Vet Wellness Briefs: Finding Joy Every Day

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Joy. Happiness. Bliss. Enjoyment. Gladness. Delight. These words describe a feeling that is absolutely necessary for having a meaningful life. As many of us careen through our busy days knocking out task after task, it is important to pause to find the small moments of joy.  

The emphasis is on finding those small moments of joy frequently because the really big moments might only come occasionally—the birth of a baby, a wedding, a new home (or a new horse), a fabulous vacation. If we wait for the momentous experiences of joy, we’re passing up a lot of smaller moments that can really add up. These snippets of gladness are there, if only we are tuned in enough to notice them. But if we become aware, soon we will start to seek them out. 

Consider a breezy but blue-skied February day with 25 mares in heat to check, all inside the concrete block barn that’s hovering around 10 degrees. At the midpoint, you excuse yourself for a moment, step outside the south end of the barn where the sun is brightly shining and the wind is blocked. You close your eyes and feel the warmth of the sun’s rays on your face. And it feels so good. It is utterly quiet, and you suddenly feel glad to be alive. After about a minute, you open your eyes and return to your work. 

It’s the end of a long, busy day in May, and you’re stinky and wet with amniotic fluid from the dystocia you’ve just attended. The mare is lying exhausted in lateral recumbency while the foal is sternal at her rear. As you start to gather your straps and lube, the filly makes a tentative little whinny, and the mare rolls up sternal and makes that deep-chested whicker of welcome. As you watch, the mare rights herself and attentively begins to lick the foal. You stop, watching with delight as the right stuff happens, glad that your efforts were successful. 

You have just finished an emergency call for a badly choked horse that was discovered by its early-rising owner at 4:00 a.m. After scrubbing your bucket and tube, you pack up and head out, feeling tired and not in the least ready to start your scheduled day in a few hours. As you crest the highest hill on your journey back, you see the most incredible pink sunrise spread out before you. It is awesome! You pull over and watch until the sun makes its appearance. Suddenly you feel a little grateful for the timing of that emergency call and decide to stop at the bakery and bring chocolate croissants to the entire team at the office. 

Being observant and open to the smallest opportunities for gratitude will bring joy every day into your life. That fabulous smell of a horse’s fluffy winter coat. The sound of peaceful munching of hay in the late-night stable. The squeak of your boots on very cold snow. The freshly fallen powder that glitters like diamonds. Seeing the Milky Way or a shooting star overhead as you leave a late-night call. The smell of warm rain on a summer night. Helping a turtle across the road. The bald eagle perched above the river. When the surgical colic horse in the recovery stall stands on his first attempt.  

Keep looking, listening and feeling.

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