The decision to become a veterinarian was easy as a child. I loved animals, so as soon as I could mutter the word "veterinarian" - even pronounced atrociously at the age of 3 - I was sure that is what I would be. To a young me, the obvious choice was being a small animal veterinarian, specifically for cats.
I grew up in a household with only cats for pets. My cat, Cosmo Kramer, was the first piece of inspiration I had in my path to becoming a veterinarian. My uncle gave Cosmo to my family as a gift when I was just a year old, and he quickly became my best friend. Cosmo used to walk with me to the bus stop in the morning, and after school, I would play with him in the greenbelt behind my house. My love for cats was soon to be undermined by a greater love, but my love for Cosmo continued to guide me and my passions.
Late in elementary school, I discovered my love of horses. I think it had always been there, as it is for many little girls, but I became absolutely captivated with them by our school library. My elementary school had endless books on horse breeds, and I began checking a different one out each Wednesday afternoon - Appaloosas were my favorite. Hand-in-hand with my elementary study of horse breeds, I began asking my parents if I could take riding lessons. Finally, for my 10th birthday, my parents planned a horseback riding birthday party. From there, weekly lessons ensued, and from there came the leasing of a horse, and when I was 12, the purchase of my very first horse, Dante. My path officially diverted from becoming a small animal veterinarian, to focusing on equine.
As I progressed through middle school and high school, my passion for horses grew deeper by the day. I was spending countless hours at the barn. Not only was I taking lessons and showing, but I was simply spending hours in Dante's paddock with him. To me, there was nothing sweeter than taking off running with a beautiful horse trotting beside me in unison.
Through the years, my Cosmo cat was always there in the background. After a long day of school and a full afternoon at the barn, I would come home to Cosmo waiting for me, as he always did. I would be lying if I said that I didn't take him for granted. His loyalty for me was unwavering, his friendship constant. When I was 16, Cosmo began visibly slowing down. He was diagnosed with renal failure, and despite our best efforts, I watched as my once pristine feline companion grew ragged. It wasn't just his kidneys that were failing him - but his entire body. He could no longer make it up the stairs to my bedroom each night, so I began carrying him. We had always slept together every night.
As a family, we decided to take Cosmo into our veterinarian to see if there was anything to be done, anything to prolong his life. Our veterinarian advised us that Cosmo was simply "old", that he had lived a great life, and that in the next few days we should consider euthanasia. It was something I had never even considered.
We scheduled the appointment and a few days later, as a family, drove Cosmo to the vet. Our family of 5 crowded around the table and all whispered goodbyes and "I love you"s to Cosmo. When the veterinarian came into the room, he explained what the process would be like, and told us we were welcome to leave the room before the euthanasia was performed. The other four members of my family left the room, but I knew I couldn't. I stayed with Cosmo until his last breath, and this may sound trite, but it was one of the most peaceful experiences I have ever witnessed. I was 16, but in that moment, I had one of my first "adult" realizations that being a veterinarian was indeed what I wanted to do. I had experienced, for the first time, the special power a veterinarian has to take away the pain of an animal, and of their human who wishes for nothing more than their animal to be at peace. This experience greatly impacted me and inspired me to apply to UC Davis for Animal Science, and was even one of my topics for the personal statement I wrote to be accepted to their undergraduate program.
Through college and with Dante my decision to continue pursuing veterinary medicine never changed. Along with the Animal Science classes I took at Davis, Dante was the second piece of inspiration I had in becoming a veterinarian. Dante was a horse with 9 lives. During my second week of undergraduate, Dante broke his leg. Unfortunately, that was just the beginning of many veterinary emergencies Dante and I endured over our next three years together. He was constantly getting himself into trouble, and I was constantly trying to save him. After he broke his leg, he was only pasture sound and no longer rideable – but he was my old friend and that didn’t matter to me. Throughout his injuries, illnesses, and other interesting situations, it was so important for us to have a veterinarian we could rely on. I found her by chance when I called UC Davis on emergency for Dante’s broken leg in 2014.
This vet ended up being there for Dante and I for everything in his final 3 years – and when it was his ‘time’ in December of last year, she was the one waiting for us on the lawn to help send Dante across the proverbial “Rainbow Bridge”. I wish my words could express the admiration and adoration I have for my veterinarian – but she truly went above and beyond in everything she did for Dante and I. She is the recent reason why I have been more inspired than ever to attend veterinary school.
I have met many veterinarians who have become numb to the field. I do not blame them for this, but witnessing the stark contrast between them and a veterinarian like Dante’s has become the second deciding factor I have made in my adult life to become a veterinarian. I want to be what she has been for me for others. I want to be the veterinarian that not only loves animals, but loves their people, too.
The decision to become a veterinarian as an adult was not as easy. It was not comprised of a single realization of "I love animals", but rather, a compilation of many tiny instances where I realized there is nothing else in the world I would be fulfilled doing.