, I’m sure). That’s what I’ve been working towards these last few years, anyway. But the dozens of cats I’ve spayed, neutered and otherwise treated on her behalf are a mere tip of the iceberg. And here’s the sad thing of it: They’re killing her.
We all know people like this. Some of us even recognize ourselves in them; hence, the willingness to help, perhaps. But at some point it seems we all require the assistance of a few choice boundaries before we can comfortably proceed. It makes sense. But how to put the brakes on a runaway cart? It’s easier said than done.
But then, maybe that’s just the enabler talking…
Dr. Patty Khuly