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My Bath is My Emotional Safe Space

Blog Author: Jamie Rauscher, RVT
NAVTA President-Elect

When asked to write an article for May, I was given the guidelines to discuss mental health in an ongoing effort to continue to help grow awareness of it in Veterinary Medicine. I had my idea and went to work on my blog. Then today, my world shifted. I decided to share a story about my day as I reflect on it in my bathtub after an emotionally exhausting experience.

Today I cried. I started my day with a text that one of my all-time favorite clients had walked in for a euthanasia appointment. I rushed to get ready in record time as I was not due at the clinic for another hour. I walked into the clinic without my coffee (my much-needed fuel for the day) and wet hair and literally dumped my purse and backpack on the first person I saw.

I went into the exam room to sit with this client, a man I have known for over 20 years. We remembered when Scout (the best sheltie ever) was young and his wife was healthy. Unfortunately, at almost 12 years old, Scout had multiple issues and had been rapidly declining over the past few weeks. To add to this man’s plate, Scout’s mom has dementia and Parkinson’s.

Over the years, we have watched her decline from the amazing, vibrant woman she once was to a virtual stranger. Then, finally, the DVM came in to do Scout’s euthanasia. And as we always hope, the procedure was peaceful. I took Scout out of the room with the promise to take good care of her.

Moments later, I stepped back into the room to say goodbye to my client and sat with him on the bench in the room for half an hour. We held hands and cried together, remembering Scout and her impact on her family. We talked about his wife and the stranger he had become to her, his loss as a husband, not just as Scout’s owner. Finally, he kissed me on the cheek, hugged me, and thanked me for all I had done for them over the years.

I truly love that man and his family. After 26 years into the profession, not many euthanasias make me cry anymore. But this one hit me hard. He sent an email late today, thanking me for all I have done for them over the years. I cried again. As hard as it gets, as busy as our days are, this is why I do what I do. Each and every day.

How does this experience tie to mental health? I’m reflecting on this moment while I’m in my bathtub. I’m taking time to experience and express my emotions, not keep them bottled up. I’m taking some time for myself, soaking and relaxing, to ensure that my emotional cup is full for the next experience. It’s okay to be emotionally available for others but remember to be emotionally available for yourself!