Sacrifice vs. Value

Everyday I get to experience the way people approach their relationships with their pets, I get to see the way they relate to their family members and how they respond to the world around them. I see people at their best and at their worst, sometimes within the span of an hour. It is a wonderful aspect of my job that I try not to take for granted.

Of the things I have learned from being open to learning from the experiences of other people is that how approach understanding our situation plays a huge role in how our situation affects us. This is most true, I have found when looking at the big life choices we make and how they change our lifestyle and perspective. More often than not, it comes down to seeing life’s big decisions in terms of value rather than sacrifice. A person who sees their life choices in terms of sacrifice is focused on the things they have given up where a person who sees it as a matter of value sees their situation as a series of decisions. Choices that they made for themselves based on what they value more.

Let me illustrate my point with some examples from my own life.

I did not sacrifice the freedom of single life in order to marry my wife. Rather, I decided that I value having a life partner to share this adventure and some of the burdens of life with more than I value the freedoms that come from being unattached.

I did not sacrifice eight years of my life and a large portion of my future earnings in order to become a veterinarian. Instead, I value having a career that I love and being part of a profession I admire far above simply earning a living. I’ve spent the past few years since graduation making a life and I don’t feel like I have really had to work at it for a single day. It’s been a wonderful adventure so far, I am enjoying the present and I look forward to the future. For me, it was a simple but powerful value based decision.

Along those same lines, my wife and I did not choose to sacrifice our time, money and freedom to have our children. Instead we looked at what we were doing with our time and decided that we valued the process of raising little humans to live in this world above everything else. It was by far our greatest value decision so far and while there are times every single day where we both feel up to our necks in frustration and struggle, I still wouldn’t call it a sacrifice. In fact, I can’t think of anything of value to me or anyone else that doesn’t require some hard work and voluntary discomfort to attain. I value my children and my relationship with them above almost everything else.

For your sake and peace of mind, stop looking at your life and seeing all of the sacrifices you’ve made. Start looking at the situations you find yourself in as value based decisions. You’ll find you start to question your actions more and that leads to positive personal growth. Do you really value being right over your spouse’s self confidence? Do I value being in charge over my daughters’ self education of the world around them? Do we value saving face over the satisfaction of a client, especially when we know we did everything as well as anyone else could? I hope you know the answer to these questions, but can you see how if we looked at it as a sacrifice rather than a value statement the answer might be entirely different? By taking a value based perspective you make more ethical and ultimately more sustainable professional and lifestyle decisions. Try it out. Enjoy the results.

I’ve recently come across a few articles from the same blog that fit this theme well but from a personal finance/lifestyle perspective. I’d like to share them with you. One. Two Three.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Having pets is expensive.

And the expense is directly proportional to the number of pets you own.

In the past 20 years, science and technology have advanced much faster than they did in all of the years leading up to the past few decades. You are using the primary engine in that progression right now to read the thoughts of an opinionated and immature veterinarian. You could be using it to watch hilarious animal videos instead.  Or accessing all of the known information about the entire universe. These giant leaps in science in technology have lead to incredible advances in the diagnostic and treatment options for your pets. These giant leaps in science and technology also come with some pretty hefty price tags.

Unfortunately I have been using my access to the internet to read an article entitled “Vets are too expensive, and it’s putting pets at risk” you can read it for yourself but I’ll sum it up for you. Veterinary care is expensive. Sometimes people can’t afford the recommendations we make. That makes this author upset. My version is a little different. We as veterinarians are tasked with allowing you to make a decision about the care your pet receives by offering all of the options that make sense. It would help in definitively diagnosing torn ligaments if we did an MRI but that doesn’t usually make sense so I don’t typically recommend it. What we should never be doing is assuming you only want to the cheapest, most basic services. You can tell us this, but we still have to let you know what would be best. The frustrating part from both sides is that due to social and cultural issues that are beyond the control and scope of the veterinary/patient/client relationship, many people feel like they are obligated to do the best option we recommend and they end up feeling pressured into that care by either themselves, the veterinary staff, a mixture of both or just the situation in general. I can’t tell you how much delicate diplomacy is required when dealing with someone who just ran over their own puppy.

