Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Meditations from a Squirrel #1

'We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals... In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.' 
(Henry Beston)

In a world where we are overwhelmed by the plethora and often excess of information, I contemplate what it is that we want to read about. We surely all want to learn more things about things, stuff about stuff... More importantly, I think we just want to feel and understand what it is that is important to us. As vets, we want to provide you with information about your pets, so that you understand what it is that they need to have a happy and healthy life. We want to offer them the best of our combined knowledge and care for them, when they need us. I also think, as sentient beings, we are all concerned about what it is that connects us to them, and animals in general.

I have been asked to contribute to our clinic blog and have been contemplating what to write....where do I start? How do I visit or perhaps access these ‘other nations’? How do I combine science with something more personal, without sounding like a cliche? Should I provide you with pages of information about health and potential disease and how to attain one or avoid the other? Or should I write about what is at the heart of pet ownership? 

My inclination is the latter, although possibly a combination of the two is the ideal partnership. Hopefully, between us, Andrew and I can provide that. 
I think that just as importantly, we would like you, as our clients and pet owners, to contribute and express your thoughts and experiences. Writing a blog, words drifting somewhere in cyberspace, can be lonely without an awareness that someone is actually reading it, and feeling something. I think the thing that connects us as human beings is the ability to relate and share stories and experiences.That’s why I love quotes. To read what someone else has written and connect to it. To understand exactly what has been said, even if I didn’t have the ability to write the words myself, is enlightening. 

The first question people often ask is ‘did you always want to be a vet?’ I guess I am supposed to say yes( in capital letters), but the answer is actually...not really, maybe... I always loved animals and we always had pets at home but I was always so super sensitive towards them... I was worried about some deeper misunderstanding on my behalf, or perhaps failing them in some way. That made me just want to hang out with them and be their friends. I guess there is a safety in that. 
I wanted( naively) to be a ballet dancer or something supposedly just as glamorous. I suspect that this had something to do with wearing a pink tutu.

The strange thing is, that the writing was probably always on the wall. I was really obsessed with animals in general. I remember watching David Attenborough in a state of awe as a young child (much as I do now). ‘Life on Earth’ was one of the first TV shows I was really interested in ...I thought his lifestyle was really romantic ( and who isn't keen on romantic ideals, you know following the dream etc etc). Now I know how hard it is to even take a decent photograph of my own dog, I appreciate the patience and painstaking determination required to capture animals in their natural habitats. And so the cliches follow...Black Beauty, To Ride a Fine Horse( chosen for the title, although the subject content was not only about horses, but more about the pioneers of the Australian outback and of course the James Herriot collection. By this time(and especially after the TV series) I was pretty sure that I was going to marry Tristan Farnon! 

Once I had established my obsession with our furry and feathered friends,( and all those whose best dressed attire ranges from scales to quills), I came to the realisation that this was going to be my vocation, my life. That I was going to have to delve into the still largely evolving world of veterinary science. 

I have read that ‘ the best thing about animals is that they don’t talk much’(Thornton Wilder) and although I can understand that sentiment, (based on the fact that us humans are guilty of an excess of verbosity), I can confirm that our lives as veterinarians would be simplified, if they could just whisper something in our ears, occasionally.... as Mr Herriot alluded to in his first novel in 1970( If Only They Could Talk). I think we, well certainly I, appreciate that we can talk to them without judgement. They accept us for all of our folly and that means a great deal. Maybe Mr Wilder meant to say ‘ the best thing about animals is that they are great listeners’. 
And so, with that thought, I will sign off as I started...With the words of someone else, someone whom I respect greatly as a writer, who so succinctly states what hopefully unites us all: 

 'Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.'
(George Elliot) 

And for us humans, they seem to be just the kind of friends we need. 

 Odile Sicouri 

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