My husband and I are surrounded by happy critters: our dogs, Copenhagen, Tilly and Philo, and our cats...Stella and Sambo. Each day we have the pleasure of returning home to be greeted by these happy, four-legged kids.
As a veterinary technician, I have the opportunity to share joyous moments with clients daily. I get to hold and snuggle puppies with a pocketful of treats to hand out, even if my patient jumps on the cupboards. I walk into the hospital every morning, knowing that there will be clients to teach and pets to care for. But as vet techs, we are also there to comfort.
Yes, first time puppy ownership is scary--- we are there to answer those not so silly questions. Vaccine pokes and bloods draws are terrifying--- we are there to hold and comfort. The dreaded scale! Don’t worry, we will be right there. Vet techs help loved ones trust that everything will be okay. Comfort isn’t something we do only for our patients, but that we do for clients as well as we build strong relationship with them every day.
So the question is why am I writing about trust and comfort between clients and veterinary technicians? Because I have wanted to---simple as that. Yes, we get to see all the happy times, and some of the scary times. But, we also see the pain of broken hearts when it’s time to let our pets go.
Just a little about me...while in high school, I loved working in a small town veterinary clinic. It was the highlight of my day. I didn’t have technician training yet, but I did my best to learn fast and help in any way I could.
There was one Monday I’ll never forget. I had a final exam that afternoon and it was the only thing I could think about. The veterinarian told me a euthanasia was scheduled that morning and that I would need to assist. When the family and their Labrador arrived, they were in tears. I put my head down and followed them into the room. They said many good-byes as I held the beloved dog for his last breaths while the doctor administered the injection.
But, wait…why did I not feel the same way they did? I know I said that I would keep them in my thoughts and prayers, but did I mean it?
Time went on, and I helped with many more euthanasias, thinking that same thing, and going on with my day. Then something changed.
My first dog was a Siberian Husky named "Holly." She was a blessing to my family, and she was 13 years old when cancer consumed her body. Now I’m the family in the exam room with tears flowing, and I realize I’m looking for comfort, comfort and trust. The first face I see is that of the vet tech. The way she was there for us was eye-opening. There were no hugs or words shared, just comfort knowing that my Holly was going to be okay.
She then crossed it...Holly crossed The Rainbow Bridge.
From that day, I knew why I wanted to be a veterinary technician. I wanted to help the patients, but I also wanted to be there for the clients. I want them to know I am here to help, to hold your loved one through your good-byes and tears. I now find myself weeping with families, then hiding in the bathroom at work until my eyes dry up.
We hurt with the families, and our hearts break, too. We do it because we are needed most in those moments. Some days I wish my job was to just play with fluffy animals. But, instead, I get to help. I get to comfort.
Those last moments with our furry family members are not something we want to think about. But know that if you want hugs, we have open arms. If you want to cry, we will be there with comforting words and tissues. And, if you want to talk about good times and laugh, we will find Dr. John to tell some jokes.
Just know, you are not alone. It’s not scary. Our pets will be free of pain and suffering as they cross over that bridge. And know that there will be a vet tech with you the whole way.
By Sarah Burford, VT
Sarah (Koeneman) Burford, VT is a graduate of the Vet Tech Institute of International Business College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She provides care and comfort to the clients and pets at Delphos Animal Hospital.