For in our world, it is a known cliche
That many a vet mom will work on Mother's Day.
For this year Mother's Day would fall
On a weekend I happened to be on call.
I woke to fresh coffee, and I was filled with joy,
My phone started ringing, and I thought, "Oh boy."
I answered the phone, saying, "This is Dr. Stroupe."
"Hey Doc! My old cat Murphy can't poop!"
My baby was crying, my toddler was throwing a fit.
"Okay, Mrs. Maine. I'll be there in a bit."
I went in, took rads, and looked at the screen.
The most impressive case of megacolon I'd ever seen.
I laid out the treatment plan, but my first action
Would be to remove the fecal impaction.
Instead of joining my family for a day of cinema,
I'd be starting things off with a feline enema.
I performed the task solo with a wing and a prayer,
And the smell of cat doo filled the air.
The constipation I did assuage,
And I got Murphy settled in his cozy cage.
There was cat feces splattered on my blouse,
And I was relieved to finally head to the house.
By the smell, my husband could tell what I'd done,
Saying, "How 'bout you take a bubble bath, Hun?"
For a long nice soak in the tub sounded great,
As I had yet to use it to date.
For I got rid of my nasty duds,
And slowly sank down into the suds.
I flipped open a book I had grabbed off the shelf.
This day was finally redeeming itself.
I could feel things were definitely on the upswing,
Until I heard a familiar ring.
My husband burst into the room, "Mrs. Finn needs help."
Her English Bulldog, Daisy, is trying to whelp.
I gave a long sigh, "Are you kidding me?!
I sure hope she can pay my fee."
After the exam and estimate, she called me a barbarian,
Yet she consented to her dog's cesarian.
"No name-calling, Ma'am. I'm not a schmuck.
Each of these pups is worth two thousand bucks."
I got ten live pups, and the dam was doing well.
My phone rang again, and I thought "Aw, hell."
"Dr. Stroupe! Please help!" the man said as his voice shook.
"We were fishing on the pond, and my dog ate a fish hook!"
"Bring him in," I said, biting into a 3 Musketeers.
I said, "We'll get it out in no time!" calming his fears.
As the man suddenly burst through the door,
Mother's Day was becoming a holiday to abhor.
"I-i-i-it's stuck in his mouth," he said through his stutters.
I reached in the drawer to grab my pliers and side cutters.
I released the hook from the dog's tongue.
Gave the reversal and up he sprung.
"Thanks, Doc. You're a lifesaver.
But one more thing: Could you do me a favor?"
I agreed, not knowing what this would entail.
"Could you go ahead and trim my dog's nails?"
I finished up, flipped the lights, and set the alarm,
finally heading back to my farm.
I picked up some ice cream on the way.
For I longed to see my boys on Mother's Day.
Greeting me at the door, they piled onto my lap.
We read some books and all took a nap.
Through the ups and downs, the chaos and calm.
Of all the hats I wear, my favorite is "Vetmom."
The more I have thought, it has become my new mission,
To keep up with Dr. Taylor's poem-writing tradition.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the clinic,
Dr. Stroupe was tending to a dog that was sick,
Doc Vroman stopped by to drink coffee and shoot bull,
Dr. Stroupe yelled, "Get up! Help! The schedule is full!"
Dr. Potter was out preg checking some cows,
Doc Lewis was writing health papers for horses and sows,
Aeris was mopping and scrubbing the halls,
While Donna and Lisa fielded many calls.
Angela was tending the dogs that were boarding,
All cozy in our new kennels, loudly snoring,
Omer was cleaning our new ultrasound.
While Robyn was shoveling snow off the ground.
As Doc Stroupe examined the vomiting dog that day,
She yelled out, "This dog needs our new digital x-ray!"
Doc Lewis finished up and began to frolic
Until he got the call, "Another horse colic!"
Doc Potter returned as a farmer blocked his way,
"My cows are sick! I think it's moldy hay!"
Dr. Stroupe looked at the x-ray in a hurry,
And then hung her head, "This dog needs surgery."
All were tending to animals and rushing around,
Every creature was stirring, even the hound.
The cows were all treated and feeling much better,
and a sock was removed from the stomach of the Irish Setter.
Dr. Lewis returned from treating the horse,
They all breathed a sigh of relief, of course,
In the parking lot, they all gathered round,
As beautiful snowflakes fell to the ground.
They looked toward the sky, and who else did they see?
Why, it was Santa and his reindeer posse!
Bells were ringing as he landed on the roof,
He shouted, "Please! Someone look at Rudolph's hoof!"
With a rush, the vets got out a ladder,
To climb atop to see what was the matter,
To the truck, Dr. Potter flew like a flash,
To gather his tools and pharmaceutical stash.
As they looked at Rudolph, Doc Lewis said with scorn,
"Well, Santa. This looks like a thorn."
They plucked out the thorn and bandaged him up,
Santa yelled, "Thank you! Half full is my cup!"
They all stood in awe after the day they'd braved,
All was well, and Christmas was saved,
As you can see, our team of staff and vets,
Find so much joy in treating your livestock and pets.
For all your problems, we have the answers,
We are surgeons, consultants, and abscess-lancers,
The gist of this poem and what we've wanted to say,
Is we hope you have a fine holiday!
So kick back and enjoy cider or even a beer,
And have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
For those of you who may not be aware already, I am pregnant. If you’ve seen me, and wondered if I was pregnant based on my growing baby belly but chose not to ask because you go with the policy to never mention it until the baby is coming out or it’s confirmed by the mother, you are a very intelligent person. I'm due in August, and feeling the fatigue of a marathon about now, but I will be induced at 37 weeks at the latest, so we'll probably have a late July baby.
