Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Building Walls

It's the walls.

You build walls for protection when you fear the pain. Over time, you build more walls, thicker, higher, sometimes in layers that must be penetrated one after another before they can get to you. Inside the walls you can survive. Survive is good, but once inside the walls you cannot see the outside of the walls, and thus you miss that out there that is not about the pain but instead is the good. Eventually you may forget there is an outside.

Often a client asks, as you gather around the table with its dog or cat lying still and quiet upon it, but no longer in pain and despair, thanks to your needle and skill......"Doc, I don't know how you do this...." And their voice hangs in the air, dripping a bit on your shoulder and bowed head.....

You tell them that this is one of the most important things you can do, for when all else is done, you can grant a quiet exit for a dear friend, so that is what you do. And they thank you through their tears and you hug and then they leave so that you can wrap up a limp body in plastic and place it carefully in a freezer. And the pain settles in there, and you promise yourself that it will be ok, and it is not, and so you build another wall.

That spot inside your right cheek, the one you chew on when you really need to rip some asshole's head off and you cannot, and you watch them take the abused neglected animal away to where you cannot force them to let you help, and you know they will let it rot, and you say to yourself....forget it. It's not your problem anymore. Get on with things.

And the pain settle in there, and you build another wall.

Soon enough you are so changed that you cannot see yourself without walls, and you cannot see outside the walls, and those you love cannot see you within.

And then somebody puts this silly thing up on your feed, and they force you to watch it even though you fear it, and it works. It finds a way through all the walls, and it feels for and then hits that place deep in your heart, and you feel the walls fall away leaving you completely exposed and defenseless. Perhaps the tears flow...

You wonder for a moment why this one gets to you, and then in the mirror you see..... This is why you do this thing, for them and despite what it does to your self. But you have to drop the walls before you can even remember why. It takes a silly thing like this to drop the walls.

That bit is the sad bit.


  1. You make a difference. Every spay/neuter that keeps puppies from dying, every HGE that allows the dog to go home to play with its family, every GDV you de-torse, you make a difference. Build the walls out of cardboard -- they're easier to tear down that way, though I certainly do understand their necessity at time. <3, a fellow ER vet

  2. Waving at you from behind my walls.

  3. I just wanted to say thank you for your blog. I came across it one day months ago while doing some soul searching and found it to be very compelling. I came back today just to read this post while coping with the diagnosis of FIP and euthanasia of my beloved kitten, all within 24 hours. I will never understand how your hearts can take it but I thank you and everyone like you in the veterinary field for the difficult job you all face on those grim days.

  4. I have that spot in my right cheek, too.

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