It was a momentous anniversary last week, as I'm sure you all know. No, not the forty years since mankind first walked on the moon. Something much more important. Well, to me at least.
It has been ten years since I became a Bachelor of Veterinary Science (decidely not hons) and a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (which, I have just worked out, means that I have paid the Royal College so far roughly £3000 for the privelidge of being a vet. Yay.).
Ten years. Several ways of celebrating this anniversary spring to mind, but as I no longer have a firearms licence, and all the pentobarbitone is at the practice, I'll settle for a glass of beer and a Blog entry.
I've being trying to think today when the idea of being a vet first curdled it's way into the youthful cream that was my young mind. I'm fairly sure that I've narrowed it down to a holiday in Germany when I must have been about eight or nine. I always took several books to read with me, and one was a copy of 'Every Living Thing' by James Herriot...
(... and yes, I'm very aware that it's a massive cliche that I decided to be a vet because of James Herriot. What do you want me to do, lie? In retrospect, it's a shame I didn't base my career choice on one of the other books I took with me - Deathwing over Veynaa by Douglas Hill. I could have ended up as an intergalatic Legionnairy of Moros with an adamantium skeleton! Now that wold have been a fun job)
...and I loved that book. It all sounded som much fun, and the guy was helping animals! For a living! When I was a child, I loved animals (Not in that way, before you start, okay), and I loved Biology. When I read that book, it just made perfect sense to combine the two. Plus, it sounded really funny when James Herriot wrote about gruff Yorkshireman having to explain that their dog 'had a problem with his...with his pencil, Mr 'Erriot).
So I was very fortunate - from that time on, I had a sense of purpose. I knew exactly what I was going to do for the rest of my life. That nagging, insistent voice at the back of my mind, that was always telling me that I should try and make the world a better place, would be silenced! I would be making the world a better place with my day job! I could even spend my evenings playing rolepaying games and computer games, and not feel guilty about it!
The determination lasted through all the teachers, and all the careers advisors who told me that it was a waste of time (seriously, has anyone -ever- recieved one useful scrap of advice from a careers 'advisor'? My wife's told her she should be a florist. Though, considering my current feelings towards the profession, maybe we should have listened back then), it lasted through my GSCE's, through my A Levels, and right up to that final glowing day when I recieved my one (and only) offer to go to Bristol, to study being a vet.
I have now been a vet for twice as long as I studied to be one. I am older, arguably wiser, and a whole lot tireder. That nagging voice, the one that I hoped would finally shut up when I was doing good deeds and getting paid for them, is not fooled, and though it has grown quieter over the years, it has never been silenced. My job does not consist of doing good deeds, all day, every day, as I imagined it would. And though I may relieve some suffering, I also help to perpetuate it in the form of helping dog and cat breeders continue to spawn the various mutants that they seem to consider 'cute'. The best thing I do, the honest-to-goodness kindest act I generally perform, is euthanasia, and with the best will in the world, it's hard to feel good about oneself for repeatedly killing small animals.
Ten years gone. My attitude to my job is, and I suspect, always will be, mixed, but it has brought me the greatest thing in my life so far - my wife - and for all the wonderful years we've had together, I actually feel it was worth it all!
There are many more things I could write about, but I'll leave them for another time. For now, sit with me and raise a glass, for years gone by, and to absent friends.