I received a tidbit of knowledge from a fellow member of my Moms with a DVM page that I’ve realized fits the bill: “Pregnancy number 1 is a new car, and pregnancy number 2 is an old beater.” That has very much been the case with this pregnancy. It’s been completely different, and we did not take the decision to get pregnant again lightly. Most of you are aware of the cancer diagnosis and treatment I went through in 2017 soon after my son was born. After enough time had passed for me to feel like a relatively normal human again, all of my specialists concurred that pregnancy would be safe and would not put me at added risk as far as cancer recurrence.
So it was time, and I always knew we wanted at least two children, and I did not want to get used to sleeping. Otherwise, baby number two might not happen. About a minute later, we were pregnant again and full of excitement. One thing that encouraged me to get pregnant again so quickly was the fact that I was practically a superwoman my first pregnancy. I had no nausea and endless energy. I got up at 4:45 A.M. every morning and ran four miles a day. I did this every day up until week 36 when it just became too uncomfortable to run (which was only two weeks before my son was born). I had hypertension before my first pregnancy, but the hypertension went away while I was pregnant until I developed preeclampsia at 38 weeks gestation. I was delivering calves five days before my son was born. Even though I was a couple years older and had been through cancer treatment, my expectations were that this pregnancy would have very little effect on my professional life just as it had been the first time around. I was wrong.
The first trimester was relatively uneventful. Sure, I had a bit more nausea this time around and some morning sickness, but nothing my ginger candies couldn't handle. However, my hypertension that I've had for about seven years (ironically, about the same amount of time I've been a practicing veterinarian, but let's not make assumptions *wink wink*) did not go away with this pregnancy. In fact, when I was about four months pregnant, I landed in the ER for hypertension. I got put on blood pressure medication for the first time in my life. After a couple of days on the medication, I felt like a million bucks. I wished I'd been put on medication a couple of years ago. For a period of time, the medication kept my blood pressure at near-normal levels. I was able to continue to work and exercise regularly as I had been.
One late afternoon after a series of doctor’s appointments when I was about five months pregnant, I was shopping for something for the clinic in Menard’s when my associate called. It was close to 5 P.M., and I was about to go on call. A client had called about a ewe that sounded like she was aborting. They wanted someone to come out and take a look. I got the address from him and left the store. This farm call actually felt like a relief compared to trying to find this special kerosene heater for the clinic. Venturing into any given home improvement store always feels like the seventh circle of hell anyway. I never know where to find anything, and many times after asking for help, end up walking out empty-handed. I can’t be the only woman that feels this way. But anyway, I digress. I took the back roads to get to the farm call. I pulled two dead lambs out of the ewe that was in the process of aborting and recommended the clients submit the lambs to the diagnostic lab for testing. I took what I felt were normal precautions as far as PPE (personal protective equipment). I did not have my coveralls on my vet truck with me that afternoon, but I wore gloves and washed my hands and boots after I left. My jeans and hooded sweatshirt, however, got soaked in amniotic fluid. I showered immediately when I got home, but that was after I had spent thirty minutes in my truck driving home.
I honestly didn’t think much more about that farm call until I received the pathology report on those lambs almost a week later. As I scanned through the report, my eyes widened as I read the words, “suspect Coxiella burnetii.” Obviously, that doesn’t mean much to the average person, but Coxiella burnetii is the causative agent for Q Fever in humans. It is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can spread from animals to humans, and a fairly rare disease at that. As I scanned my brain for the foggy details that I learned about this disease in veterinary school, I did what any sane human would do: I Googled It. Memories came flooding back, and as I read more my memory was jogged that this illness can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or pre-term birth in pregnant women. I didn’t panic right away, but as I saw appointments and thought about it more and more throughout the day, I became uneasy. I called my OB’s office to let them know about the potential exposure. My OB called me back within the hour, “Well, this isn’t something we’ve dealt with before.” However, clearly she had read up on what protocols needed to be followed. She wanted me to come in right away and have blood titers drawn. I finished my appointments and headed in for the blood draw. She also started me on antibiotics as the lab results would take a few days. The rational side of my brain told myself that this was a very rare illness, and the odds of me being exposed to Coxiella burnetii and contracting Q Fever were slim to none. But worried pregnant lady side of my brain was starting to panic. Also, one must remember that in the previous two years, I had not fought just one rare illness, but two: a rare cancer and Guillain-Barre Syndrome. I had already been hit by lightning twice, so to speak, so getting diagnosed with another rare illness didn’t seem too far out of the realm of possibility.
I called the diagnostic lab and found out that they could not run the special PCR test for Coxiella on these lambs, so we sent the lamb fetuses to K-State for the confirmatory test. I would pay for the testing myself just so I could know. In the meantime, I consulted with my colleagues on this disease, which included a combination of large animal veterinarians and pathologists. The more research I did, I learned that Coxiella is actually spread via aerosol transmission, so the PPE I was wearing (gloves) would not have protected me in this case. I would have had to have been wearing a N-95 mask. One veterinarian in the food animal department at the University of Missouri VHC (my alma mater) had mentioned that I should probably avoid sheep and goat dystocias (farm calls for difficult births for these species). While Coxiella was rare, sheep and goats shed a number of zoonotic pathogens that can be dangerous for pregnant individuals. I felt stupid for not even considering this and putting my baby at risk. A few days later, a close friend and classmate of mine who works for the diagnostic lab texted me at about 9 P.M. to say the lambs tested negative for Coxiella. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief. In the meantime, it was spring and the sheep and goats in the area were having babies like crazy. In fact, my in-laws next door had many nanny goats kidding at the time. Luckily, I have hit the jackpot as far as in-laws go, and they were very understanding about the fact that I could not assist in goat dystocias on the farm this year (I have very small hands, which are perfect for delivering goat kids).
