This I Believe

Elizabeth - Chico, California
Entered on January 30, 2007

I believe in uncomplicated, undying love. Love without condition or judgment, without diminishing or vanishing. A love that allows for other loyalty and always forgives forgetfulness or lapse.

As a veterinary student who returned to school after a career in industry, study was a 7 day a week job. There was no time for socializing, make up, shopping or fine dining. I had a dream that would not be persuaded to take a day off.

In the second year of study, shortly before finals, my husband announced that I was not adequately living up to my side of the contract and must quit school and come home to be a spouse. Without hesitation, I declined.

After graduation, the gift I wanted more than anything else was a dog of my own. There had been family dogs, but never one just for me. I adopted a Lab puppy who lived through the dreadful hours and inhumane work of my internship. We slept in the back of the hospital on nights I worked emergencies , in a closet-sized room near the kennels where dogs barked incessantly all night. On those days we worked a 34 hour shift. She never complained.

When my hair was greasy from neglect as I searched for a job, she was my companion. On the drive from Massachusetts to California, she slept in the back and stuck her head out the window to smell the passing country.

She hated to be confined and dug her way out of most of the contraptions I created to keep her in while I worked. When I fell in love again, she loved him too. She was the third partner when we married.

Meanwhile, I grew to understand that I was not the only person who loved their companion animals single-mindedly. My patients lived very often, the same charmed life my beloved Andy did. I became their advocate for better care. It became my life’s work to teach humans the best ways to care for them. I taught behavior and nutrition and husbandry and nursing. I presided over their recovery from illness or bad habits. And sometimes, when suffering was the only alternative, I counseled and helped with their deaths. Each time, I hugged the client who could scarcely believe they were called upon to suffer this way. Who had to choose the unimaginable, the loss of their beloved pet or a continuation of that creature’s pain. In the end, we chose correctly, choosing to suffer ourselves and lose them than continue to watch their decline. We acted out of love for all the years of love we had received.

After sixteen years, Andy left me for the cancer that had overtaken her. She died a year ago and writing this still makes me weep. She taught me the compassion that drives me today to form close relationships with my clients, to take all the time that’s needed, to honor and support the love that binds people to these creatures that love us back no matter what.