It’s true that some veterinarians are not good people. By and large however, veterinarians are kind, compassionate and honest people who went into this profession for all the right reasons and stayed because it is the coolest job we can imagine. We do have veterinarians who run up bills or offer unnecessary treatments and those vets both give the profession a bad name and earn a bit of eye rolling when we see the records if the client changes veterinarians. I don’t typically become incensed at it. At least not in the same manner as I do when I see situations where a client was clearly not given even the option to refuse the best recommendations and was instead forced into a situation where their pet received the most basic often inferior treatment.

About two years ago, I saw a cat that was not walking on his back limbs, at all. He had been seen by another vet who took a single x ray of the back legs correctly diagnosed that there were no fractures, gave an injection of pain medication and sent the cat home. Total cost was about $125. The cat came to me a few days later when it wasn’t getting any better. I discussed options with the owner and while they decided that referral to a specialty facility was not within their budget, sedation for a series of x rays to determine a treatment plan was. On x ray we determined that there were indeed no fractures but both hip joints had been dislocated. I explained this to the clients and again gave them a few options. In time we decided that the best course of action would be removing the heads of both femurs and then suturing the joint back together, a procedure called femoral head and neck incision. The surgery went great and the cat walked into his carrier, rode home and walked into his living room a few days later. I removed the staples two weeks later and the cat was getting along fine. At his last annual exam he was doing incredibly well. Total cost for the ordeal was $1027.10. Was our clinic more expensive, yes by almost 10 times the original visit. But in the end the owner has a cat who can walk and is pain free. She was given her options and determined what was best for her and we supported her decision. Many people reading this will say to themselves, “$1027.10 for a cat! I would never pay that much.” We would find a way to support whatever you were to decide as well.

Yes, veterinary medicine is expensive. Yes, we are always going to let you know what your best options are. No, the decision is not ours to make. No, we aren’t going to judge you for making a particular decision.

Thanks for reading.

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When the bad apple strikes

About now the story about the veterinarian in Texas who killed a feral – possibly owned – cat with a bow and arrow has made its way around enough to almost become old news. Normally, when I see a story involving a veterinarian and some sort of wrong doing, I try to find a way to understand how things went the way they did. Maybe the veterinarian was under a lot of pressure and couldn’t perform to the appropriate standard. Maybe they convinced themselves they weren’t doing it wrong, they were doing it “old school.” I might not like it and I might lose some respect for a colleague but I can at least rationalize to myself that weren’t really bad people. This one, not so much. I’m not posting a link to the story on purpose. If you haven’t seen it, it’s easy enough to find.

I’m not against hunting. I’m all for hunting I think hunting is a great tradition but this has nothing to do with hunting. I could almost even get behind it if there was some sort of bizarre city ordinance that allowed for the hunting of stray cats. As bizarre as that might sound, Wisconsin considered the idea in the Spring of 2005. Almost get behind it. I think that ordinance was a pretty terrible idea.

But it turns out that this particular cat might have actually belonged to someone in the neighborhood. So if you have an indoor outdoor kitty, when you let them in this evening for dinner, imagine the person you call when the cat is sick or needs its yearly physical putting an arrow through its head. And then bragging about it. Gross right?

A lot of my colleagues are upset by how this reflects on the profession, gives us a bad image and other things that are important but in my opinion slightly besides the point. Yes it sort of casts a black eye on the profession but in reality that is the biggest part of confusion and outrage in most of the people commenting on the issue. You’ll read it on every website it’s currently posted on, “but she’s a vet!” Unfortunately, some veterinarians are bad people. There are almost 100,000 of us. Even cities of 15,000 people have crimes. It’s part of being a collection of human beings. Some of them are going to make really bad decisions and a few will even be really crummy people. It happens. That doesn’t excuse it when it does but it should keep us, all of us, from acting as if that one somehow represents that entire group of people. They don’t.

So what do we do about it? The justice system will sort this one out. Maybe she’ll do jail time. Probably not. Maybe she’ll have her license revoked. Again, probably not. Maybe she’ll learn that actions have consequences and being a terrible person is a great way to make your life harder than it needs to be. Somehow, I don’t think people like this learn all that well.

For me, I’ll keep living by the same creed I’ve been living by since taking my oath. I want to go to bed tonight a better veterinarian and a better person than I was when I woke up this morning. But I might be just a little more deliberate about it in light of the actions of one of my “colleagues.”