Unfortunately, others were not so understanding. While on call, I received a number of calls for sheep or goat dystocias which I had to refer. I would always explain to the producer the situation, that I couldn’t go on those calls because of the diseases they shed, and would then give a list of providers in the area that could help them. Most of the time I was met with understanding, but oftentimes I was met with sighs, being hung up on, and I was even cussed out and bashed online over it. While I stood my ground and knew I was doing the right thing in acting in the best interest for myself and unborn baby, situations like these would twist the knife in the guilt that I already felt over not being able to “perform” my job to its fullest. However, I powered ahead and kept doing what I could.
Then, at about six months pregnant, I landed in Labor and Delivery with hypertension again. Oddly enough, my blood pressure had spiked after a relaxing weekend at home and being off call. I was relieved to hear I did not have superimposed preeclampsia and this was just a worsening of my hypertension. However, my OB came into my room before I was discharged and gave me marching orders. I was not to do anymore large animal work, and I was not to exercise anymore. First no sheep and goat dystocias, and now no large animal work at all?
"Really?" I said in disbelief.
"Yes," she said. "I'm going to try to keep you at home and out of the hospital."
It took me awhile to process it. At this point, it was April and our busiest time of year for large animal. I had hired a new associate, but he wouldn't graduate and wouldn't start until June.
"How am I supposed to not do large animal work during our busiest time of year?" I thought to myself. I, of course, took this seriously and wanted to do everything in my power to keep myself and my baby healthy, but I didn't know how to accomplish that without feeling like I'd failed my clinic and my employees.
I also had to wrap my head around not exercising for the next 3-4 months. While running had been a bit more difficult during this pregnancy due to various aches and pains, I had grown to love the exercise class I attended three days a week. Exercise and fitness have always been a big part of my life. It's one of the ways I manage the stress of this job, and I like feeling fit and strong. I mourned the loss of that outlet.
During my following routine appointment with my OB, I asked her point-blank if she thought I would end up on bed rest. She basically told me that while there's a remote possibility I could make it to the end without bed rest, the reality is that bed rest was almost inevitable for me. It was just a matter of when. Together, with my team, we worked around my limitations, but even the companion animal side remained busy at the clinic, and I struggled to keep up. I would rest and put my feet up as soon as I got home, which wasn't actually difficult for even an active person such as myself because I was completely and utterly exhausted. I knew I couldn't keep up this pace, but I didn't know how to make the madness stop. Then, one evening when I was texting my new associate to clarify his starting day, he told me he was finishing his last block in a couple of days and could start the following Monday.
This, I believe, was an answer to my prayers. I have always felt The Lord has good timing, and this is a perfect example of that.
What started as, "How am I going to do this?" became "I can do this." I just needed some help. While my new associate wouldn't be a licensed veterinarian for over a month and would require supervision, his ability to start working early significantly lifted my work load. Dr. Potter continued to work hard as well, picking up my slack and taking care of all the large animal work.
Ironically, after my new associate started working, my blood pressure readings started to stabilize. In fact, I had a few readings completely in normal range. My energy levels improved, and I felt more like myself again. Since then, my blood pressure readings remain decent, and I even got the okay to travel and take our beach vacation the past couple of weeks.
I still have days where my blood pressure runs high. I feel huge, and I am growing out of my maternity clothes with three weeks left to go. I'm sporting compression socks, and I'm wondering at what point I'm going to have to come to work in sweat pants and flip flops. Today, while crouching on the floor in an awkward position to draw blood from one of my larger canine patients, I thought to myself, "You've got to be kidding me. Why are you still doing this? Are you going to even be able to get up off the floor?" Seriously, the positions veterinarians and assistants have to work in can be a bit ridiculous at times. Kind of like a game of Twister, but with needles, blood, urine, and animal fur. But the truth is, I do it because I love it.
I guess the take-home from my experience is realizing that every pregnancy is different, and like many things in life, you kind of have to roll with the punches. While I feel a huge obligation to my clinic, I also realize that I only get one opportunity to do this thing (pregnancy) right, and the most important thing at this point is to keep myself and this baby as healthy as possible. Slowing down and coming to terms with my limitations have been both frustrating and humbling. But I'm also thankful that I was able to get help when I most needed it, and I am still able to work. While this pregnancy has been challenging for me, I am also aware that it could be so much worse. I may still end up on bed rest or face some unforeseen complications, but I'm feeling like I've figured out how to be pregnant (at least for the time being). Managing a veterinary practice and managing a high risk pregnancy has been quite the journey so far, but I know it will all be worth it in the end.
The annual rabies clinics are in full swing! For years Howard County Veterinary Service has offered rabies clinics in New Franklin, Fayette, Armstrong, and Glasgow for an affordable way to keep local dogs and cats up-to-date and protected.
Rabies is a preventable disease with these vaccinations, but it could be fatal if people or pets are scratched or bitten by a rabid animal. The rabies virus affects the central nervous system with many symptoms and side effects and treatment can be quite costly. Local towns require licensing of pets with a vaccination for rabies, so not only are these clinics for public safety but also so locals can own pets legally.
If it is financially feasible, the clinic encourages people to come to our offices at 293 Highway 5 and 240, Fayette, Missouri 65248, for vaccinations because wellness exams, heartworm testing, and nail trims are not performed at rabies clinics.
