When life gets stressful, what do you do? Take a vacation. At least you hope that is what you will do,but I have discovered  it is easier said than done.

I decided to take a long weekend get away to Toronto, Canada. Once all the arrangements for the trip were made, I made preparations to be away from the practice. I informed clients of cases being currently managed of my impending absence, making sure things were going well and contingencies in place should there be problems.  Medical records were updated, client call backs  completed, and I made sure those who really needed to contact me could via cell and landline. All bases were covered-or so I thought.

As I settled into my seat on the plane, I realized I had not changed my voice mail greeting to reflect my out of town status. I retrieved my phone and corrected the oversight. In the process, several of my fellow travelers over heard me. Once I was finished, a gentleman asked, “Are you  a vet?”   to which I applied in the affirmative.

He began to tell me he was  traveling home to put his dog, Sam, to sleep. He was divorced with kids and the dog was truly a member of the family, pre dating and out lasting the marriage and being the only family pet the kids had ever known since he was several years older than them.  Sam had chronic kidney disease.  He told me of the medical visits and treatments they had undergone and asked if I thought they were doing the right thing. Not knowing the case, it would be difficult and unprofessional to answer his question but I could offer some advice. I suggested he evaluate the situation from this perspective: was Sam having more bad days than good days and was he living and having fun or just existing. If those things were occurring, he was giving Sam a chance to do something that we as humans often don’t, have a death with dignity. He thanked me, asked for a business card, and apologized for imposing. I shook his hand, gave him a card and assured him he was not imposing. I settled into my seat and quickly dozed off. It was 6:30 am.

I arrived at my destination, got settled and started my vacation. That evening while watching the news, I checked my phone messages. There were several from clients both supportive and frustrated I was out of town. Thankfully none were pressing and could wait for my return in a few days. There was also a message from the gentleman I had met earlier that morning. After apologizing for calling, he shared they had euthanized Sam and my advice had been very helpful.

As I write this on my phone in a Toronto coffee shop, I am reminded we get a chance to take vacations from what we do, but not from who we are.

Dr. Pierre B. Bland is a small animal practitioner who offers office and house call appointments to his clients.  His offices are located at 3225 N. Andrews Avenue, Ft. Lauderdale, FL and can be reached at 954 673-8579.