I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a ton of time lately with my dog’s head in my lap. I’ve lived with many dogs over the years, but it seems like no matter if I’m petting a lab, a Lhasa, or a coonhound, one fact remains- they always know when I need them there.
This has been an extraordinarily challenging time for everyone, no matter where you live or what you believe. Finding common ground and a sense of unity feels darn near impossible sometimes- until you start talking pets.
Like anyone who’s worked in a field where you interact with the public, I’ve met all kinds of people. One of the things I love most about veterinary medicine isn’t just that the medicine is cool- which it is- but to me, the joy is really in the immense honor and privilege I have in hearing the stories of what pets mean to us.
When I began working as an in-home hospice veterinarian, that took on an even deeper level. Unlike when someone brings a pet into the clinic, I was being invited into their homes to be present for a very momentous moment in their family’s life. I’ve sat on leather couches and corduroy; patio chairs and grassy blankets; sat in joy and sadness and dawn and dusk and no matter who, where, or when I was helping, I felt the same love and connection every time.
With COVID, this connection has taken on even greater meaning, as so many people find themselves spending much more time home in the company of their pets than they ever did before. Here in San Diego, our local Meals on Wheels partners with a rescue organization to deliver pet food to the seniors who rely on the program for healthy meals. Why? Because the volunteers realized many seniors were feeding their meals to their pets, choosing to do without themselves rather than have to give up the companionship of what is, for so many, their main source of emotional support.
When I feel frustrated with the state of humanity and start to wonder if things are as much of a lost cause as it sometimes feels like, I like to think that dogs and cats really do cause us to reveal our true natures. When no one’s watching, how do you interact with your pet? As hard and as rough as things can get, that answer remains constant. We all have the capacity to both give and receive a deep and unconditional love.
This belief has allowed me to be online talking with pet owners all over the world for over a decade, and allowed me to treat every family I encounter with the same dignity and respect. When it feels like there is so little space for common ground, nowhere to start and build upon, this love we share with our pets has consistently served me well for many years, and I hope it does for you as well.
When I first met the Life’s Abundance team and began writing and getting to know you all, I knew right away that this family felt the exact same way I did when it comes to how we honor and love our pets and each other. I’m so grateful to be here with all of you and get to celebrate all the little joys that our pets bring into our lives. Be safe and well!
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM
If you found this interesting, check out these related stories:
The Many Health Benefits of Living with Dogs
Why People Prefer Cats