Recently someone here did something really nice and unexpected for me after I cared for their dog. It made me reminisce about the gifts I have received as a vet over the years. As a general rule, I only receive cards, letters, pictures, and presents when the pet has died. Interesting isn’t it. I’ve always thought this would make an interesting psychological study. It is exceedingly rare that I have received anything for regular care, or for heroics that ended in saving the pets life. Animal dies…gifts roll in.
Moving to Belize I had to go through literally every one of my personal belongings, every inch of every box. I have kept all the cards and pictures that clients have given me over the course of ten years. It was such a great trip down memory lane to look through all of those as I put them in a box to send back to the Canadian motherland. A few I remembered well, others I had long forgotten. I remember receiving a well used toy that teaches a dog to fetch in the water after a client’s dog passed away from cancer, knowing that my golden retriever was a poor swimmer. A rare card with pictures that a gentleman gave me after I vaccinated his kittens (no one died) with them playing on his screened porch, one of them showing the shocked expression of one cat as the other cat fell into the pool with a splash, the owner having shot the pic just before he scooped the cat out to safety. I couldn’t help but laugh just as much as I did the first time I saw it. I found a card stock photo of myself posing with a ten year old and her hand written note of thanks to me for giving her a tour of the clinic one day.
Many gifts revolve around food. I’ve eaten lots of those fruit arrangements that are meant to look like a bouquet of flowers days after a euthanasia. Banana bread with chocolate chips (yum) and boxes of chocolates at Christmas. Bags of homemade cookies and the odd gift certificate. I used to have an emergency room doctor that brought in baked goods from the specialty store every single time she came in. Bribery by cake? Perhaps. Did we look forward to her visits? Absolutely.
I’ve always written a card to the owner of every pet that has died in my care, whether it be euthanasia or otherwise. Some owners have actually sent me a card back in return, which I have never expected but have always appreciated. They have often included pictures of better times, when the animal was young and vibrant, telling me old stories of the pet’s youth; almost like you might do in an obituary. Here in Belize we don’t have home mail delivery. Many of us rarely check our mailboxes in town and so I do not send a card. I have missed that last connection that I can have with people over the loss of their pet. I know it can mean so much.
I have received so many heartfelt verbal thank yous here. I have also received a few gifts! The funny thing is, my gifts here have all involved not sweets, but meat. First tangible gift came after the unplanned death of a dog. Days later I returned to work from lunch to find that both Ingrid and I had a big aluminum covered dish in the fridge. Thinking these must be pastries I took a peek inside, only to find 2 full racks of smoked and grilled ribs. This is one of my absolute favorites. They came with full reheating instructions and were very delicious. Second was after I saw a cat with a terrible facial deformity, what I suspect was likely a cancer had resulted in him having no more nose or upper lip. I didn’t even take a picture, it was that shocking. The elderly man who owned him asked me if I could help him, and I insisted on euthanasia. The next week he showed up with a gift of multiple lobster tails he had caught himself. I did my best to do them justice.
Lobster Dinner at Home
The most recent was NOT after the death of a pet. It was an emergency that I had attended under special circumstances. The owners of this dog were very kind and thankful. I’m their vet (well, I guess I’m kind of everyone’s vet) but I also know them a little outside the clinic. I went out for dinner that weekend and happened to see them at the same restaurant. After saying hello we both went on with our evenings. Long after they had left I asked for our bill, but there was none, the waitress informed me it was all taken care of. Without warning I felt my throat get a little tight, a little water in my eyes. I knew who had done this, as unnecessary as it was, it was so appreciated.
I have never once expected or even contemplated getting anything extra for doing my job. I am always genuinely surprised when it happens. I am sure that every vet has a wide variety of experiences in this department, depending on their own personalities and their client relationships. It is always nice to be appreciated. Truly though, the gift of “thank you” is always enough.