After eight years of post-secondary education (that’s three degrees), and nine months of fruitless job hunting, I have recently joined a fabulous team of animal lovers with the Clayton Park Veterinary Hospital.
I have studied English, History, and Cultural Studies, and was totally unprepared for a crash course in veterinary medicine. However, what I am prepared for are never hours of research, applying a fresh perspective, and ensuring that clients and patients receive the best care we can possibly offer. This is why my position and education are so unique.
As a Client Care Specialist, I am provided with the opportunity to apply my strengths and learn a whole lot about animal care in the process, but as a Master of English, I am preprogrammed with the ability to look at things in a way that nobody else does. My first order of business, of course, is to ensure that the space that our clients and patients enter is designed to uphold our values. This does not mean that I am spending all my time painting walls and picking out colour accents; it means that I am applying my knowledge of contemporary culture and literary theory toward the empathy required to provide optimum client and patient care. To better explain this, let’s talk about puppies and movies.
For those who have recently braved the emotional rollercoaster that comes with watching A Dog’s Purpose, I applaud you. In Lasse Hallstrom’s film adaptation of W. Bruce Cameron’s novel, Bailey—as he is originally named—inhabits different bodies but retains his memories. I want to call these wonderful furry bodies “spaces.” Sometimes slight changes in spaces (a female canine body) can cause a slight discomfort because it is familiar and yet not, and sometimes the way different humans treat these spaces (abusive or neglectful owners) are difficult to understand. However, what all of these spaces have in common in A Dog’s Purpose is that they’re always canine. What I am suggesting by this is that if Bailey’s reincarnated spaces were feline or some other species, his memories would not remain intact. Without spiralling into a densely philosophical discussion of this hypothesis, let’s step back and see how we live and remember our spaces and how this relates to the way we have designed our Veterinary Hospital with the client always in mind.
We all remember certain good and bad experiences and the spaces in which these occur, and we need some sort of familiar element for these memories to be vivid and spark a certain emotional response. In our hospital, we understand this very well. We want each visit to be filled with positivity—after all, a sick pet often gets well by coming to see us. The most difficult part to discuss, though, is the loss of a pet, which is why this loss happens in spaces separate from the spaces we use to make our pets well again; spaces we design to be comfortable and that offer our clients the time needed to say farewell. This space needs to be perfect and compartmentalized. This is also why Bailey’s reunion with Ethan in A Dog’s Purpose does not happen in the same space where the first Bailey was lost. We want our clients to remember their lost loved ones in the best way pawsible. It is not that we forget that loss or that pet, only that we develop new memories in new spaces.