Strength And Empathy
A month ago, Karina Salvo, DVM, wrote a stirring commentary on her experience with Lucia, a pit bull that she found tied to a pole and that was desperately in need of care.
I would like to commend Dr. Salvo for rescuing Lucia from her miserable neglect, tending to her wounds, and giving her a second chance at life.
Dr. Salvo is a generous individual, and she has a big heart. Fortunately for Lucia, she is also a veterinarian and was able to provide the medical attention that saved and extended Lucia’s life. By the same token, Lucia was grateful for this chance and became Dr. Salvo’s true friend and companion. In this way Dr. Salvo and Lucia had an exchange — an agreement that was mutually beneficial: in return for saving her life, Lucia gave the doctor her lasting loyalty.
Dr. Salvo returned this loyalty to Lucia, up until and including the moment when Dr. Salvo had to put her down. While the doctor succeeded in treating Lucia’s cancer and surgically repairing her right knee, Lucia was too aged when another tumor grew close to her heart. Dr. Salvo displayed the same generosity when she humanely euthanized Lucia as when she had first saved her from suffering as a stray, and— more than likely— dying in the streets.
That Dr. Salvo’s generous spirit would lead her to take a stray from the streets under her care, give her a new name and show her kindness, only for that same generous spirit to drive Dr. Salvo to euthanize Lucia —this is not paradoxical. A single thread links both of these events: empathy. The desire to spare Lucia from suffering is what prompted Dr. Salvo to rescue Lucia. Dr. Salvo then acted on that same desire when suffering was inevitable and the only way to spare her from that was to end Lucia’s life.
Both moments require strength, as empathy always does. It is important for a veterinarian to have these qualities. Dr. Salvo incorporates empathy into her practice, as I have always done in my career as a pet groomer.
In our lives as professionals, we are challenged to remain distant and unattached. We provide a service, and too much emotion can prove to be an obstacle to meeting the highest standard of service. The impulse to not get personally involved can even be a benefit to a professional, since it encourages the pressure to economize. Empathy is wasteful because it requires more time, energy, and attention than is absolutely necessary. It demands more than is plainly “enough.” The cost of abstaining from empathy in professions that provide a service as personal as caring for one’s best friend and companion is: poor service.
Medical doctors and groomers provide not just any service, but a very personal service. In these instances, empathy is a part of professionalism. Seen in this light, when Dr. Salvo rescued Lucia, she was just doing her job.
I would like to applaud her on a job well done.