Veterinarians practice gratitude

Seeking antidotes to a rough year, some offer doses of positivity

Published: November 24, 2020
By Jennifer Fiala

Photo by Dr. Raven Klone
Dr. Raven Klone brings her coonhound puppies to her practice in Waverly, Nebraska. "Random puppy cuddles through the day are, after all, what we are supposed to be doing," she said on VIN.

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Dr. Nora Formandl of Barriefield Animal Hospital in Ontario, Canada, slung her stethoscope around her neck and paused for a second, realizing that after nearly 30 years in practice, it still gives her a thrill.

Sharing that spark of joy on the Veterinary Information Network, an online community for the profession, she wrote in a recent message board discussion: "With all the craziness happening recently, I am trying really hard to enjoy the little things at work. Walking around with that thing around my neck makes me feel so professional and doctorish and reminds me how excited I was when I got my first stethoscope and realized I had finally become a real vet."

Dozens of her colleagues, all living amid a pandemic and exposed to the vitriol of a contentious U.S. election year, chimed in with their own moments of delight. Many practitioners reported that appreciation from clients is what keeps them going during stressful times. Others cited appreciation for solving complex medical cases. Here's what makes them smile:

"Watching ear mites under the microscope. Suturing a laceration and making it look pretty. Flipping the oto/ophthalmoscope in my hand like a gunslinger."

Dr. Jessica Alcorn
Rainbow Veterinary Clinic
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

"Doing a C-section and pulling a swack of live puppies out. Suturing Mom while you hear the pups starting to squeak. Makes me feel like a magician pulling a string of rabbits out of his hat."

Dr. Marco Veenis
Okanagan Veterinary Hospital
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

"A good abscess. Hissing spitting 6-week-old kittens that think they are all that and a side of fries. A sebaceous cyst. A diagnosis that another vet missed and I got to nail (I had the benefit of his/her previous work to help me). Full anal glands, especially in front of the owner who is then seriously grossed out. A client that truly is appreciative and thankful when we can help, and sometimes when we can't. Puppies, especially Lab puppies with puppy breath. The satisfying pop of reducing a luxation. A sincerely interested and attentive owner, who wants to learn for all the right reasons. A well trained dog that is friendly and behaves in the clinic."

Dr. Jeff Redman

Ellijay Animal Hospital
Ellijay, Georgia

"When my 19-year-old old hulk of a son is helping at work and says, "Mom I got pooped on, can I borrow scrubs?" I say "sure," and he somehow picks the only small top and comes out looking like a crop top. I tell him to grab the mediums, he grabs the lady style one and his biceps are about to bust the seams."

Dr. Betsy Condon
Highlands Pet Hospital
Concord, North Carolina

"Doing a follow-up on the poor dog with the terrible skin condition that you just knew was sarcoptic mange (but couldn’t verify on skin scrapings) and two weeks after giving ivermectin on a hunch, the dog is completely normal and happy."

Dr. Gabe L. Bercz
Paw Print Animal Hospital
Cincinnati, Ohio

"Holding a cat's face in my hands and looking into their eyes. I love cats SO MUCH. They haven't gotten old after eleven years in practice as a feline-only vet."

Dr. Amanda L. Perkins

Cat Hospital of Metairie
Metairie, Louisiana

"One of my favorites is finding the foxtail in the giant abscess. I literally throw my own end-zone celebration party and insist on showing everyone in the room. I also really enjoy that as an ER doc, I still see at least one 'new' (meaning something I personally haven't seen before) thing a month."

Dr. Sarah Hileman 

Animal Emergency & Specialty Center
Reno, Nevada

"I, too, even after 35 year in practice, enjoy the things that are doctorish, like pulling on my surgery gown and introducing myself to clients. 'Hello, I'm Dr. Williams,' and I think, 'WOW, how cool is THAT??!!!!!' I noticed last week that I really like using the pill counter too! When I get really stressed I put on a pair of my Mickey Mouse ears to wear in the back. Last week for the first time I accidentally wore them into an exam room! Oops!"

Dr. Marianne Williams

Animal Emergency Clinic
Grand Terrace, California

"Unblocking a cat and getting that bladder empty. It is SO satisfying to have that catheter slide in, and I just imagine the relief. Especially if said cat was super grumpy, and the next day is the sweetest, cuddliest cat ever. Getting an anorexic cat to start eating. I make everyone stop and breathe quieter just so we don't startle them!"

Dr. Kristina McLaren
Gloucester Veterinary Hospital
Orleans, Ontario, Canada

"Solving unusual cases (I had a dog in hypothyroid crisis once, watching that dog walk in the door happy for T4 checks later was the best!) Watching wounds heal, especially the bad ones that take what seems like forever. New procedures and surgeries."

Dr. Amanda Kress

Iowa State University
Ames, Iowa

"The hospitalized dog, greeting its owner who has just arrived to take it home. Such unbridled bliss is rare in the human world!"

Dr. Robyn Limberg

Riverview Veterinary Center
Saint Clair, Michigan

VIN News Service commentaries are opinion pieces presenting insights, personal experiences and/or perspectives on topical issues by members of the veterinary community. To submit a commentary for consideration, email

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