Hi, I kill animals for a living.

I’m often a fair bit awkward with small talk… the other person usually needs to be pretty stellar at it for me to be even remotely comfortable with carrying on a conversation with a stranger.  This actually happens a lot, turns out, but that’s another story…

You know what DOESN’T help with this awkwardness?

Being a vet. Seriously.

Most common small talk location: a taxi.

Cabbie: “So, are you a student?” (A very common opener in a town with a large university.)

Me: “Nope, I moved here for work.”

Cabbie: “Oh yeah? What do you do?”

Me: “I’m a veterinarian.”

Cabbie: “Oh yeah? I had a dog. She was put down a month ago at the clinic you just told me you work at.”

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THAT? I generally say “Aw… sorry. That’s never easy.” And they either go on about their dead animal and why they were put down.. or the conversation awkwardly dies.

And it’s not just cab drivers… I’ve been at parties and had someone go on about their dead pet once they find out I’m a vet. Because while I’m having a few drinks with friends, the part of my job where I KILL YOUR BELOVED PET is exactly what I want to talk about. Yes, it’s hard. No, it’s not a part of the job I enjoy. I’m sure you COULDN’T do it, that’s why I’m a vet and you’re not. COULD WE PLEASE TALK ABOUT THE OBNOXIOUS SONG THAT’S PLAYING RIGHT NOW INSTEAD?

Have also had this conversation in a loud bar:

Random: “YOU’RE A VET? MY DOG JUST DIED!”

Me: “I’M SORRY.”

Random: “YEAH, HE WAS OLD. IT WAS TIME.”

Me: “YEAH. IT’S HARD”

Random: “I STILL MISS HIM.”

Me: “. . . I NEED ANOTHER DRINK, NICE TO MEET YOU” *walkaway*

Because if I can barely hear you, it is not the time to have a heart to heart about your dearly departed Fido. I hate having to ask people to repeat themselves when discussing a sensitive subject. And I don’t feel very sympathetic if I have to YELL my condolences at you.

Please don’t misunderstand – I get that putting down your pet is a hard thing to go through and it sticks with you. I had my Charlie cat put to sleep over 5 years ago now and I can still see every detail of that vet visit in my mind. I understand that if you’ve ever had a pet euthanized, that’s likely what you’ll think of when you meet a vet.  And you know what? With the cab drivers I’m kind of used to it. It can make things super awkward, but a cab is a venue for random small chat and you work with what you’re given. But at a party? Or a bar? Or any occasion where I’m probably trying to have fun? Forcing me into a discussion about what is probably fairly obviously the worst part of my job? Not so much with the appropriate, I’d say…

However, the “oh, you’re a vet?” party conversation that takes the cake? The time this girl was super excited to find out I was a vet so she could discuss her pest problem. She wanted my opinion on exterminating these pests. I would walk away, she would find me again and bring it up again. I really wanted to just say “Listen, I am a VETERINARIAN, not an EXTERMINATOR… I save animals, I don’t kill them!”

…but then I remembered my usual party conversations. I guess I do kill animals. Boo.

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About dottiemaggie

A veterinarian living and working in St John's, Newfoundland. I love my job, and I love my home. Professionally I am passionate about critical care and client education. Away from work I am passionate about enjoying life, spending time with friends, enjoying hobbies of all sorts, and exploring this wonderful province I call home.
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19 Responses to Hi, I kill animals for a living.

  1. linlah says:

    I would say “how cool, ypu’re a vet”

    On the other hand if I were you and while I might be your sassy OLDER twin, if someone asked me what I did I’d might say, I’m a Doctor, and if they followed that up with “what kind of Doctor”, I’d be compelled to say

    I specialized in the health maintainence of domesticated invertabrate with an emphasis on proper diet and exercise?

    Lots of words, $10 dollar words, confuse them with lots of words.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      Haha, that would be an excellent response.. I will try to remember to try those $10 words ;D

      and to be fair, a lot of people do that “that’s cool!”. I’d say at least half the people I met wanted to be a vet at some point in their life…

  2. janicep says:

    I wonder if people focus so much on vets putting animals down because they haven’t involved the vets enough in the pets’ lives. If you’re job is a conversation killer, I think that’s a reflection on something else that society is doing wrong. Vets should be a whole lot more to pet owners than the person who gives pets their shots and puts them down.

    By the way… Hi. Love your blog so far. I suspect I’ll be back again. I’ll try to control my rants, though.

    Linlah – When I think of invertebrate, I think of slugs. Does she really want to be known as the woman who works with slugs?

    • dottiemaggie says:

      I am the woman who has a slug living in her kitchen, though…

      Anyhow, no worries on the rants, I’m prone to them myself 😉
      Certainly some folks don’t have enough vet memories to say anything else.. but for some people it’s just the strongest memory. And if I’m being fair, people with new animals are more likely to talk about their new pet than anything else no matter WHAT they’ve experienced with vets 😉
      but I honestly think the only cab drivers I’ve had who haven’t talked about euthanasia are the ones who have never had pets…

  3. omawarisan says:

    Not a vet, but I run across a similar thing. Don’t know if you see it this way, but is it that they just dont know when to stop..or how?

    Good luck with your blog, it came highly recommended!

