It is so dark outside that I closed the blinds in my office. Otherwise, I would feel like everyone could see me and I couldn’t see them. It is early in the morning and this time of year the sun does not make any appreciable impact on the day until about seven a.m.
I was still at home with my two preschoolers, but soon, the money from the government was set to run out. My youngest daughter was getting older and the pressure to be doing something worthwhile was mounting, so I started to apply for jobs.
There was a sense of surrealism to this part of my life because I was aware that Bob was telling people that I didn’t have to work and that he was supporting me financially. He made a habit of tailoring his message to his audience to maximize their opinion of him. This put me in the position of looking like I was lying, or at least contradicting Bob.
He would tell people one thing in public and me another thing at home. The needing/wanting to work argument got played through this scenario. Mutual friends and neighbours were probably confused by my insistence that I did not want to go back to work and Bob’s statements that I did not need to go back to work and the fact that I was applying to jobs.
This dysfunction played in every issue in our marriage. Bob had a secret fear that he would be figured out. I attributed it to a deep-seated insecurity, but the truth was that he probably spent an inordinate amount of effort dissembling the truth and trying to keep it all straight in his mind.
When I caught him in a lie, he went on the attack. ‘The best defense is a good offense,’ could have been his mantra. Like the night that I saw him kissing the teenager that he later went to live with, he accused me of being insane and of having an over active imagination.
I remember applying to several large animal practices and not even getting an interview. It was well known, at the time, that women were not suited to large animal practise. The argument went something like this. “A woman is not strong enough to deal with the large animals.” Let me tell you fellas, a man isn’t either if he is trying to use brute force to get a horse or cow to do something for him. It was simply difficult for male vets that thought of their profession as masculine, to envision a woman doing their jobs.
Now that a majority of veterinary students are women, these same men are finding that they can’t retire because there is no one that can take over their practices. This shortage of large animal veterinarians is becoming a problem for the farming community, but I digress. I did my best to become a large animal veterinarian and there were no takers.
I ended up working in a small animal emergency clinic for a short while. In Canada, we have our health care paid for. We do not purchase insurance individually and most of our full time jobs have additional insurance that covers other health benefits like dental, chiropractic care and eye glasses. What all of this means is that we have no way of knowing what health care costs. We never see anyone losing their homes because they had to pay for medical care.
This creates a certain amount of unpleasantness in small animal veterinary practice, especially the emergency type. When you are a general practitioner, you develop a clientele. These are the people that bring in their pets for regular vaccinations and other routine appointments. In emergency medicine you get the people that are forced to seek immediate health care for their animals, whether they can afford it or not. I spent more evenings than I care to remember explaining the cost of the services to the people that were in desperate need of veterinary care for their animals.
One night, about three in the morning, a woman brought in her elderly golden lab. This dog was her heart. The reason that she had brought in her pet was that the dog was dying. The dog could no longer sit up, she had not eaten all day and the woman did not want the dog to suffer to death and felt that the humane thing to do was to have her put to sleep.
While I was explaining the costs involved, and I must add here that this had already been explained over the phone when she called to say that she was bringing her dog in, the woman lost her temper at me and said, “I thought that people became vets because they loved animals?”
I understood her pain and her fear. She was losing an animal that meant the world to her, but she did have a point. Making money off of someone else’s pain and suffering does put a bad taste in your mouth. Feeding off of the desperation seemed, well, cruel. On the other hand, veterinary medicine is a profession and as the world is today, no one is going to bother doing veterinary medicine if they cannot charge for it. Anyhow, it hit a nerve. Was I actually helping people or was I just taking advantage of their desperation?
I did not stay at the veterinary clinic very long. Being at the clinic for fourteen-hour nights was not working out well with being awake all day to take care of the girls, even though Bob thought it was great! that I could do both by working at night. Much to Bob’s disappointment I found myself, once again, unemployed. He let me know how much I had let them down.
He liked to say things like, “It always feels like you are going to be making a lot of money, but you never stay long enough at your jobs.” Don’t forget, I left my other job just after getting back together with Bob, so he did have a point.