To say that the past few years have been challenging is a mild understatement. Humans were handed an unknown and previously unimaginable pandemic and then dealt some heavy doses of social unrest, climatic catastrophes, and economic uncertainties as additional hurdles—lest we forget we are living in unprecedented times!
When grief over loss, isolation from family and friends, and worry over finances and future took hold, pets were one of the few places where people could turn for comfort. For both our bodies and our souls, our pets have been lifesavers—they made sure we went outside for walks, they boosted our immune systems and eased our stress, anxiety, and depression. They provided welcome diversions with their love and their silly antics. Scientific studies are being published from around the world showing that with the social restrictions imposed by the pandemic, one of the very few things that improved quality of life for humans was being a pet owner.
Many pet owners, frayed myelin hanging off their neurons as they dodged the slings and arrows of our current daily life, have vented their frustrations onto our veterinary staff. However, so many more are still deeply appreciative of our profession for keeping their pets healthy when they have needed them most. While I know many of you have suffered losses, setbacks, and unforeseen challenges in these trying times, please take comfort in knowing that by going to work you make a difference every day. You have done wonderful things in the world and brought life and joy to so very many. It is important now more than ever to take a moment and reflect on how integral you are to the well-being of others. Recognizing your contributions to others is an essential component in maintaining the resiliency to continue the good fight.
Gratefulness for my profession, for my colleagues, and for my interactions with pet owners and pets has never been felt more deeply than this year. When I didn’t feel like I could make my body defy gravity and push though space another day, I was able to take solace from knowing that my “team”—my colleagues at work, in the city, and across the country—were doing the same. Rather than my prior “suck it up, buttercup” mantra that I chanted in years past, I leaned on, and into, both my given family and my chosen one of colleagues and friends to ease burdens. With all the trauma and grief in the world, my ability to go to work each day and connect with my colleagues all over the region has truly kept my faith in humanity and made a huge difference in my outlook for the future. So, on a very personal note, thank you all for the impact you have made in my life.
I hope that you have a peaceful and restorative holiday season. In a (somewhat) chronological order for this upcoming and most festive of months, I wish you...Happy Hanukkah, Happy Dongzhi, God Yul (nod to my Norse folk back home), Merry Christmas/Feliz Navidad/Joyeux Noel, Joyous Kwanzaa, and a Happy New Year to everyone. (*apologies to anyone who is left out—I recently learned that there are 251 holidays worldwide in December!)
Finally, I just cannot bring myself to leave a festive letter without my favorite holiday movie quote, which pretty much sums up why veterinarians are the richest people I know: “All that you can take with you is that which you have given away.” —G. Bailey, the elder
Heidi Houchen, DVM, President