In 1999 Ruby founded a free hot-line that gives people a place to call when they are grieving for their animals. The hot-line can be reached toll free at (866) 266–8635. About 25 vet students each semester staff the hot-line, taking calls from across the country and sometimes even around the world. Each student works the telephone bank for four sessions.
“The first time they are on the hot-line, the students are scared,” Ruby said. “But they work past that once they have some experience talking with callers.”
The hot-line, which is funded by a grant from Purina, is available Monday-Thursday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time and on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific time. Messages can be left at other times.
“We also receive emails at email@example.com,” Ruby said. “We sometimes get them sent to us at 1 a.m. from people wondering if their grief is normal or if they are going crazy.”
The technical side of veterinary medicine is enormously complex. But the human side also matters, and it’s impressive the way some veterinary colleges are preparing their students.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.