Why Professional Vets Should Press Into Their Clients Pain

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By Dr. Nancy Vigil

I like to read bumper stickers. Some of them are funny, like the one I saw recently that said “I do eat more kale.” Well, I’m glad somebody is doing it.

Last week as I pushed my cart through the grocery store parking lot, I saw one plastered to the back of a mini-van amidst various pet rescue stickers that said, “My Dog is the Center of My World.”

Wow.

As a veterinarian, that will make you take pause but as a Christian veterinarian it made me catch my breath. What a responsibility we have to care for what is, in many cases somebody’s best friend. As people are increasingly injured by their human relationships, they are turning to pets for companionship and love. And here we are as veterinarians with a whole new paradigm for practice!

I could go on about this because this trend in society fascinates me, but that’s not what I am writing about today. Instead, I want to explore how as health care providers, we have the courage and strength to help individuals walk through difficult times with their pets.

When that client, whose dog is the center of her world walks into our clinic with her pet, she is totally invested in that animal’s well-being. Whether he is coming in for a toe nail trim or a serious illness, she wants to feel that we are available and providing our best service. It is easy to make that happen most of the time when a patient’s illness is readily treatable and within the client’s financial limits.

But it becomes very challenging when the pet has a terminal illness or requires treatment that the owner cannot afford. Then, veterinarians may become the scapegoat for the owner’s pain and frustration. Owners become emotionally charged, draining the practitioner of time and energy. And while we may feel distracted, tired or even impatient it does not change the client’s reality –she still is losing one of the most important pieces of her life!

I will admit that I have been known to cringe when I see these needy clients on my schedule, even complaining about them to my techs. As humans, we want to avoid painful situations and resist being forced to face them.
We whine and worry and make excuses, even blaming the hurting person for making us deal with them. But as a Christian, I have recently discovered a powerful truth; we can press into the pain instead of wanting to run from it.

We have an opportunity to be a burden bearer as it says in
Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the Law of Christ.”

By gently and compassionately walking alongside hurting clients as they face difficulties they cannot navigate alone, we are fulfilling the Law of Christ, which is to love the Lord our God with all our strength and love our neighbor as yourself. Who else will understand the way we can? Who else
will provide relief to their hurting pet the way a Christian veterinarian can?!

Make yourself available to listen, to offer practical ways to make their pet comfortable, and to cry. But the trick is this –as we carry the burdens of others, we must let Jesus carry
ours.

We will feel weak and heavy-laden but He will give us rest. As I said before, press into the pain. Picture Jesus’ bruised and battered body on the cross, remembering that He died for that client whose dog is the center of their world. Envision yourself touching the holes in His hand and
side and know that He also came for you! Jesus came to justify the many, and to bear their iniquities. As his followers we cannot shirk away from difficulty and pain in dealing with others as we fulfill the law of Christ.

Nancy is a graduate of Michigan State University, and has been married for 31 years to her best friend and classmate, Dr. Aaron Vigil. She raises two children , serves her family and church community and practices veterinary medicine.

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One comment

  1. Gail Jackson

    Thank you for this reminder I am printing out and sharing with my Christian work mates at our clinic we needed this reminder of the value of our jobs. Keep it coming so glad I found this.

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