Glasgow’s rabies clinic was held in April and we had a great turnout, vaccinating over 60 animals. The rabies clinics are co-sponsored by the Howard County Veterinary Service and the local cities so it’s a group effort to provide this service to local citizens to keep all of our pets protected.
Questions and health issues regarding your pet can also be addressed in our office. We also do vaccinations other than rabies at our rabies clinics, including Bordetella (Kennel Cough), DHLPP for dogs, and FVRCP with or without Leukemia for cats. However, we are happy to continue to provide these clinics for those who need to get their pets vaccinated and get city licensing at a lower cost.
We have two more clinics coming up this summer:
If your pet is not up to date on other vaccinations, give us a call at (660) 248-3382 and we can schedule your appointment today!
Thank you and we look forward to seeing some of you at our rabies clinics and in our office!
If you’d like a fun read on what to do and not to do at a rabies clinic, here’s my blog from last year about some humorous but valuable information on clinic and pet etiquette:
You’ll be seeing a new doctor at Howard County Veterinary Service. We are happy to welcome Dr. Cody Lewis, and this is a good way to explain my long absence from the blog. We’ve been busy! So, we’re very excited that Dr. Lewis has joined the mayhem. You may have met Dr. Lewis already. He’s been at the clinic helping out for a while, so he knows what he’s in for (I hope). I handed him these questions and gave him a few days to finish it up and he finished it up in a few minutes, so he’ll be in charge of making coffee every morning. It is necessary for the office to get our coffee ASAP. Just kidding, Dr. Lewis. You don't have to get everyone coffee, but I like mine with two tablespoons of sugar.
Thank you, Dr. Lewis!
Where are you from and what is your background?
I am originally from Harrisburg. Our family had a beef farm a few miles north of Roanoke while I was growing up which meant there was a lot of driving through Fayette on the weekends. Aside from cattle, we also seemed to always have a few horses, chickens and the occasional pig or goat. When I was a senior in high school, I started working as a veterinary tech assistant at a high-volume, small animal and exotic practice in Columbia. I worked there until I began my clinical courses during the third year of veterinary school. I spent many weekends and days off of work shadowing a local equine veterinarian as well.
Where did you do your preceptorships at and what have you gathered from those experiences?
I spent two weeks at a small animal practice in Jefferson City then immediately headed to a very busy, haul-in cattle practice located in Bolivar, Missouri, where I spent a month and a half in total. After my second stint in Bolivar, I spent around a month here at Howard County Veterinary Service.
The time spent at the small animal practice in Jefferson City was great for keeping my surgical skills sharp. I was able to manage cases and make my own decisions (which were then approved by the doctors before being followed through) which I think is an important step a student should take prior to graduation. It was also good exposure for participating in and observing staff/client communication and management.
At the Bolivar practice I was able to perform many procedures such as cesarean sections and left displaced abomasal corrections. We also had weekly visits to a local dairy which involved pregnancy examinations via palpation and ultrasonography. I spent time there during both fall and spring calving which provided an abundance of scouring calves to manage and prolapses to replace. My time spent in Bolivar was an excellent opportunity to participate in practical production medicine.
Next, I came to Howard County Veterinary Service and was able to bring together and utilize knowledge I had gained from the other two practices. I was able to use surgical techniques acquired at both the college and my prior preceptorships in both the small and large animal aspects of the business.
I hear you have a particular interest in equine medicine. How would you utilize your experience in this field and what other interests do you have?
I have an appreciation for the ambulatory facet of veterinary medicine, partially due to the shadowing experiences I had as well as the equine ambulatory rotation offered at the college. In the spring, most of the routine work involved vaccinating, pulling blood for a Coggin’s test, and floating their teeth. However, lameness and laminitis, or founder, were common issues we would address and because of this we often worked closely beside various farriers to provide sedation and took radiographs to determine severity.
I am looking forward to providing a variety of equine services to the local area including dentistry, vaccination, laceration repair, colic management and working alongside your farrier if veterinary services are required.
My favorite aspects of veterinary medicine are surgery, dentistry, and cattle reproduction. I also have a strong interest in proper hoof care in both cattle and equine.
What excites you the most about practicing at Howard County Veterinary Service in Fayette?
Growing up, Dr. Taylor and Dr. Vroman were my grandparent’s veterinarians. I have a lot of good memories with my grandpa that are associated with this practice and the services they provided. It is an honor to follow in their footsteps and continue on the legacy of quality veterinary care.
What are your hobbies/interests/activities you enjoy when you’re not working?
I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors. Hunting, fishing, marksmanship and archery are activities I could do endlessly. I enjoy trail riding, playing guitar, cooking, and performing my own motorcycle and automotive repairs. I’d enjoy having my own small forge/foundry someday so I could do some amateur blacksmithing. I went to vocational school during high school for autobody and collision repair which is where I discovered a passion for metalwork.
What do you think a veterinarian’s role is in the community?
I believe that veterinarians provide the important service of improving animal health in the community. I also believe a common facet that is often overlooked or ignored is the role as an educator. I think that we should encourage our clients, students, and community members to desire a better understanding of why we do what we do and how it improves the lives of their pets and livestock.
Are you prepared to work with an office full of loud-mouthed extroverts? And if not, what are your coping mechanisms going to be?
Put simply, yes. Though I am a fairly direct, level-headed, “to-the-point” introvert myself, I have spent almost ten years working alongside some incredibly knowledgeable, sometimes boisterous, and always confident extroverts. From my experiences, I am often a good balancing personality.
