by Rie

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The cat tells me that my only purpose is to feed her.

I’m inclined to agree.

Almost three weeks in to this rotation. Tasmania is lovely. Sleep is lovelier still. I have a rip in my jeans to show for my work and scars running down both arms to show my animal handling experience.

Darn baby bunnies. They’re antsy and wriggly and their nails are sharp.

I told a friend recently that I don’t care too much for being a vet – that I likely could be happier elsewhere. Or perhaps just as happy. I am human and, therefore, fickle.

She asked me why I chose it. It was said almost condescendingly. “How could you not have possibly known that you weren’t interested?” is what went unsaid.

(The condescension probably wasn’t intended. It was just felt. Because I wonder the same.)

Although I said it, I realise that to some extent, I don’t mean it. I like veterinary medicine. I like it very, very much. I used to say that I chose it over medicine because it involved dealing less with people but I take that back – I like that I deal with both animals and their people.

I just hate that life spans are so finite.

There’s a new drug on the market now. It means to extend the life of cats with end-stage kidney disease. But you stop it when the kidneys get really, really bad. And when you stop, I suppose you do just that – you give up, you stop.

I thought of human measures of life span. Actual years lived and disability-adjusted life years. It’s not so different from how we measure life span, I suppose, except that we vets tend to stop when the disability threatens. Humans carry on as if they can live forever.

It’s not a bad thing. It makes sense. Animals (and, I suppose, humans, too, to some degree) are only worth as much as the emotional value we assign. We’ll never know how much animals actually enjoy us, how much they enjoy the pats and cuddles we can’t resist giving. But we can make a guess. We feed them. We shelter them. We are gods with no certain purpose; we do not create, we only contain.

So, when the thirteen-year-old clinic cat looks at me, asking me for dinner – she only comes to me when she wants dinner – I give her dinner. Her actions imply that I have a singular purpose: to feed her.

And, in light of everything I am capable of doing for her, I agree.

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