We dogs tend to idolize our humans, so I of course see Handsome as the most wonderful being ever (which coincidentally is just the way he sees me!). But he’s not my only hero. I have a lot.
First of all, anyone who gives me food, ever, is my hero (or heroine – I’m using the word “hero” regardless of gender) at that moment, with all my heart. Or anyone giving me a tummy rub for that matter.
And secondly, I see a lot of dogs and people who do amazingly brave things. Rescuers, crimefighters, firefighters, defenders of their country, all that. We domestic dogs often get credited with being selfless, but those beings show a caring for others beyond themselves that makes even us gasp.
But I find another group of humans particularly stunning. And I want to talk about them today: Healthcare Workers.
There are all sorts of healthcare workers out there. Doctors, surgeons, nurses, chiropractors, acupuncturists – I love them all and owe my life to them. And so does Handsome. And so, I’m pretty sure, do you. Even if you haven’t ever had a life-threatening illness or injury, have these people kept you alive through their care? Or was one of your parents saved from something that endangered their life before you were born? Well, then if it weren’t for the devoted workers who saved them, you’d never have been here at all, right?!
I don’t think there’s anything easy about working in medicine or health. For starters, even I know those required classes are hard! Handsome often tells me he would have loved to become a veterinarian, if only he wouldn’t have had to pass Introductory Biology – and the study gets a lot harder after that.
Then we all hear about how much work those professionals have to go through once they’ve finished their study (I know it’s very romanticized, but if you’ve ever watched Grey’s Anatomy, that shows some of the crazy work that medical interns are put through). Long shifts, food we dogs might turn our noses up at, ungrateful or even mean patients, and lots of grotesque sights and smells.
And then there’s what we know is the very worst part: the guarantee of failure. No human or animal lives forever, and those who try to keep us going face death in their patients all the time. Or even failures that aren’t death – injuries that never fully heal, or diseases that permanently maim someone – all of it is heartbreaking. We always hear people say they’re afraid to get a pet because it’s so sad when they die; imagine facing that every day at work.
My best friend Aria died last year of a cruel cancer. The oncologists who worked with her lose dogs and cats to that disease constantly. Somehow they soldier on through it (and yes I use that word on purpose – these souls are soldiers in a war that never ends). Imagine being a heart surgeon, or a specialist in geriatric (a big word for old people) healthcare. You’re fighting against time every day, and time will always win eventually.
We saw probably the greatest example of the bravery of healthcare workers ever a few years ago, during the height of the COVID pandemic. These incredible people went in to emergency rooms, intensive care units, or even just their regular offices every day, facing, fighting, and daring exposure to a disease people knew hardly anything about. Then, as we all saw, a bunch of yahoos all over the world made it worse by spreading misinformation about the disease, encouraging people not to mask or distance, lying that vaccinations didn’t work (I hate shots and fully understand those who chose to not get vaccinated, but that does not mean those painful injections aren’t saving countless lives), and even attacking healthcare workers for doing those great noble deeds.
And now we hear about people leaving the health industry, burned out by these exhausting years. What a horrible awful disgusting fact that is – they should be honored and lionized, not struggling with finding a new career that doesn’t mean as much to them.
But in the end, I have to stick with what’s personal to me (I know, that’s an odd word, but “dogal” doesn’t exist!): I love every veterinarian and vet assistant in the world.
I love the ones who have a natural gift that makes us love them, and those who don’t, and so have to work harder at it.
I love the ones who make me feel good, and the ones who have to spray things up my nose and stick needles into me, and even cut me open.
I love the ones who run clinics and the ones who only walk the dogs around or pet the cats, and the ones who just sign patients in at the front desk.
I love the ones in cities and those who travel around to farms.
I love the ones who help horses, lions, gerbils, parakeets, elephants, donkeys, pigs, barramundis, and yes, even cats. But you know I most most most most love the ones who help us dogs.
So I have two requests for you, dear reader. First, if you’re young and thinking of what to do with your life, please think hard about going into healthcare. We don’t know the future of a lot of professions, but this one’s going to be around as long as any animal is still living.
And second, to all of you, please let your healthcare worker, of whatever sort, know how appreciative you are of them, of the work they put in just to get here, and of all they’re doing for you.
They deserve it, and, who knows, today might be the day they most need to hear it from you.