    • dottiemaggie says:

      hahaha, at parties I definitely think there’s a when/how to stop issue for sure!! Which is how I end up in the “do you know anything about birds?” “not much” “oh… well, anyway, birds birds birds birds birds” conversations… 😉 People get a thought and it runs away with them ;P

      and thank you!! 🙂

  4. Kate says:

    Found you from Linlah. I love how you write, so funny. I’m awkward too with talking to strangers, but it makes it very difficult you being a vet. I’m a teacher so you can predict the conversation that follows.

    For what it’s worth (you probably don’t want to know this because now it’s going to become a awkward internet conversation) but I had 2 pets put down and both times the vet was a huge comfort to me and my family. I don’t think of that when I think of my vet (who I’ve been going to for the past 22 years…I don’t know what I’m going to do when he retires). I think of how amazing it is that I have a place to take my animals to be cared for where they like the person and they don’t have great anxiety about it. I bet you’re that kind of vet.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      thanks 😀

      To be fair, I don’t really mind people telling me ‘happy’ euthanasia stories – I just think there’s a time and a place. I’d say right here on my blog about it would actually be an appropriate place 😉 Parties, not so much. Cab rides are okay, unless the cabbie cries… or had a horrible experience and hates all vets ;P

      I do try to be that kind of vet – I had one for my cats before I became a doctor myself, and it did mean the world to me 🙂 And I think I’m doing okay, since a couple of my clients who’s animals I helped them say goodbye to, have brought me their new puppies or kittens for health checks. Pretty much the best compliment a vet can get, I’d say.

  5. Audubon Ron says:

    Small talk with vets for me go something like this:

    Vet: She came out of the spay surgery very well, she was pregnant a little, that was extra (what?), we put fluid in her so she’ll be peeing every five minutes for the next two weeks, we cleaned and flourided her teeth (I’m thinking she eats cow shit, she’s dump off dog, fluoride?), we did her nails (what? now a manicure?) and you will need to bring her back in ten days to remove the stitches (I’m thinking those stitches aren’t going to last ten minutes much less ten days) and give her one of these pills each day for pain.

    Me: How much is that?

    Vet: Well, mortgage rate interest is a low 4.9% today.

    Me: Is one of those pills for me?

    Vet: Ha, ha, No, for the dog.

    Me: I got a pain too – in my wallet.

    Vet: That’s funny.

    Me: (Subvocalized, “no it isn’t”)

    I stopped over from Corn-bean.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      LMAO!

      Yeah, I get one or two people from time to time who have a “the vet took all my money!” kind of conversations 😉
      And sometimes, they’re justified in their complaints (some clinics do get a bit ridiculous..)… but sometimes I have to bite my tongue and walk away because the person clearly thinks I should be offering my services for free ;P and as someone with $88’000 of student debt, I clearly have an opinion about how “over priced” I am…

      but, if they made me laugh like you did, i’d let them get away with it 😉

  6. Holly B says:

    You could just tell them that you’re a paid assassin. They probably wont ask for many details after that =]

  7. Susan says:

    I am a former civil servant who worked for a department about which everyone had a poor opinion. I learned almost immediately to never divulge my true identity.
    Rock on, animal killer.

    • dottiemaggie says:

      ;D
      I should just start calling my profession after the ‘fun’ stuff i do…
      “what do you do?”
      “stick my finger up butts.”
      “look at pee.”
      “play with puppies” ;D

  8. Nice blog! =D I have wanted to be a vet since I was in second grade; but I can’t even kill a mosquito…not even if it was dying already. I understand that putting down animals is for their own good, but I really don’t think I could do it. Do you think that would be a big barrier in my career? Sorry, this isn’t really the place to ask this…but I was just curious what you thought. Also, yesterday at a local vet, a man brought in a couple feral cats he had caught to be put down; I didn’t really hear the conversation, but they seemed healthy enough. Is it normal for vets to put down healthy feral cats? Thank You

    • dottiemaggie says:

      unfortunately, euthanasia is a pretty significant part of the job. A lot of the time, though, I think it’s ultimately the best part of the profession – that we can end our patients suffering. Unfortunately, we do sometimes have to put down healthy animals – whether because they’re feral/unwanted, or they have a fixable problem the owner’s can’t afford to fix. 😦 Some vets/clinics will refuse to do healthy euthanasias… but the truth is, if someone wants an animal dead they’ll find a way. I’d rather know it was done humanely.

  9. frigginloon says:

    Corn Bread told me I should come over here and shit in your nest. Sheez, should have told me you were a vet now it feels damn awkward , you see my dog died …..kidding.

    Imagine the poor medical doctors if we put down people. They would never go out 😦

    • dottiemaggie says:

      ;D

      true story, someone wanted to try to set me up with a guy they knew… i told them not to. why? i had put down his dog. How would you like to show up to a date and see the face of the person who had just killed your dog?
      I’m kind of laughing imagining if a that happened to a medical doctor if they put people down… ;D

      • frigginloon says:

        LMfrigginAO. It kinda makes for a Cohen Brother movie.

        I’m not even a vet but I have a friggin lifetime of vet stories. There use to be an Indian vet where I lived and he diagnosed every cat with friggin ringworms. Cat could have been hit by a car and bleed profusely ” Sorry to tell you, your cat has ringworms!” (please insert moving head and Indian accent). Ah good times.

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