At the moment I am in the throes of the busiest season for veterinary hospitals. My unit in particular, the Isolation Unit, is seeing a non-stop flow of new patients being admitted. It's peak season for non-vaccinated animals to pick up serious infectious diseases like parvovirus, panleukopenia, and pneumonia. These diseases can be deadly, particularly to very young puppies and kittens who may not have had the benefit of their mother's milk, rich with antibodies needed to help protect them. As a result, my job is becoming increasingly stressful both physically and emotionally. Most patients spend anywhere from a week to more than a month in my unit and it's almost impossible not to get attached, especially to the animals who come in from the adoption unit who have never had the love and care of an owner.
This was by far the worst week I have had so far in my career as the Isolation Unit LVT. The economic downturn has forced us, like so many other businesses, to curb spending which means we are understaffed and overworked. It all finally took it's toll on me on Thursday. A very tiny kitten from Adoptions, named Aristotle, had come into the unit two weeks ago practically dead, but we managed to get him up and moving again. We all agreed that, while all kittens are cute, Aristotle won the competition with his big eyes and extra fluffy fur. Tipping the scales at 12 ounces, you could hold him with one hand and he would perch right there in your palm. When he got hungry he would shove his face against the bars and meow with a voice much more powerful than one would expect such a small creature to have. Needless to say, he won my heart. Aristotle, with a myriad of health problems, had good days and not-so-good days. The beginning of the week brought on some of those not-so-good days and by Thursday he weighed only 8 ounces and his big personality had subdued a bit. After placing him back on intravenous fluids and doing a series of blood tests that showed more problems looming it was decided by his doctors that euthanasia was the most humane option for him. Because the hospital was so busy, the sad task fell on me. I was heartbroken but agreed to it as I knew I would be gentle and loving through it all. I was unable to hold back my tears and sobbed as I held him for the last time.
Two days later, another of my kittens, Felix, went into heart failure and had to be euthanized. This time I held him while the doctor performed the euthanasia and we both cried for our little patient. It was my last day of work before my weekend and I was emotionally drained. Besides these little kittens that we couldn't save, there are currently a few other patients that seem to be suffering so much it's difficult to look at them without welling up.
I went to yoga this morning as I typically do on Sundays but my mind was still preoccupied with my rough week. My yoga instructor suggested to the class that we try to take whatever was on our minds and clear it away, find a way to move past anything that we were hanging on to. I immediately thought of Aristotle and Felix and what I could do to rid myself of my sadness. I don't often think about Heaven or the afterlife, what it is or if it even exists at all but I found myself imagining those two kittens in some other place, healthy and pain-free. I started thinking about people I knew who had passed away in recent years and for some reason I thought of our family friend, Annie, who passed away from lung cancer a few years ago. Annie was a close friend of my mom's; they had worked together as nurses for many years. I imagined funny, gregarious Annie scooping up the kittens and gushing over their absolute cuteness. And I made my decision right then and there that Annie would be my guardian angel for all my animals that couldn't be saved.
I'm optimistically hoping that my weeks will begin to get better but if I have more like this week at least I will have something to focus on when the job takes it's toll. As silly as it may seem to some people, it makes me feel so much better to think that their is a good soul waiting to take care of all the animals that didn't get a chance here.