Look, I’m going to keep this brief because it’s 5 P.M. on a Wednesday afternoon (which is an afternoon that I happen to be off this week), I just got my son down for a nap, and I’m sitting in the middle of my bedroom floor with a very large pile of clean laundry that I should be folding.
Yes, you heard right. It’s 5 P.M. and I just got my son down for a nap.
Why would you lay your son down for a nap this late, you ask? Well, he turned two a few months ago, and we’re now weaning him off of bottles. Yes, I know he’s a little old for bottles and we should have done this a long time ago, but I’ve been a little busy. Also, my son quit taking a pacifier at four months of age, so the bottle is how we get him to sleep.
And I desperately need him to sleep at times.
Anyway, long story short, getting him down for a nap without the “nurse bottle,” as he likes to call it, has proven quite difficult. I probably should have made him skip the nap, but I wasn’t prepared for the bear that he could become later in the evening if he skipped said nap. When I tried to get him to nap earlier, he would lay on the floor and scream non-stop and constantly request a “different bottle” than the transitional bottles I’m now using. He did not want to be read to, he did not want to be held, and he would not let me lay down on his bed with him. One hour of inconsolable crying later, and I finally had to cave and let him watch some videos and eat some snacks (and I really try to limit videos as much as possible) so I could get caught up on dishes and cleaning the kitchen with tears streaming down my face.
I feel like a failure. I feel like I’ve lost the ability to soothe my child. I also feel like a failure because I can’t get him to eat any other foods than the short list of five things that he’ll eat on a consistent basis. Is it because I’m working so much? Is he no longer used to me? What happened to that strong mother-son bond that we have had for so long? I used to be the one to call if nothing would make him feel better.
The truth is that none of this probably has anything to do with me. The harsh reality is that my son is now a toddler, and there are days when he is overwhelmed with emotions and doesn’t know how to handle them and that’s just the rough transition of being a toddler. As a first-time mom, I’m learning more and more that toddlers can amaze you and melt your heart and then in one fell swoop become dictators of another level. On top of that, since I’m 12 weeks pregnant, I am also a touch more emotional than normal and seem to take things personally much easier.
The other truth is that the situation I describe above probably isn’t foreign to most mothers, with a little extra guilt added in due to being a working mother. Ever since I became a veterinarian, coming up on seven years ago, I have put my heart and soul into what I do. I bought the practice in my hometown and have worked very hard to grow the practice. I have spent an astronomical amount of money on equipment upgrades this year. I have spent a lot of time researching for said equipment upgrades. I have taken on more management responsibilities with some of the changes I’ve made, which can result in extra work at home because I don’t have time during the work day to keep up with my caseload and fulfill said management responsibilities.
As I continue to type this, I am realizing this could sound a bit whiney to a lot of you, which is definitely not the intention. I chose this career. I chose to buy my practice. I chose to have a child, and then become pregnant with a second child. I chose to say yes to leadership positions in organized veterinary medicine and the community. This is what type A personalities do. We want to do it all, and we believe we can have it all. But I’m going to say this in case anyone is feeling like I do and needs this opportunity to get it off their chest and feel like they’re not alone.
Having it all, even though you choose to do so, really freaking sucks sometimes. I get a lot of fulfillment out of my career, out of owning a practice, and out of being a mother. I also often wonder if I have bit off more than I can chew at times. I don’t like to believe that I have limitations, when in fact, I do have limitations. I read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In soon after it came out, and it quickly became my Bible. But I have found that if you lean in too far, you will, in fact, fall on your face. You can “have it all” so to speak, but you can’t have it all at the same time.
After looking over it again, something dawned on me and it may be helpful for everyone to be reminded of this. Maybe you were like me and read Lean In and found so much inspiration in the parts that spoke to you about being a leader in the midst of men who may ignore your abilities or having a career and a family and mastering both. When I reread, I noticed the things I had chosen to ignore: the pesky points that Sandberg made about compromise and limits. No one wants to hear about that! But she said it...darn it. She said that sometimes we have to limit or reevaluate our goals, that sometimes we aren’t going to be there for our children, and sometimes we aren’t going to succeed, and as women, we are going to have to find a way to be okay with that. We have to trust, and delegate, and oh my, we may have to change our plans.
Having balance in your life does not mean that you have a perfect 50/50 balance of home life and work life every single day. There are days when emergencies are piling up and you have mountains of paperwork to do and work has to take priority. There are other days when your son comes down with croup and needs you to be just a mommy for the day. The days where work takes priority should be balanced with days where you can just be a mom, husband, wife, or daughter. I’m realizing that I don’t have nearly enough of the latter. I miss my son’s dentist appointments and his toddler gymnastics sessions. I miss family outings over the holidays. I haven’t been on a date with my husband in five months. I can’t do all the family things that I would like to, but I need to make the conscience effort to balance it out and make a conscience effort to support myself when the guilt comes creeping in.
I feel like too many people in my profession put their heart and soul into what they do, but don’t give themselves days to breath. I want desperately to lean in as much as possible, but some days I just want to lay down instead. It doesn’t help that parents are constantly given crappy advice like, “The dishes can wait. Enjoy your children.” That sounds nice in theory. But the dishes can only wait for so long before it becomes a public health hazard to everyone in the home. Is advice like that designed to be helpful, or is it just supposed to make us feel guilty for doing basic, necessary chores in our homes?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I hope veterinarians can realize that there’s more to life than practicing veterinary medicine. Take an extra day off and enjoy time with your family. Go on vacation, for Christ’s sake. Work hard and do your best, but realize that client that you are bending over backwards for and worrying over may sell you out in a second with a bad Yelp review. Veterinarians are people pleasers and would do almost anything for their clients. Learn not to take things personally when a client turns on you or your staff. Their often emotional critique is not a reflection of the job that you have done. If you put your entire heart and soul into this profession, you will likely be sadly disappointed. While this profession is and can be incredibly rewarding, it can also disappoint you. Animals can die despite your best efforts. Owners can lash out at you out of grief or because they’ve had a bad day. While most clients are amazing and great to work with, some of them, quite frankly, are nutter butters and impossible to please.
