By David Williamson.
Looking at the annual appeal for a charity providing farm animals to poor families, from Africa to the Far East and in the U.S. – and, this year, Ukraine – I started thinking about the high Calling of a veterinarian’s assistant. I thought of two important and biblically grounded characteristics: love and the exercise of dominion.
A veterinarian’s assistant needs to show empathy and practical love readily. Veterinary work includes both love for the animal as a creature – part of God’s loving provision for his whole world – and love for the animal’s owner. Veterinary workers and animal owners are partners is responsibility for the care of each animal.
A biblical understanding love includes expressing love through philia, friendship. The vet’s task is to build connections of mutual trust, a friendship of sorts, between animal and caregiver. Otherwise the animal will not submit to the care that is needed. Storge, affection or compassionate love, is also a form of love that extends to relationships with animals. There is even a mutuality that can be called fellowship.
This kind of empathy requires an emotional strength that allows the assistant to remain calm in challenging circumstances – whether because of the anxious behavior of the pet or of the pet’s owner! In the frantic moments of a medial crisis, the assistant needs to remain calm, thinking of the well-being of the animal and the supervising vet. This calls for thoughtful and accurate assignment of responsibility for the care given and the conditions leading to the medical situation presented.
The more developed the love, the more effective the care given to the animal, and the more the animal’s owner experiences the vet’s help and skill – experiences trust, mutuality and fellowship. All of this reflects the creator and sustainer who is the ultimate source of all the animal world,
A vet’s assistant must be willing to submit in appropriate ways to the authority of the vet and the animal’s owner. It is required of the assistant to know and be willing to submit to the assistant’s role. Often, mutual problem-solving is a skill that will need to be exercised. The needs of the animal and of the vet may call for working unpredictable hours.
This work brings to mind the creation narrative of Genesis 1 and the Creation Mandate. Animals are created and given to humanity from the beginning, and humanity is called to exercise co-operative dominion over the animal world. Each animal presented for treatment at the Vet’s office is one member of God’s creation, under the authority of created humanity.
Thus, love for each and all of God’s creatures is involved in the work of a veterinarian’s assistant.