Lessons from My Patients

Working as a small animal veterinarian, I’ve been blessed to have encountered and interacted with all sorts of creatures. Large and small, furry and scaly, friendly and feisty, adorable and oddball.

They all come into the clinic for different reasons. Some come in curious and inquisitive, some are so nervous it is almost comical, some happy-go-lucky, some unfortunately, very sick. Though one thing is for sure, almost all of them go leaving an impact on my heart. They have all taught me, in their own ways, invaluable life lessons that I carry with me in my own life journey.

1.Love freely
We’ve grown so accustomed to the fact that we have to earn love that we hold on selfishly to ours, as if it were a rare & non-renewable resource. To love freely is to love without intentions. Without preconceptions or judgments or any sort of terms & conditions or clauses. To love even, if there is a chance that we might not be loved so deeply in return.
It is not as if the more you love, the less you have for yourself, but rather your heart grows bigger to accommodate the extra.  I think it is beautiful how animals can display such a genuine love towards us humans despite all our flaws. It is as if they see beyond our shortcomings and still accept us for who we are.  If  I ever I’ve learnt the meaning to love unconditionally, it is because of them.

Miao miao, our feline blood donor. He was sick with a tumor for awhile but is now in remission & eating well!

2. Forgive willingly
Sometimes I wonder if my patients know that what we are doing for them is to help them. It can be quite terrifying I imagine, being pricked and restrained by a total stranger, especially when you are already feeling unwell.  But almost every time, after every treatment session, difficult or otherwise they never fail to greet us with a wag of the tail, a purr, a head rub, or a gesture of some sort to indicate that everything is alright between us. “We good, bro”.

A little TLC goes a long way. This doggo was found with horribly matted fur & full ticks. And was very, very scared. We got her cleaned and she took time to eventually warm up to us.

Numerous times there have been animals come in who had been mistreated, abandoned or abused but yet the love in their eyes shows no resentment. Sure, they are weary and a little nervous but their willingness to forgive and trust again comes so naturally to them. It makes me question, why trust again? I have no answers to that, but it has made me realize… why not? The importance and beauty of forgiveness is mainly for ourselves. Resentment is a sinister thing. Like a rot in the wood, it’ll only eat at you from the inside. To forgive is to free. There is always space to be kind. & I’ve never once met an animal that lived life and grew old bitter.

Bolt, was involved in a hit-and-run as a puppy and had broken both his front legs. He patiently let us dress his wounds daily and although now walks with a little crook, is happy with his new adopted family

3. Everyone is a friend first, until proven otherwise
If I could make a montage of all the animals that came to visit, it would involve lots of wags , jumps , slobber and a flurry of animal fur. Or course you get the occasional less than happy-to-be-there patient . But there is really nothing a bit of time and some treats can’t solve. Herein lies the next lesson, be good-hearted to everyone you’ve had the opportunity to meet. Extend kindness where you can, & since we humans can’t wag our vestigial tailbones or make purring sounds, greet everyone with a smile. You might never know what it can do to brighten another’s day.

After all, a stranger is a friend you just have not come to know yet. I’m grateful for the licks and nose boops that have helped me make it through days where I thought I couldn’t.

Letti, she survived a viral disease and a surgical procedure and was still ever the gentle soul when she came back for a revisit

4. Resilience
Strength is a measure of our spirit. We do not choose our circumstances but we can choose to make the most of it.  There have been more than my fair share of cases where animals come in quite severely ill: horrible wounds, infected limbs that needed amputation, various forms of debilitating disease caused by pathogens, chronic diseases that needed uncomfortable long term therapies.
Though never have I seen my patient surrender or ‘give up’.

It breaks my heart to see some of my patients go through such suffering, some of them in times when there was little I could do to help. But to see them so resilient in the face of hardship, so brave even in the face of death. It has mainly been my driving force to fight for them because they are fighting so courageously themselves. We owe it to them.

Xiao Hua & Xiao Shuai, siblings. Xiao Hua had a bad paw wound and Xiao Shuai was very sick but both never lost heart and were there for each other through it all.

And let me tell you, nothing brings me greater joy than to see a patient get well again.  A three-legged dog is as happy as a four-legged one, the puppy who caught Parvovirus and survived could never have been more playful, a senior cat with chronic kidney disease needing daily fluids that require needle pricks is just as affectionate. Unfortunately, not all end up with happy endings but the lesson this has taught me is to try and face life with such a perspective. The journey ahead will definitely come with challenges but the strongest aren’t always the ones who win, but the ones who get back up when they fall.

Buffy, all smiles after her fluid treatment for her kidney disease

5. Be yourself & live life to the fullest
Do that funny dance when you’re excited, make weird noises when you’re hungry, sleep wherever, love whoever.

I enjoy very much every weird antic each patient displays. You have Lewis the Husky with his crazy eyes, Jerry the hyperactive pug, Rosy the affectionate tricolour cat with a deformed paw, Hornby the retriever puppy who loves a good roll in the grass and eating stuff he shouldn’t.  Their individual characters are what makes them all the more lovable. Most of the time we care a tad too much about what other people think, people whom we might only meet every now and then. Or in my case, once a year during their annual vaccination. Animals are most comfortable in their own skin, and I think we can learn alot from that.

Do what you want because life is really too short to care about what people would think. Pursue your dreams relentlessly because it’ll be sad to deny yourself happiness. You do you, because honestly, what you bring to the world, only you are capable of. Even if it is only just a funny dance.

Our canine blood donors, who have saved the lives of many other dogs with their selfless sacrifices. Each a character of their own but all adorably cheerful

6. Enjoy the simple things

Humans are the only species that worry.  Think about it. Have you seen a hamster become anxious about the future. It’s pretty darn happy with its kuaci seeds and snuggly bedding. Or a dog worry if the other dogs at the park would like it or not. Or a cat nervous if it’ll be a good parent. True, it may be because we have a higher degree of consciousness and we have more responsibilities because of the opportunities that come with it.  But I believe we can emulate a thing or two from our furry pals. The world is a beautiful place when we learn to take pleasure in the little things. There is always something to look forward to in life so don’t let excessive worrying prevent you from enjoying it. In the daily hustle and bustle of life, remember to stop and sniff the roses.  

A clinic staff’s hamster sound asleep. We didn’t know she was pregnant until she gave birth to 9 pups a few days later

I really believe we have so much more to learn from our furry (and even non-furry) friends. Everyday they open our eyes to a beautifully different way of seeing things. Don’t just take my word for it, trust them who know how to live their best life!

In honor of all my patients, past and present who have touched my heart, I hope you guys are happy and doing well. ❤


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