Thanks for reading.

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The amazing truth about prevention

I spend a great deal of my time recommending preventative care. Measures and steps we can take today to prevent illness, disease or injury in the future. I try not to judge people when they fail to utilize the safeguards modern science and technology have afforded them but I am only human. There is a little voice inside my head that shouts, “Come on! We already know your dog/cat is allergic to fleas. It’s 2015, why are you not using flea preventative? Why is this poor animal tearing its own skin off because of its flea allergies?” But that doesn’t help the pet, doesn’t help the owner and doesn’t help the practice. It doesn’t even make me feel better. Unfortunately, I know that from experience. I learn the hard way. Always.

Let me share with you a story about a man who owns a house here in Vermont. He and his wife bought the house a number of years ago and it had some very basic upkeep that had to be carried out. Simple stuff. Like many of the houses here in central Vermont, the house has hard water. So there is a water softener. You know how these things work right? You fill the water softener with salt, the water is pumped through a tank of plastic beads that bind up the minerals in the water. Eventually, the beads become saturated and need a recharge, that’s where the salt comes in. The salt cleans and recharges the beads allowing them to attract more minerals. The water then heads through a filter and out into the house. No problem.

After living in the house for over two years, the man and his wife noticed that their heat upstairs didn’t work as well. They had that fixed, the circulator needed replacing, not super expensive and after 20 years t made sense. A few weeks later the other circulator, the one that fed the downstairs zone went. Odd but also 20 years old so not really a head scratcher.

Then it got weird, the water pressure was intermittently off. The couple had a plumber come out and replace the 20 year old well pump, the switches and the pressure gauge. It helped for a while but then the problem was back. Now it was weird though, now the how water didn’t work in the showers. It worked everywhere else but not in the showers.

The man and his wife realized if they changed the water filter more regularly, the water pressure problem was solved. But there was still the issue of the hot water, why couldn’t the hot water get through the showers. It took another three weeks for them to realize they hadn’t put any salt in the system in months. The mineral deposits on all the dishes didn’t spell it out plain enough for them.

They added the salt and it wasn’t magical but the water went back to normal within a few days. All that frustration and likely hundreds of dollars in repairs could have been avoided if they had simply remembered to use their water preventative. In this case, salt.

I know this story because I am the man in the story. My lovely and patient wife never said a mean word in my direction when we finally realized that the problem was my forgetfulness.

So the next time you’re feeling guilty about not using a preventative measure with your pet, look at your vet and think, “This could have been the idiot who almost destroyed his home’s plumbing by skipping out on the salt.” And then use the preventative because just like the salt, prevention is the better route. If you’re struggling with the financial aspect of flea and tick prevention, read this post.

Thanks for reading.

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Is my dog going to die from chocolate?

With the big chocolate holidays behind us, I figured now would be the time to tell you just how big of a bullet you just dodged. I will share this truth with you in three stories.

Back in the mid-nineties our family had a Newfoundland with the completely inappropriate name of Spike. Spike was a giant dog – read that as 200 pounds giant – and a bit of a counter surfer. I once watched him eat 6 T-Bone steaks in less than a minute. Bones and all. One Easter season, Spike ate not one but two bags of Hersey Kisses. Did we call the vet? Did we rush him to an emergency clinic? No, we did not. At that time, our veterinary relationship was adequate but we weren’t “A” listed veterinary clients and the thought to call the vet probably didn’t even register in anyone’s mind. We left it alone and he was fine, we laughed about all the foil in the sizable dog piles Spike left in the yard and life moved on.

Fast forward to current times. We now have a 70 pound mixed breed dog who eats everything. He is very appropriately named Angus. Last holiday season he ate an entire pound of mixed light and dark milk chocolate. My wife and I both being veterinarians, did the math and realized he was likely to experience a bit of diarrhea and maybe some vomiting. The only thing worse than having your dog wake you up in the middle of the night vomiting, is to wake up to diarrhea and vomiting. So we made him vomit and we went to bed. And nothing happened.

