Confessions of a Veterinarian Who Can’t Turn Away an Orphaned Animal


I would if I could, but I just can’t. I may be a vet, but how many pets can one person take home and care for properly? Even with my big, 1-acre lot — as well as access to lower-cost pet health care — it’s an expensive and time-consuming proposition.

You see, I’m a veterinarian with a weakness for the downtrodden and the dumped. 

Four cats, three dogs, two goats and 11 chickens is not for the faint of heart, especially if you’re a single mom who works 60-plus hours a week. It’s just not doable.

All those different diets, daily meds, hygienic requirements and skin care regimens –– not to mention the cleaning! Ever mucked out a chicken coop?
 And did I mention the twice-daily milking schedule?

But that doesn’t seem to keep people (lots of them) from knocking on my door. It's as if having 20 pets means it is that much easier to take on No. 21. Not a day goes by –– and I mean never — without a request from someone begging me to help with the homing of a cat, kitten, dog, puppy, stray or stowaway.

I understand where it comes from. I really do. I’m in the vet business and in a position to help, so I do. But here’s the honest truth: It can be exhausting. 

This is why when I arrived at work early one day last week, I took one look at the box sitting by the backdoor and almost drove off to Starbucks. I didn’t, of course, because not even a frothy latte can possibly prepare me to face yet another discarded soul.

Bruce is his name. How do I know? This one came with an absolutely demoralizing note written by an obviously overwhelmed owner. It contains all kinds of depressing information about why Bruce ended up on our back doorstep, including, among other unsavory explanations, how the owner’s daughter is allergic to him and now in the hospital with a serious infection.

Again, I get it. My doorstep is far more alluring compared to the alternatives. In Bruce’s case, I somehow managed to magically conjure up a home for him in less than a week. I had also placed an FIV-positive cat a week earlier. And the week before that, I found a forever home for a kitten with a neurological problem whom I’d been harboring until he was well enough to be homed.

Yes, our stats are good, but I’m rapidly approaching the intersection of compassion fatigue and just plain burnout. It probably sounds like too much to ask, but I wish the next time someone dropped off a box with an animal inside, they’d be so kind as to include a couple of bottles of wine.

At the very least, it would help soften the blow.


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