None of that is a reflection of the veterinarian that you are, but they are all reasons why this job cannot be 100% responsible for your fulfillment and happiness. I’m slowly learning my limitations. I’m learning to slow down a little. Being diagnosed with cancer also made me realize that there is a certain level of bullshit and negativity that is not worth your attention. I have hired a third veterinarian that will start in June to help meet the needs of my growing practice, but to also free up some of my time for management tasks and my growing family. My practice needs me. My son needs me. My unborn child needs me. My husband needs me. And I need to take care of myself so I can continue to meet all of those needs. We all need to take care of ourselves and if that means compromise, a new direction, a five minute walk, or God forbid, asking for help, we all need to make that commitment to ourselves.
It is still fall, yes, it is still fall, but these chilly mornings have reminded me that winter is coming. My frosty windows make that morning rush just a little more harried as I forget to start my vet truck to defrost early enough and run around yelling at my husband, “Where is the window scraper?!” as he replies, “The kid was using it as a pirate’s sword!”
So it’s gone for good.
If you’re anything like me and you have to start now to prepare for a winter that might not come until March (because we’re in Missouri and we can’t be sure), then here are some tips to start thinking about now:
1.) Start checking your vehicle for critters - When it’s cold out and you have outdoor pets, or even if you’re taking them out for a potty break that they just don’t want to go out in the cold for, make sure you check your car for pets. Dogs like to lay around under a warm car and cats like to burrow inside a warm car, finding little tunnels into the very depths of an engine in the hopes to hop a ride to a warmer climate. That’s what they think you do all day at work. They think you drive to a warm beach and drink Mai Tais all day. Make sure you have a visual of your pets before moving your vehicle. If you don’t have a visual, call for them first or honk the horn. That may force Whiskers out from under your hood with an attitude, but better safe than sorry.
2.) Check their tails and ears for frostbite - If you take them out a lot or they are just like my Great Pyrenees and think cold weather is a gift from God sent down just for them, make sure you check them every once in awhile for frostbite. Their ears and the tip of their tail are especially susceptible, so take a peek to make sure they’re holding up against the outdoors. Skin tissue will become bright red, and then a pale color if they are getting frostbite. It can be hard to detect, and sometimes may reach a black color (deadening of tissue) before you notice. Contact your veterinarian if you notice any of these symptoms.
3.) Wipe their paws thoroughly - Foot pads can also get frostbite, but the main concern for the more durable foot pads is icing and salt. Pets can get ice and snow stuck in their paws that can cause damage to their pads. Also, the road and sidewalk salt used throughout the winter can build up on their foot pads causing irritation and damage. Set up a routine when they come in to wipe down their foot pads with a wet cloth and also use that time to check their paws for injury or irritation.
4.) Get their outdoor housing up-to-date - If they are an outdoor pet or have an extra outdoor space, make sure it’s ready for winter. It needs to be off the ground an inch or two, and most dog houses already have this built in, but it keeps water, ice, and snow from building up beneath it which will make their warm space much colder. Make sure the opening is also out of the wind so they can snuggle up comfortably. That being said, if it’s freezing outside, just let them inside your home. If they watch you in the window with hot chocolate and warm cookies straight out of the oven, while they are shivering as the great blizzard of 2019 bears down on them, you’ll regret it later. They’ll find something to tear up, most likely your snow boots.
5.) Check the water bowl - Make sure their water bowl isn’t frozen. Better yet, get them a heated water bowl. It’s less hassle and you won’t have to replace the bowl three times during the winter after you left frozen water in it overnight and it exploded.
6.) Keep the decorations out of their reach - There are a lot of decorations that come with cooler weather. It gives us something to do since we don’t want to step foot outside. Decorations like holly, poinsettias, glass ornaments, and small plastic decorations can be dangerous for your pet. Make sure things are out of reach (and when I say out of reach, I mean out of the house because it’s probably shiny, so they’ll find a way to get it).
7.) Know your pet - Before you let your pet spend any time outside, get to know their signs of being too cold. Each pet can react differently to time outdoors. For example, my Great Pyrenees is going to hold up much better than a Chihuahua. Also, keep in mind that older animals and animals with underlying illnesses or health conditions (i.e: heart disease, diabetes, or kidney disease) do not handle the cold temperatures as well. But they have to go out sometime, so recognize the signs of shivering, frostbite, and ice packed paws to know when it’s appropriate for your pet to warm up. This is also good advice for costumes or holiday outfits. Know your pet. If Whiskers won’t even put on his collar without a claw fight, that’s probably a good sign that he doesn’t want that Wise Men costume, for sure.
You’ve got plenty of time, I think, but technically tomorrow it could snow or it could feel like Jamaica. Plan now and you may not need all these tips at all. It might just snow once in late March. Then you can get Whiskers that kitty bikini you’ve always wanted.