Around the same time one of my regular patients, a dog with owners that do maintain that “A” listing with our clinic called at the end of the day. This 15 pound dog had eaten about an ounce of chocolate. If you do the math and if you consider all chocolates equal, this dog should be fine. If you consider all chocolate to be equal I will trade you a Hersey’s Dark bar for a Scharffen Berger any day of the week. No, this dog ate a piece of 86% Cocoa chocolate. The good stuff. The potential complications included death. So he came in, I induced vomiting. His vomit smelled delicious. Then I gave him some activated charcoal. A medication to stop the vomiting and some intravenous fluids to dilute out any of the potentially dangerous compounds in the chocolate and encourage urine production. He was going to be boarding with us for a few days the following day anyway so I let him go home for the night where he did just fine. He almost died and the owner probably still has no idea. I have a tendency to downplay things a bit, especially when they turn out exactly as they should.

So there you have it, chocolate can kill your dog. Or it might do nothing. Between those ends of the spectrum is vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and seizures. A seizing dog having diarrhea is a nightmare. In case you were wondering.

If your dog gets into chocolate and you know how much it was and what kind, call the emergency clinic or your vet and run it by them. If you don’t know what kind or how much they got, we’re going to have to assume the worst. If you think you might downplay the amount of chocolate your dog got into so you don’t have to look stupid in front of the vet just picture yourself explaining to them that your dog died after coating your kitchen in chocolate scented vomit and diarrhea while having a seizure and go with the option you are most comfortable with.

And if you want to treat yourself (not your dog) to some chocolate: go for it.
Scharffen Berger

Thanks for reading.

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How to Perform an Exam on Your Pet.

You are the best tool for preserving your pet’s health.

Your veterinarian sees your dog or cat once or twice a year. Yes, we have the benefit of examining thousands of dogs or cats every year and are pretty well warmed up to give your pet a thorough once over at their yearly check up but there are so many little things that we’d like to know about. What if Fluffy has an allergy to a certain tree that flowers in May but his yearly physical is in March? You notice he’s really itching a lot in May but you were just at the vet’s office, if anything was wrong they’d have noticed because you being the discerning pet owner you are only go to great veterinarians. So Fluffy suffers through the flowering and next March it’s completely slipped your mind. Or worse yet, you call the vet and ask what you should do, they recommend an antihistamine, it kind of works or at least your mind tells you it’s working and your attitude sort of tells Fluffy he feels better and everybody’s happy. Except Fluffy who wishes he had thumbs to make a fist and punch you in the head and then dial his vet, make an appointment and punch the vet in the head too. What are we to do then, you ask? I am going to arm you with a tool that will prevent all of this from happening in the off chance dogs and cats do develop thumbs. The tool is you. This is how you examine your pet.

If you have a cat or dog under 40 pounds, pop that little guy right up on the kitchen table. If that grosses you out, grow up, clear a spot for your pet and remember to wipe it down when you are done. This is important. If your dog is over 40 pounds it’s probably better to examine them on the floor. If your cat is over 40 pounds you better have a big litter box. And a lion. To find out how much your pet weighs you can weigh yourself, then hold your pet and do some math. You could also use this scale if you have a large pet.

We’ll start at the front of your pet. Start by petting and talking to your pet. If you don’t talk to your pet normally, there might be something wrong with you. Just describe what you are doing. Start with the feet, pick them up, look in between the toes, look at the nails and the pads on the bottom. Figure out how the joints move and move them through a range of motion.If your pet doesn’t like having his or her feet touched, welcome to my life. Don’t get bit. After you have determined that Fluffy’s front legs are in good shape run your hands flat along the front of the shoulders and up into the armpits, any lumps? If no that’s good, if yes they may be lymph nodes. Hold on to that thought and check below for what to do when you find an abnormality.

Now we’re going to make our way up to the head. Run your hands along the neck and up under the mandible, any lumps? Look in the ears, if you can lean in and smell the ears, they should smell like dog or cat. If it smells really bad, that’s an abnormality. See below. Look in the eyes, these should be clear and bright, the whites of the eyes should be well white. Feel the nose, is it wet or dry? Whatever. Doesn’t matter, stop calling me about wet or dry noses. Also, don’t touch the nose, that’s gross. Now we’re at the mouth. Seriously, if your dog/cat is going to bite you, don’t do any of this. Getting bit is not fun. I know. At the mouth, lift the lip and look at the gums, look at the teeth and note what you see. The gums should be pink, there might be some pigmented sections. The teeth should be whitish, they should end in rounded points and should be smooth. There should not be a low tide like odor coming from your pets mouth. If your cat’s mouth smells like a vagrant peed on a Christmas tree, that’s an abnormality. Any brown or grayish junk you see in the mouth doesn’t belong there, if the gums are reg at the edges of the teeth, that’s not good. Broken teeth are not good. While you have the lips lifted, go ahead and brush the teeth. You should be doing that at least five times a week. Here’s a fun Toothbrush Kit.

