My name is Dr. Tannetje Crocker, and I am a veterinarian. I have said that in multiple talks for the past 10 years, but never really thought about what it means.

I would propose that we, as veterinarians, are teachers, surgeons, psychiatrists, trainers, confidants, advocates, and sometimes angels of death. We work all over the world in veterinary hospitals, zoos, government facilities, army bases, veterinary schools, ranches, and racetracks. We are called to service in times of need, joy, desperation, and love. Unlike our human medical counterparts, we commonly see our patients when they are young and vulnerable, and then old and failing. We walk through life with many owner’s hand in hand as they navigate their pets medical trials and triumphs.

Having practiced for ten years now I have had the privilege of meeting some amazing patients. Tex was a young, energetic, licking fool when I first met him. For many years we would see him once a year for routine vaccines and some drool filled kisses. The first round of cancer came a few years ago in the form of a toe tumor. He gracefully handled surgical removal of the toe and hung out at the clinic for a few weeks post op to fully recover. Every day I would sneak to the back and share a few moments with him, it often brightened my day. The next tumor was a year ago in his thyroid. The surgeons were successful in removing it all, and he once again powered through and recovered great. About six months ago he presented for coughing. Right away I knew the cause. The owner was in disbelief that cancer could be knocking at the door again. A chest X-ray confirmed the bad news. We bought him two weeks with pain meds, and then put him to sleep when the spark was gone from his eyes.

I cried that day. Openly wept with the owner. Me and this middle age, sweet soul of a man tried to comfort one another as we did the best thing for Tex, and the hardest thing for us. I still have the paw print he had made for me in my office drawer. On the toughest days I can pull it out and run my fingers over his four-toe front paw impression to remind myself of the value of what I do.

I will admit I have wanted to be a veterinarian since I was 6 years old, and daily I still am passionate about what I do. My father always told me, “If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life”, and I am blessed to say I have found that to be very true. I survived an equine internship, forged several years in equine ambulatory practice, experimented as a relief veterinarian, and finally settled at a family friendly small animal practice, with a side gig in emergency medicine. After 10 years I am still proud to call myself a veterinarian and continue to be excited about the possibilities this career will bring.