Pug in a wheelchair

Does it sometimes seem as if you’re irresistibly drawn to animals least likely to appeal to the average pet owner? You’re not alone. We veterinarians have a knack for getting ourselves into trouble when it comes to taking on the sickest, neediest creatures out there.

These include (but are not limited to) the blind, the deaf, the aged, the behaviorally afflicted and the chronically ill. Diabetics, double amputees, FIV positives and eyeless wonders are examples of those I’ve personally helped.

It must be the “lost puppy syndrome” some of us are predisposed to. We’re the ones who find wandering dogs, kittens caught in sewage drains and baby birds belly up under trees. The difference is, we veterinarians don’t even have to seek them out. The seriously afflicted come to us.

The Calling Starts Early

I embarked upon my "needy creature" career in grade school, with my miserable attempts at backyard lizard medicine. As a result, more than a few cat-claw-punctured reptiles experienced the ends of their lives in my inexperienced clutches.

Eventually I graduated to foundling fledglings and unmoored opossum pinkies. It’s how I first learned that death was a cruel mistress. With those early beginnings, is it any wonder I’ve got a career for which euthanasia is a requisite skill?

Unfortunately, I’ve found this affinity for the helpless gets no better with age. Since then there have been the Trixies, Gingers, Lunas, Lolas, Lulus, Slumdogs and Pinkies, among many, many others — all whose health afflictions would have seen them euthanized if not for my inextinguishable, they-can-be-saved(!) sensibility.

Some Training Helps

But back to you, because membership in this club of needy animal magnets isn’t restricted to veterinarians. I know that some of you share my need to fix what few else can; have a willingness to commit to another creature, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant; and identify wholeheartedly with the ravaged and disadvantaged.

For some of us, this is a healthy drive. It’s one that enriches our lives and perhaps even lends a sense of purpose. Indeed, for some, the drive to take on these special creatures consumes us. It takes over swaths of our lives in ways those blessed by compassionate objectivity are wont to comment on (if they are brave).

Whatever the drive, taking in the "needies" requires dedication and know-how. Some of us learn by doing, as I did back in the day with my lizards, pinkies and fledglings. But anyone so compelled could benefit from from formal education, such as veterinary school, veterinary technician programs, wildlife medicine seminars, orthopedic rehabilitation workshops, shelter medicine lectures, etc.

But even when you don’t have access to such things, you can take direction from those who have either gleaned by doing or learned more formally.

In the meantime, soldier on, all you special needs animal lovers. I think our work is as necessary as it is noble, so here’s hoping you make your endeavors a rewarding part of your life, too.

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