Owning your own veterinary practice is great. Really, I love it. It’s my kind of three-ring circus. The perks are pretty good sometimes, too.

Need time off? You don’t have to ask for permission–just close the business and take off. Easy, right??

Oh, if only . . .

The downside is that when you, the solo DVM, are not in the office, patients don’t get seen. Calls don’t get returned. Medication doesn’t get filled. Money doesn’t get made. For all intents and purposes, your business grinds to a halt.

This is where I found myself earlier this month when my mother passed away. We found out in July that she had widespread metastatic cancer that had invaded her liver and her bones. We knew from the beginning that she didn’t have long.

What we didn’t know was that she would pass away after only a few days in home hospice care. At that point I got to experience all the fun and games that is: making final arrangements, informing family members and friends, disposing of all kinds of medications, getting the medical equipment returned, cleaning out her apartment, ordering death certificates, contacting financial institutions and I don’t even know what the hell else.

And all the while, the business was there.
Standing by, expectantly..
Clients needed advice, pets needed care, the rent needed to be paid.

Grief would have to wait.

I would have loved to have hired a relief doctor to provide coverage. Unfortunately, there were none to be found. Hiring anyone in vet med is tough right now (thanks, COVID). Every hospital that I know of, everywhere in the country, is running at max capacity. No one can find full-time or even relief DVMs, certainly not on a couple of days’ notice.

So it was down to me.

I went in every single day I was scheduled to work. I saw full days of appointments, performed dozens of surgeries, wrote charts, reviewed lab results, and checked in with clients who needed me.

While there were times I would have loved nothing more than to curl into the fetal position and have a good cry, I simply didn’t have the time for such an indulgence. That was probably a good thing. I do believe that the act of getting up, going to work, and continuing to build my business kept me mentally healthy.

I managed it by putting one foot in front of the other. Not unlike my strategy for getting to this point in the first place . . .

I still love being a practice owner. My mom was so proud that I went back to vet school and then struck out on my own. I hope I can continue to make her proud every day. Love you, Mom.