Thirty-five years ago, on the waiting room wall of our family’s first vet, this passage from the actor and cowboy Will Rogers was mounted in a frame:
The best doctor in the world is the veterinarian. He can’t ask his patients what is the matter- he’s got to just know.
What Mr Rogers said still holds true today. Our veterinarians must have enquiring minds, good social skills (with dogs and people), observation capabilities beyond compare, a good network for researching and diagnosing illnesses, and the dedication to continue learning as new drugs and medical techniques are developed.
Did you know that last year (2011), marked the 250th anniversary of the veterinary profession? French veterinarian and animal pathology researcher Claude Bourgelat established the world’s first veterinary school in Lyon, France in 1761. Another school was established several years later in Paris.
I get to witness the rapport between client, dog and vet when I’m allowed to sit in on Gumboot Morrall’s post-surgical examination with Dr Tim Nottage of the Merivale Papanui Veterinary Clinic in Christchurch. Gumboot - ‘Boots’ for short – has had a 1.2 kg tumour removed from his abdomen. His owner, Min Morrall, tells me that Gumboot is a 10-year old Labrador cross and that she takes all her animals to Dr Tim for care and treatment. She’s obviously comfortable at this practice as she shares the latest news with the receptionist while waiting for her appointment to begin.
Dr Tim immediately asks for a progress report from Min, who says that Boots is walking again, although slower than normal. Whilst he works on Boots to examine the surgical scar and drain the wound, Dr Tim asks various questions of Min. These range from Boots’ appetite and medication to Min’s opinion on how her dog is doing. Throughout his exam, Dr Tim murmurs encouraging words to Boots. Afterwards, he gives Boots a treat which Boots happily accepts before heading for the relative safety of the reception area, clearly happy that his uncomfortable visit is over.
Our veterinarians go through years of education and training to become qualified and then their lifelong journey commences as they learn from their patients as new cases are presented. Today we are reaping the benefits from a profession established over 250 years ago and the lives of our animals are better for it. When you are next at your vet’s office, consider the words of Will Rogers and watch a true professional in action!