The hard stuff is over. Now run your hands along Fluffy’s sides and along the spine. Can you feel the spine and the ribs really easily? You should be able to feel them but not see them. If you can’t feel them. That’s not good. Run your hands along the abdomen, make Fluffy roll over or lift her up and look at the skin on the belly, is there any redness any lumps or abnormalities, if yes, see below. Run your hands along the back legs, looking for lumps move the joints, look at the feet. Anything seem off? If yes, see below. On the inside of the thigh is the femoral artery, if you put your hand against it you can feel the pulse, feel it for a few seconds, get used to it and moving forward any changes are a problem. If you run your hand backwards against Fluffy’s fur you can see the skin. Is there a pepper looking substance in there? If yes. You have fleas. Indoor cat you say? If the only thing keeping fleas off your cat is the fact that they live indoors, you probably have fleas. For more about fleas please go here.

Now if you are really brave, look at the tail, lift it up. Under the tail is the butt. You will recognize it, I promise. If you are super brave, squeeze just under the anus. Does it feel like there are marbles in there? That’s an abnormality.

Congratulations, you have just examined your pet. Did you enjoy it? Go ahead an do it as often as you like, though once a week is more than enough.If you did not like it, try to do it once a month. If you got bit, I warned you.

If you found any abnormalities: Call your veterinarian.

Thanks for reading.

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Natural (Veterinary) Medicine

“We’re taking an all natural approach to Fluffy’s veterinary care.”

“We prefer all natural so and so treatments/foods etc.”

I hear it everyday. If I were a logic professor I would remind my “students” that “appeal to nature” is in fact a listed and documented logical fallacy. But this is veterinary medicine and people (including myself) can honestly categorize their relationships with their dogs and cats using almost any word but logical.

Professionally, I respect your right to treat your property (pets are property) in any way you see fit. Personally when I hear someone using the appeal to nature fallacy in my exam room a little voice in my head says, “Natural, you want to know what’s natural? Cancer is natural. Dying from an infection caused by a simple laceration is natural. The diseases and conditions I treat all occur naturally. The bacteria and viruses I vaccinate against are natural, they are also organic and gluten free. Natural is letting your pet suffer from degenerative diseases. Natural is my enemy. I wake up every morning with the sole intention of whipping Mother Nature into submission. Mother Nature is harsh and indifferent, she doesn’t care one way or the other if your pet is suffering, if they are alive or dead. I do.”

I typically can keep that voice silent. But it’s always there. Right now the naturally inclined reading this are thinking, “If natural isn’t better why do we see so much more cancer/diabetes/thyroid disease/kidney disease etc.?”  Those same arguments typically lead to blaming commercial pet food/vaccinations/medications for all the increases in disease. To set the record straight, that is completely true. If it weren’t for vaccines, commercially produced and regulated pet foods and the complete pharmacopia available to our pets, they would never develop any of the diseases we see our dogs and cats dying from. That’s because we see our dogs and cats dying at ages over 12, sometimes over 20. Without the protection of modern medicine, these dogs and cats would be lucky to see 7. I know, I know you grew up on a farm and had farm dogs that never saw the vet and ate with the pigs and lived to be 18. Ok. To that I would say two things. First, whenever I hear the argument that someone’s grandfather drank whiskey, smoked cigarettes, ate bacon every morning and steak every night and lived to be 99, it doesn’t encourage me to adopt those behavior traits in my own life. Same goes for the farm dog. Second, I have seen animals age quite a bit in people’s memories, sometimes even within the space of a single examination. I once witnessed a cat go from being 11 years old at 10:00 am to being over 19 by noon. I’m not saying you’re lying, I’m saying memory is a tricky thing.

For reasons I do not fully understand there are Veterinarians out there who offer natural medicine. I suppose wherever there is demand, someone is going to meet that demand. It just ain’t me.

