Don't Let One Bad Vet Make You Lose Faith in Humanity
I often ask myself how I can help leave the world in a better place than it was when I found it. We all have different ways of doing this, of sharing our talents and passions to enrich others, but in my case it always seemed pretty clear that I was going to be one who gravitated towards the animal kingdom.
There are lots of ways to indulge this particular itch, be it becoming an animal trainer, volunteering with a rescue, living in the jungle watching chimpanzees, or fundraising for a shelter. But while many roads lead to one end, I moved with a single-minded pursuit to the medical side of things. It was a pleasure going to veterinary school and finding myself surrounded by like-minded individuals, people whose commitment to animals led them to spending their entire careers in pursuit of their treatment.
Although we all had different interests within the field and personality variations that pushed us to one type of work over another, I always functioned with the assumption that in order to become a veterinarian, one had to be in their heart a person with a deep thread of compassion.
So it was with shock and horror that I, along with millions of other people, saw the viral photo last week of young veterinarian Kristen Lindsey, who had shot a cat with a bow-and-arrow and proudly bragged about it on her Facebook page. It can’t be true, I thought. Maybe it’s Photoshopped. Maybe this isn’t a veterinarian.
But it was.
Lindsey’s tone-deaf actions and callous glee were so beyond the realm of what we expect of our colleagues that all I can say to the swift condemnation, investigation, and talk of charges is: good. Being a veterinarian, sadly, is not a guarantee of a kind and gentle heart—though I still think it’s the guiding principle that most of us continue to live by.
Compassion and kindness are learned, I believe, and we absorb the examples we grow up with. I could despair from this story, but instead I choose to be hopeful. I want to remind you all that these principles are still, regardless of what we read on the news, alive and well in the world.
Let me draw your eyes away from Lindsey and to a different part of Texas, to five young boys who stopped in their tracks when they noticed an emaciated dog wandering their campus. Close to death, little Londyn was covered in ticks, suffering from heartworm, and suffering from Ehrlichiosis.
The boys, standing with their sunglasses down and their hands stuffed in their pockets the way most teenage boys do, called a local rescue and sat with the dog until a rescuer arrived to take her to safety. The stark contrast between their approach to a stray animal to that of the renegade veterinarian is striking.
Lindsey was an exception, but there is no reason these young boys couldn’t be the rule. I can’t control what terrible choices others make in this world; all I can do is continue to model good ones in my own.
My daughter wants to be, depending on the day, an artist, a dancer, or a singer. She has no interest in being a veterinarian, and I’m OK with that. Nonetheless, she made me pull over the other day when she spotted a little Maltese sitting by himself on a sidewalk perilously close to rush-hour traffic. While I watched, she safely approached him, checked his collar for tags, and delivered him to the very grateful person in the house next door who didn’t realize the dog had gotten out.
Veterinary medicine may be the natural career choice of many animal lovers, but we certainly don’t hold a monopoly on the sentiment. And thank goodness for that.
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang
Image: Vinogradov Illya / Shutterstock