What do our pets mean to us? ‘It’s just a dog, or is it?’

As a veterinary nurse working in the industry for over 20 years, my friends and family have begrudgingly understood my absence from or tardiness to many events.

I love my job, but the crushing reality is that sometimes, people in the veterinary industry are the last line of defence for a desperate client in need, all be it at the most inopportune times.

Recently, I was late meeting my friends for dinner. An emergency came into work, ten minutes before my shift finishing time. After making my apologies and scoffing down the first mouthful of food I had eaten in hours, I explained why I was running behind to my comrades at the table.

A dog had been hit by a car and required urgent treatment. He was not in a good way. The entire veterinary team rallied around him. My friends’ eyes widened when I refused a hearty glass of wine – instead, opting for water knowing I would have to return to the practice later that that evening to check on my patient.

When I listed ‘Frankie’s ‘ injuries (including a broken leg, fractured ribs, multiple contusions and punctured lungs) my friend’s new boyfriend asked ‘Why didn’t you just put the dog to sleep? It’s going to cost so much, and it sounds so serious – he’s just a dog?’

It’s only ever just a dog, a cat, a guinea pig, a budgie. This is a phrase veterinary staff hear regularly. And it takes a toll. We do this job because we love it. We feel a desire to help. We forgo time with friends and family, turn up to events half bedraggled and need adequate downtime to cope with the stress of working long hours and being strong for others in emotional situations.

What my friend’s new boyfriend didn’t understand was that my emergency patient, ‘Buddy’, was a companion therapy animal to an autistic child. When ‘Buddy’ came along, his owner was able to cope better with his stress. The complete meltdowns subsided, his speech improved, and he was a happier boy.

It’s just a dog? Perhaps not.

I see the joy on the faces of new puppy owners and the proud moments when a sick pet has been sent home – well again, to the family who adores him.

Simply, pets make life better.

Rachel’s darkness was lifted when ‘Sandy’, the Maltese Terrier came into her life. Suddenly, Rachel had a spring in her step and something to get out of bed for in the mornings.

Teddy Bear, the PTSD therapy dog.

‘Teddy Bear’ the German Shepherd is a support dog for Ben who serves in the military and who suffers from PTSD. ‘Teddy’ has played an integral role in assisting Ben to move forward with his therapy.

Jess underwent chemotherapy when she was 17, and subsequently, became infertile. ‘Poppy’ the Chihuahua is the only ‘child’ she will ever have.

Ruth gifted her daughter Lara a Miniature Poodle named ‘Romeo’ for her 8th birthday. After losing her mother to a battle with breast cancer, ‘Romeo’ is now the link to a woman that Lara loved so dearly.


Matt and ‘Tank’ the Staffordshire Terrier grew up together; both are now 15 and ‘Tank’ is in kidney failure. Matt looks at ‘Tank’ like a sister, not a ‘just a dog’.

For 67-year-old Chris, ‘Rosie’ the Retriever, a seeing-eye dog is his lifeline – a chance at independence.

What some do not understand is that our ‘just dogs’ are our best friends, our trusted companions, our saviours. They are a means of independence, a light in a dark world. They are family.

And as long as there are people who need me to love their pets as much as they do in their time of need, I am happy enough to skip the parties and the wine.