A fun book about our misconceptions.

Thanks for reading.

 

Fleas and Ticks on your Cat or Dog?

Spring is here. The snow is melting away leaving a lot of mud, the grass will start to break through the layer of brown thatch soon and fleas and ticks will start to be a more regular finding in our exam rooms. There are a ton of really good and effective products out on the market. It seems to me the best way to sort them all out would be ease of use and cost per application.

A quick word about natural products. If there were natural products on the market that had the same efficacy as the pharmaceutical products but somehow also carried fewer side effects – which would be impressive considering the huge safety margins of currently available products – then maybe, maybe I would recommend them. But those products don’t exist so we don’t have to worry about that conversation.

When it comes to products I do recommend I am going to list them in order based on both ease of administration and cost per month of use. I am also sticking only with products that prevent fleas AND ticks. Some products will only prevent fleas, some even prevent fleas and heartworm but we are talking about fleas and ticks.

Recently Merck released a collar called Scalibor that will last 6 months and sells for about $30. This works out to $5 a month with only 2 applications necessary a year. This product is allegedly only sold through veterinarians. It is also only available for dogs. And here’s a link to buy it on Amazon

Bayer also released a collar recently called the Seresto collar. It last 8 months (a little less if your dog is a big swimmer) and costs about $50. Coming in at just $6.25 per month with a single application, this is an easy and very cost effective option. Bonus: It’s available without a prescription. This is the only newer product available for dogs and cats. These you can buy anywhere but they are cheapest online: Cat collars Small Dogs Large Dogs

Next in line is another Merck product, this one is called Bravecto. An oral flea and tick preventative for dogs over 6 months of age, this medication lasts for 12 weeks and costs about $50 per dose. This works out to about $16.70 per month of use and the easy to give chewable treat is very palatable making it easy to give. A little more expensive per month with either collar but this one can’t come off or be lost. It is available by prescription only.

Nexgard is another oral product, this one put out by Merial. It is given once monthly and costs about $65 for a three pack. Dogs take this one very well and it costs about $21.67 per month of use. A little more expensive than any of the topicals but a lot easier to use and slightly better efficacy.

Topical flea and tick medications include Frontline Plus, Advantix II, Certifect, Vectra 3d and Activyl. They will typically cost around $20 per month of use and require you to apply a liquid to your pet’s back, refrain from bathing for 24-48 hours on either side of treatment and some of the products are deadly if applied to cats. Advantix II has the added bonus of repelling mosquitoes so you could almost call it a heartworm preventative as well. Almost.

So there you have it, a decent list of flea and tick products broken down by ease of use and cost per month. I recommend year round prevention in any case and in all situations.

Thanks for reading.

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Sick Day Philosophy

I’m not sick today. In the 5+ years I’ve been working full time as a veterinarian I have taken exactly 3 sick days for myself. I love my job, I love showing up everyday and seeing what types of problems I can help people and their pets with and I love seeing my clients and their pets. I think in a lot of ways that outlook and love for my job keeps me from giving in to feeling crummy and I’ve been fortunate to not have to deal with any serious illnesses as well. Now that we have children however, I take about one every few months to stay home with one of my daughters while they get over an illness. Today I get to stay home with all 3.

My wife and I have the week split up into days we have to drop the girls off and pick them up from daycare/pre-school. If one of the girls needs to stay home on your day to pick them up and drop them off, congratulations you just got a day off work. This week, I got two days off.

I love being a veterinarian, I can not actually imagine having any other career or life. But being home with my children during the middle of the week has to be one of the nicest breaks I can imagine. Being that my wife and I both work every other Saturday and if I work Saturday that means I am on call for the entire weekend, we try to force as much family time into our weekends off as possible. Part of that might also be the guilt we feel for keeping our kids in daycare for 50+ hours a week. Another part is that my wife and I love to do stuff and expose our children to as many experiences as possible.

But during the week, the girls are only home if they are sick. Sick kids are so easy. Today we had a relatively bland breakfast of cereal with almond milk, a piece of french toast and half a banana each. Watched a movie. Ate half a grilled ham and cheese with two pickles each. Painted some pretty sweet finger paintings. Took a bath (flooded the bathroom). Finally got dressed. The four year old is in her bathing suit for reasons no one can explain. Watched the same movie again. Now we’re sort of napping/occasionally calling for juice, baby dolls, stuffed animals or blankets. It’s also a perfect day to be stuck at home, dreary, raining and super muddy out as all the snow from this winter melts away.

