I often realize, where I enter so enters my profession. A challenge and burden I willfully accept. I see being a veterinarian as a privilege and a blessing. A lifelong dream fulfilled and a life time adventure. I was one of those kids who always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I am often asked what that was like.
I watched every episode of the weekly wildlife programs like “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”. “Bill Burrud’s Animal World” and the quarterly National Geographic specials. “Daktari” was my absolute favorite. “Daktari,” which is Swahili for “doctor,” was a weekly drama set in an animal hospital/compound in Africa. For the first time, I say people who looked like me interacting with animals. Looking back, I find it ironic to see my first role models, be it probably subliminally, on network television than on the reality TV of the day. Even today with the availability of multiple TV networks based on nature and animals, diversity is sorely absent.
I voraciously consumed all the books and field manuals on animals in my school’s library and would beg and promise my parents anything if they would purchase the newest set of the World Book encyclopedia when the sales man came to call. We always had dogs as pets that were joined by the occasional bird, fish, and mice. I even almost talked my parents into purchasing (so I thought) a monkey. I would visit him at a pet shop during our weekly grocery shopping trip. The week I visited and he was not there, I was sure the monkey had been purchased by my dad and would be waiting for me upon our return home. Actually, the monkey had died and the pet shop manager was kind enough to let my Dad know, so he could tell me when he thought the time was right.
In my teens, I grew more practical in my views and actions towards a career in veterinary medicine. I was able to shadow a few local vets as they did their large animal rounds and saw patients in their clinics. In doing so, I experienced the universal career starting point of all veterinarians, cleaning cages. Literally starting at the bottom and working your way up. It is the one skill you develop that will be used throughout your career. I have come to realize it is one of the common points between doctor and staff. A good veterinarian leans early on, you should never expect your staff to perform a task you are not willing to perform yourself. Over the years, I have cleaned so many cages, it is a reflex action. Just doing something that needs to be done. The closest analogy I can come up with is the way parents become accustomed to changing diapers.
In retrospect, it is strange how such little stories become the seeds of a career. I am so thankful I was allowed to dream big and follow thorough to make my dream a reality.
Dr. Bland is a small animal practitioner offering house calls and office call to clients in the Broward County area. His office is located at 3225 N Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale and can be reached at 954 673-8579.