The past month and a half has been a whirlwind, hence my absence from the blogosphere. At the end of the July, I developed an ascending paresthesia (tingling/numbness). I was then diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome. The culprit? Fish tacos! It’s a long story that I’ll address in a later blog post. After a week in the hospital, recovery at home, and then returning to work for a short time, I got the go-ahead from my neurologist to travel for the family vacation that had been planned for months. So we started packing our bags in preparation for a vacation to the Wild West.
Despite the medical issues that were out of my control, mother nature was another story. For months, we had planned to travel to Glacier National Park. Glacier has been on my bucket list of places to travel for several years. I’m a mountain girl at heart, and the photos I have seen from others who have traveled there are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. My mother has also always wanted to travel there. Several months ago, while discussing my longing for Glacier with my mom, she had the idea that we should all travel there. My love for the mountains was ingrained as a young child when we would vacation to Colorado to hike almost every year. It had been a long time since all of us had been to the mountains together. So my mom found a cabin in West Glacier.
My brother likes long road trips, so she would ride up there with him. I decided that I would NOT do a 20-hour drive with a toddler, so I scheduled flights for my husband, son, and I. This would be our first flight with the toddler. A couple of weeks before we left, I started seeing headlines about wildfires in Glacier. As the fires engulfed more and more of West Glacier and reading about complaints of air quality, we decided as a group that we would have a better time in a different location. I brought up Chico Hot Springs as an alternative to my mom. My husband and I stayed there for the last couple of nights during our big Yellowstone vacation five years ago. It was a cute little spa with awesome mineral hot springs located just 30 miles north of Yellowstone in an area of Montana known as Paradise Valley. Paradise Valley is the valley surrounding the Yellowstone River extending from the north end of Yellowstone National Park and up to Livingston, Montana, and it’s aptly named. While I was disappointed that I would not yet cross Glacier National Park off my bucket list, I was excited to revisit Chico Hot Springs, even though I knew the trip with my entire family and my toddler would be vastly different from the trip my husband and I had as a couple five years ago. My mom found a wonderful cabin in Pray, Montana, near the hot springs resort. After multiple family meetings via text message (because let’s face it, other than vacation, it’s almost impossible to get all of us together), we settled on a cabin near Pray.
After we changed locations, I discovered my airline would not let me change my final destination from Kalispell near Glacier to Bozeman. As is the trend with great customer service and airlines, they would not let me change destinations but offered to book me all new tickets to Bozeman! Ha! Jokes on me, but oh well! I decided we would keep our flight plans and would make the 5.5 hour drive down the state of Montana.
While I have traveled with my son once before (we traveled to the Smoky Mountains last summer), it would be the first time I had flown with my son. Lots of things went through my mind. I asked myself questions I’d never asked myself before like, “If I put baby formula in a Ziploc bag, will security think it’s cocaine?” The anxiety of forgetting something while traveling with a young one was high, but my husband reminded me that there would be Target and other stores nearby. Bags were packed, and item after item was crossed off the packing list. We woke up at 2:30 A.M. for our early flight. The little one picked up on the excitement and woke up at 3:30 A.M. He was walking around the local airport like he owned the place in his striped footies and sneakers. He even made a friend with another toddler, and they bonded over their love or toy vehicles (lightning McQueen and a toy school bus). We survived a delay out of our airport with a short layover. After his early morning, he slept for nearly all of the second flight. We don’t promote a lot of screen time with our little one, but all I can say is thank God for Thomas the Train videos. They were a lifesaver for traveling with a toddler.
We arrived into Kalispell mid-morning with a smoky haze surrounding the mountains. Our drive down to the cabin was a beautiful one, and it gave us the opportunity to visit my husband’s uncle at the halfway point. My son was quite impressed with Montana from the beginning because the large number of trains roaring through the mountains. We arrived at our cabin a day before the rest of the family, allowing us to regroup and stock the kitchen...and get first pick on the best bedroom.
The rest of our family arrived a day or so later. Our first family outing would be white water rafting on the Yellowstone River with my brother and his wife. Grandma offered to babysit our son during the rafting trip. It would be an 18-mile trip down the river, with lunch on a “sandbar” at some point. We met our guide. We shared a raft with a family from the UK (a father and two college-aged kids) and a family from the East Coast (a mother with a middle schooler and a very mouthy high schooler). We started out our rafting trip with a series of rapids. Our guide informed us that any of us could “ride the bull” at any time, meaning you could sit at the very front of the raft with both legs over the front and holding on to the handle. Since we were in Montana, you have to hold on with one hand like a bull rider. Of course, my husband was the first to volunteer. He did not last eight seconds, but he stayed in the boat, which is probably more than what I would have accomplished. We saw beautiful mountain scenery, bison, and elk. After listening to the mouthy teenage boy for a majority of the five hour trip, I also made a mental note to give my son an extra spanking or two for good measure out of pure parental fear of losing the never ending battle of “Will my child turn out to be a little shit?” I guess I could try but he’s super cute right now. Overall, it was a fun day trip on the river, but I was happy to get back to the cabin to my little boy.
The next day, we decided we would hike in the mountains. Based on recommendations of the locals, we decided to go on a hike called Passage Falls. It would be a hike that is five miles round trip. We packed all the baby things: the bottles, the snacks, the backpack, diapers, etc. We checked the weather, and it was expected to be a dry afternoon. We arrived at the trailhead, and we walked a gentle incline through a valley. The area had a fire from 2008 so the burnt dead trees above with the colorful wildflowers below created a surprisingly beautiful view. For the last half mile or so, the incline increased, and the wind started to change. Once we got over the mountain, there were pretty steep downhill switchbacks to the falls. The path consisted of slippery shale, making the downhill switchbacks a bit hectic. My husband, thankfully the one carrying the baby in the backpack, was the only one not stressing on this part of the trail. I suddenly had visions of myself falling down the side of the hill and into the falls, which prompted me to slide down the trail on my butt. My mom and sister-in-law then followed suit. We made it to the falls, and they were beautiful.
