By: Michael W. Miller, DVM
I was having a decent day at work. No patients had died. Clients were listening to me, or at least being polite and pretending to listen. Despite being short staffed, the rest of the team had stepped up to help the day move smoothly. And then, suddenly, one client sucked all the joy out of the hospital. Nothing I did was right. Nothing I could say made it better. The room got cold. As I passed out, I heard a young mother screaming and saw a flash of green light as Voldemort performed the Killing Curse that would make me an orphan…
Okay, that last part didn’t happen. But it certainly did feel like a dementor had descended on my hospital, and I would never feel happy ever again.
Veterinary medicine is full of dementors: soul suckers that instantly change the mood leading to depression and despair. These can be people like clients and co-workers, or they can be situations like a patient’s grave prognosis or an overbooked schedule. It’s not hard to identify the dementors of veterinary medicine, but overcoming them can be extremely difficult. However, veterinary dementors can be fought off using these three techniques also used when battling the dementors of the wizarding world.
1) Avoid getting sent to Azkaban.
This seems simple, but it’s an important first step. If you don’t want to spend time around Dementors, don’t get sent to Azkaban! The more time you spend in veterinary medicine, the more easily you will recognize the offenses that can effectively get you sent to Azkaban.
For example, I now make sure I triple check the pet’s name before I enter the exam room. Once, I unintentionally upset a client by calling her pet by the wrong name – which instead happened to be the name of her recently deceased pet. For that, I was sent straight to Azkaban. No trial by Wizengamot was needed. I really don’t want to make that mistake again.
2) Conjure your veterinary Patronus: “Ex-VET-o patronum!”
Harry’s stag Patronus was wonderful at repelling dementors, but do you remember how difficult it was for him to learn that spell? It’s not easy to scare away veterinary dementors either. Like Harry and the rest of Dumbledore’s Army, learning to master your veterinary Patronus charm takes time. Let me break down how I learned to conjure my veterinary Patronus into three steps:
First, focus on the positive. For the spell to work for wizards, they must think of their happiest memory. This works for us as well. Picture in your mind the wonderful, happy clients and patients you have helped. Keep your favorite thank you cards to reread when you need a pick-me-up. My staff started recording two good things that happened each day to help us focus on the warm, fuzzy positives that otherwise may be forgotten. Find what helps you recall these happy memories, and let them warm your soul like a stomach full of hot butterbeer.
Second, believe in yourself. The first time Harry was able to conjure a full corporeal Patronus was when he was filled with confidence because he had seen himself do it thanks to Hermione’s time turner. (That whole situation sure was a bit trippy, wasn’t it?) Veterinary dementors zap your happiness, but they can also shatter your self-esteem. So in addition to thinking of your happy memories, you must reassure your confidence in order to conjure your Patronus. Focusing on your failures is easy…and depressing. It takes effort to instead reminisce over your triumphs. Try keeping a list of your veterinary victories you can peruse when your confidence is shaken. Use them to remind yourself how awesome (and magical!) you truly are.
Third, keep practicing your personal Patronus charm technique. Each wizard must customize the positive memories and confidence builders used to effectively create a veterinary Patronus. Practice until you get it right. You will figure it out eventually. Neville did. You can, too. (Oh, and if anyone is wondering, my corporeal Patronus would be a turtle…but a magical turtle that isn’t slow…because it’s magical.)
3) Recover using chocolate…and friends.
Sometimes the Patronus doesn’t work. Sometimes the dementor is overpowering and leaves you in complete despair. When Harry was overcome by the dementors, Professor Lupin helped Harry recover by offering him chocolate.
Unlike with wizards, chocolate may not work for all veterinary professionals recovering from a dementor attack. Your version of chocolate may actually be chocolate. Or, maybe your recovery is accomplished best with ice cream, butterbeer, exercising, Quidditch, puppy snuggles, or cute kitten videos. Find what helps you bounce back best.
Ultimately, even though the chocolate helped greatly, what helped Harry completely recover from the dementors was support from Professor Lupin, Ron, and Hermione. If you find yourself feeling ravaged by a veterinary dementor, especially if your Patronus and chocolate have proven ineffective, please reach out to a friend or professional for help. A fellow wizard who also battles dementors will understand your struggle. You don’t have to fight them alone.
I hope these tips to ward off veterinary dementors are beneficial to you. Once you have discovered the magic that helps you combat your dementors, please share it with other wizards to help them fight theirs. All of us veterinary wizards are in this together. By helping each other, we will discover the magic in veterinary medicine.