Days like today are the perfect day to take the time to understand your children as well. Our three and four year old daughter, Emily and Rachel, could not be more different. Rachel 3, is independent to the point of being stubborn but she’s also pretty easy going and generally expects that things are going to go the way she likes. She throws small fits when they don’t, she is three after all, but she gets over it quickly. Emily 4, on the other hand, seeks constant approval and comes to you expecting you to say no to whatever request she has. This has led to a sort of constant whine from her, everything she asks for she’s just on the verge of tears before the question even escapes her mouth. Her mother and I have been worried that we’re raising a whiner. Today I realized it’s worse than I thought. She’s already played out the entire scenario in her head and has been shot down by her father and won’t be getting another refill of fruit juice. All before she even asks a question. My daughter is learning to be a pessimist. Pessimists and optimists tend to get exactly what they expect in life. We live in the reality we create. Think that’s silly? Chances are you are a pessimist who doesn’t want to accept responsibility for the reality you’ve created. I don’t mean that through some metaphysical means we manipulate the world with our mind, I mean that our experiences are taken in and understood by our brain and our attitude has a huge role in how information is interpreted. It also has a huge role in how people respond to us, we all have at least one miserable person in our lives that we would love to not have to deal with. In my professional life, attitude and outlook play such a huge role that we have to account for “caretaker placebo effect” when evaluating the efficacy of a treatment plan. That’s right, you can be so positive and optimistic about things that it will make your dog or cat feel better. Here are two stories illustrating the effect. One. Two. My final argument for making yourself have an optimistic outlook in life is that the U.S. Navy Seal Guide to the Elements of Survival, the text that is used to train the minds of the most elite fighting force on the planet lists three elements necessary to produce the resilience needed to survive some of the situations a SEAL might find himself in. In order listed those elements are: talent, desire/motivation and optimism. If optimism is that important to people who might one day find themselves outnumbered and outgunned by people who want to kill them, it should be important to a 34 year old veterinarian trying to find work/life balance and to a 4 year old girl learning how to act in this world. It should be important to you too.

I’m glad I had to take the day off, slow down a little bit and realize that my daughter isn’t a whiner, it’s far worse, she’s becoming a pessimist. By the time she reaches an age where the relationship building skills start to become interpersonal and cooperation skills, she will have developed a more optimistic world view. This is important because it turns out that optimism, leadership and success are fairly inter-related. And what father wouldn’t want his little girls to be successful?

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Thanks for reading. I promise you won’t be disappointed. My name is Heath McNutt. I am a father of three amazing daughters. (Emily, Rachel and Sara) Husband to a beautiful wife, Amanda and a companion animal veterinarian practicing in Rutland and Ludlow Vermont. While this blog is based on my career as a veterinarian, you are going to find posts about a variety of topics. I’m interested in almost everything.

This isn’t my first blog. I have been writing an educational blog about veterinary medicine since Summer of 2010. You can find it here: A Vet’s View

While I enjoyed writing that blog, there were several things about it I couldn’t improve in that format. Mostly, it was that it was meant to be an educational blog and so I didn’t get a chance to use it to tell any stories. My job provides some pretty awesome stories. It also kept me on a single topic, this profession carries over so many different aspects of life I feel like focusing on just the diseases, treatments and preventative measures when it comes to animal health paints a narrow picture. Finally, it kept me a little flat, I wrote in a professional educational tone. While that makes sense in that setting, it is not necessarily who I am.

If you are looking for educational posts about veterinary medicine: A Vet’s View is still up, I also like and use Veterinary Partner quite frequently and finally both the AVMA and AAHA have wonderful client education sections.

This blog is going to be more about communicating openly with as many people as are interested in getting the perspective of a guy who juggles being a father, husband, veterinarian and having some semblance of self identity at the same time. If that sounds interesting to you that’s awesome. Please continue on. If it does not sound interesting to you, fortunately for you the internet is a big place.

If you don’t know where to begin. Check out the Table of Contents for all of my posts to date.

Thanks for reading.