It also became clear that a storm was coming. It then occurred to me that we had forgotten one thing: raincoats (including one for the baby). The rain started, the wind blew, and then the thunder and lightning came. A feeling of panic came over me. I realized my son was in a metal framed pack. We were on top of the mountain in the thunderstorm with no rain coats (at least my son’s backpack had a canopy, which provided some shelter. I also remembered the words my infectious disease doctor told me when I ran into her during my most recent hospital stay: “If lightning is striking, I don’t want to stand next to you.”
I have to admit, I panicked. I had an overwhelming desire to get down the mountain as fast as possible. I told my husband, who was carrying the baby in the backpack, to run. Then I realized a minute or so later that I had all the bottles and snacks for the baby in my backpack, so I started running too. As I started down the mountain, my brother said, “Wait! Do you want the bear spray?” It then occurred to me that running down a mountain by myself in grizzly country might not be the best idea. I agreed to take the bear spray, and my brother tossed it to me. I’m sure I was just being a touron (a new term I learned on the trip), but it was very eery as I ran down the mountain by myself in the storm. My imagination got a little carried away, and I kept envisioning a bear smelling the goldfish and peanut butter crackers in my backpack and stalking me from a distance. I worried about how my boys were doing ahead of me, and wondered if I could possibly catch them as my water-soaked jeans shortened my stride. I then tripped over a root and turned my already bruised and swollen ankle (long story, injury from a playground jungle gym). As I limped and hobbled along the valley of dead trees in the rain, I was certain that the bear who had been stalking me down the mountain would come out of nowhere and attack now that I was wounded. I gripped the bear spray even tighter. That fear grew stronger every time I would detect a musty smell along the trail. I was able to walk off the soreness in my ankle and continue running after a short bit. Alas, I made it to the end of the trail without being mauled by a bear or struck by lightning, and my adorable boys were waiting for me in the car. It was a great feeling.
The rest of my family made it to the bottom of the mountain about twenty minutes later. I knew they would be annoyed that we split up and decided to run down the mountain, which breaks the age-old advice that you should travel in groups in the mountains. However, at that point, I was more worried about the storm than the bears. I also think that deep down, I knew a grizzly was no match for this mamma bear. Just kidding! Bears will eat you. I promised my mom that I would never run off by myself while in the mountains (with my fingers crossed behind my back).
The next day was cold and rainy, so chilling out at the cabin seemed like a good option, especially after yesterday’s excitement. The rest of the trip was great. From horseback riding, relaxing at the cabin, trips to the mineral hot springs, and ventures into Yellowstone National Park, it was just what we needed. A lot had happened since our last family vacation to the Smoky Mountains a little over a year ago: cancer diagnosis, a post-op infection and hospitalization, treatment, recovery, and then another hospitalization with a completely unrelated and weird diagnosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome, with lots of working and developing/growing my practice in between. After all of that, it was great to have time with family to decompress, relax, and reflect on our many blessings.
Yes, it’s been a challenging year or so. But after having time to think about things, I realized that I am absolutely stronger and changed for the better. The flight home with the toddler was also a success. We arrived home with a few days of the holiday weekend to decompress before work/the grind would start again. Even though I came back to a clinic that is still being renovated and a neverending list of projects, I’m thankful for the life we have here at home and looking forward to the future (including future vacations). I mean, I love my job, but I work hard, so I need to play hard. I hope everyone remembers that. Everyone faces challenges, and everyone needs a break once in a while. Take it! I beg of you. Treat yourself to at least a 24 hour period of fun and relaxation because, otherwise, you’re wasting some precious time with your loved ones that they may also dearly need.
It's been a while since I posted and here's why - Fish Tacos. Long story, coming soon, but I was recently diagnosed with Guillain-Barre so it slowed me down quite a bit. I'm going to take it easy this week and I need your help. Apparently, Sunday, September 9th was Hug Your Hound Day and everyone was so helpful to send me pictures of their lovely pooches so I could post an easy. Thanks for your wonderful pictures and make sure you take a moment to hug your hound today and every day!
August 1st through August 7th each year is World Breastfeeding Week. World Breastfeeding Week was started as a worldwide initiative to advance breastfeeding as good nutrition, food security, and poverty reduction. In celebration of this holiday, I wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate the women in my profession that not only show up to work to save lives everyday, but also continue to feed their young children. Like many professions, it’s not always easy to pump or breastfeed at work. While my breastfeeding days have been over for several months, cut short by having to go on a liquid diet during radiation therapy, I can’t help but look back fondly on those days. I also can’t help but wonder if I would have been one of those mothers that breastfeeds well into toddler years had my body allowed, but I digress. For fun, I decided to poll some of my fellow Mom DVMs. I asked them to finish the sentence of “You might be a breastfeeding veterinarian if…” Here are the hilarious (and somewhat disturbing) responses. Enjoy!
Thanks to all the ladies who shared their stories with me. You really are a unique breed, able to pull off some serious multitasking. I know some of you have a difficult time pulling this off as busy business owners, and some of you have an even more difficult time if you have bosses that make it more difficult. Power through! Like many of these posts that you sent my way, they become funnier with time, and when more women enter this field with higher expectations about the time and space for breastfeeding, we can look back and have a good laugh on how we did our utmost to make breastfeeding a priority.
Jessica Stroupe, DVM