I live in a Star Wars Fandom household. I’m pretty sure the main reason my Gen-X, Comic-Con loving husband agreed to have kids was that so he would have an excuse to buy every Star Wars Lego in existence and drag his ancient Millennium Falcon action figure out of the garage. He tried, unsuccessfully, to get me to wear a Carrie Fisher costume to a party (nope). We met Mark Hamil once before he became relevant again and it was the highlight of our week.
I may not be as nuts about the Star Wars universe as he is, but I do like it. It speaks to me like it does to so many, about the universal themes of good and evil and the ordinary heroes that lie within us all. It is where I learned to be fearful of creepy dudes who lick their lips their too much. And the character who changes everything is not the hero we worship from afar but the wrinkly, wizened old dude who hangs out behind the dumpster and looks like he might smell weird.
So without further ado, in honor of this auspicious May the Fourth I’m happy to present the Top 5 Lessons Vet Teams Can Learn From Yoda:
So much of what we deal with, the anger and the nastiness from upset clients, has nothing to do with us, no matter how it may feel at the time. Fear- of illness, of guilt, of money issues, of losing their pet- it can make people insane, especially around the holidays.
But we are vet Jedi (Veti?), and we know that we need to respond to anger not with more anger, but by addressing the underlying fear. Think Luke versus Vader in that last confrontation. It takes a long time to perfect this one, but you always have to try.
What strikes fear into your heart more, a Golden with an ear infection or an angry cat with a corneal ulcer? Trick question. The answer, of course, is always a chihuahua with an abscessed tooth.
Appearances in general can be deceiving. Like the guy whose soles are falling off his feet and leaves his dog with you while he goes off to find the money for his pet’s x-rays and then, despite the predictions of the staff, comes back an hour later with the entire amount in cash. Or the tough guy who needs an extra half hour alone in the room with extra tissues after you euthanize his boxer. Never assume. Or if you must assume, assume only the best and let people prove you wrong.
Of all the crazy Veti powers we have, I think many of us would agree that being with our clients in the moments of a pet’s transition is among the most awe-inspiring and powerful. Pets do not fear death, and often, it seems, even welcome it. The way we help clients experience this and understand it sets the tone for how they view death not only with future pets, but for themselves. I’ve been preaching this one for a while as a hospice vet, but let me tell you, as the daughter of a woman who died in hospice- this stuff matters so, so much.
You can take a time of horror and dread and make it ten times more traumatic, or you can bring people an incredible level of peace. Choose well. It is a true honor and responsibility.
We are surrounded by self-proclaimed internet experts in every topic from nutrition (mostly nutrition) to behavior to immunology (ok, that one too.) I get it- the allure of an easy path to fame and fortune on the back of a few pithy tropes and some mumbo jumbo about GMOs and toxins has to be hard to resist, especially when it’s so damn lucrative to trade on people’s fears.
It’s easy to for someone to swoop in with a sexy black outfit and some heavy breathing and convince the world they’re more powerful than they really are, and when you’re the one in the drab brown cape practicing swordplay in a swamp for a decade or so it kind of sucks when you see the other guy getting all the credit while you take all the lumps. All I can say is, be patient, padawan. This stuff always falls apart in the end when it’s no longer in vogue and the world moves on to their next diffuse enemy and life-saving snake oil. You, on the other hand, will always have your integrity.
We have chosen a challenging path. It’s not glamorous, easy, or particularly lucrative. Depression, economic stressors, and burnout abound. Before the internet, most of us suffered alone and with no idea that our colleagues deal with all the same fears, worries, and doubts.
There are two things you need to take from that:
- If you are in a dark place, reach out. There will always be someone to grab onto your hand.
- If you are in the light, be that hand for others. Be available. Be patient. Be someone’s Yoda. Show kindness to your colleagues, you must.
May the force be with you.
Jessica Vogelsang is a San Diego veterinarian with Paws into Grace and the creator of the popular website pawcurious.com. Her writing is regularly featured on outlets such as dvm360, Vetstreet, and petmd. Her debut memoir All Dogs Go to Kevin is available in bookstores, online, and as an ebook from all major book retailers. For more information about the book and Dr. Vogelsang, visit drjessicavogelsang.com.