Ten years ago today, I stood with my mentor, Frank Akawi, in the big Victorian building we had spent the weeks before working tirelessly to set up. This was to become the hospital he had promised to create with me since I was fresh out of high school. The hospital that would some day be mine. As we heard the clicking of our first patient’s nails on the wood floors, Frank looked at me and said “This place is going to change you.” And as always, he was right.
As I stood there in my Dansko clogs and brand new stethoscope, I thought about the ways that being a doctor, and years later an owner, would change me. I thought about the stress, the worrying, the sense of accomplishment, the clients and the medicine. The last decade at Greenfield Animal Hospital has brought all of those things into my realm of experiences. But it has brought so much more. This place, and particularly the family that has formed between the staff, patients and clients, has changed my soul.
I have experienced some of the happiest and saddest times of my life in these walls, with this family.
As I stood in those clogs, clutching that stethescope, there are things I never could have imagined that this family would bring me. For example, the feeling of looking into an animal’s eyes after they finally start to turn the corner back to health, and feeling their “thank you.” Or the sadness you feel when a client says goodbye to their trusted companion. There are countless examples of the love and joy that the GAH family has brought to so many people, and this is what makes this place, and these last ten years, so very special.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of examining a newly adopted elderly dog named Josie. Josie was adopted by a sweet elderly gentleman. He informed me that “he was an old man, so he adopted an old dog.” Over the next few months, we all fell in love with Josie and her dad. As you can imagine, we were all devastated when the family called to tell us that Josie’s dad had passed away, and that they could not keep Josie. This is where the specialness of our hospital comes in. The girls (and Mark) bonded together and figured out a plan for Josie. She went to Courtney’s house for a while, who made her pretty and comfortable, and then accompanied her to her dad’s funeral, walking gently by her to the casket, to allow her to say goodbye. Josie is now living out her golden years with Amy, on her farm, as a happy member of her pack.
Becky and her family once showed up to bury a precious furry friend in a family cemetery when physical limitations prevented the owners from doing so themselves. There was the time that Dr. Jansen slept overnight on the floor outside of Nella’s cage after a particularly long and complicated gastrointestinal surgery, as well as all of the staff members that have gone to pick up Paulene the cat to make sure she gets to her appointments when her mom might not be able to get there. The whole staff came together after hours to give Nakita one last swim before she had to go, and not surprisingly, we all have or have had a patient or two as part of our own pack. That’s not to say that it’s only the sad times that this staff pours out their love. This happens everyday. It’s flowing strong when we have dance parties when Baxter comes in so that he can shake his fluffy butt, and when we take the extra time to stop and watch Lucy ‘catch’ (aka miss) the ball in just the cutest way.
The love that this staff and these patients (and of course their people too) have brought into my life has made all of the stresses, fears and sad times worthwhile. To me, this is one of the most precious gifts a person can be given. As they say, if you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life. The building may be older, and the parking lot may need work. But the love in this place is top notch. For this, I am beyond thankful.
Thank you to the wonderful staff of Greenfield Animal Hospital, who work with their whole hearts to help animals and their people. Thank you to the purest packages of light that are our patients, who heal us all on our darkest days, and bring us some of the best belly laughs you can imagine. And thank you to our clients, who share their fur babes with us, and in doing so allow us to fulfill our purpose. Each and every one of you are important to us, and we are beyond grateful for your loyalty. We have worked hard over the last ten years to be “your other family doctor,” and it has been one of my greatest pleasures. Here’s to the next ten years of love, laughter and compassion at Greenfield Animal Hospital.