This place is a wreck. The phone is ringing and the dogs are barking. My toddler is screaming because I won't let him hold
a knife. My 4-year-old son is in time-out for pinching, and his victim, my 6-year-old daughter, is wailing as if her arm were
broken. My head is starting to throb, and it's only 7 a.m. In other words, it's a perfectly normal day at the Heath house.
Except today is different because I've finally decided that if I hear one more scream, I'm going to accept that dream job
that's been knocking at my door.
The Heath family (photo courtesy of Dr. Melody Heath)
My life hasn't always been this way—answering to "Mommy" a million times a day, battling ever-growing loads of dirty dishes
and laundry, and never enjoying a moment of peace or privacy. In fact, this was never in my plans. I've always had a passion
for helping animals, and I knew early on that I wanted to be a veterinarian. I never considered any other profession. I landed
my first job as a kennel technician when I was 17; I worked in veterinary clinics through high school, college, and postgraduate
school. After graduating from veterinary school 15 years ago, I accepted my first full-time position as an associate veterinarian
in a private practice. The position turned out to be full-time, overtime, all the time. I worked days, nights, weekends, and
holidays—and I loved it. Work was exciting, interesting, and challenging, not to mention just plain fun. I enjoyed my job,
along with the satisfaction and rewards that came with it.
After seven years as an associate, I was confident enough in my medical, surgical, and business skills to begin contemplating
practice ownership. So I read and filed every piece of information I could get my hands on regarding management. I started
flipping through the "practice for sale" advertisements in my veterinary journals. I was excited about the future, about becoming
The following year, I was blessed with a child. At the time I figured maternity might delay my entrance into practice ownership
by a year or so. With a helpful husband and reliable daycare, I eagerly returned to work when my maternity leave expired.
I quickly grew accustomed to balancing my career and family life. Life was good. So I was surprised one day to find myself
feeling envious of a client who was a stay-at-home mother. It would be nice to sleep late, have time to cook a hot breakfast,
keep a tidy house, or relax and read a good book. Or so I thought.
Then, nine years into my career, the unexpected happened. As a result of poor practice management, a sagging economy, and
me being the newest associate at the practice, I was laid off. At first I panicked. What would I do? How would we pay our
bills? I was determined to find another associate job immediately. After several weeks of frantic searching, I resigned myself
to the fact there were no comparable job openings within driving distance. My husband and I considered whether this was the
right time to move and purchase a practice, but in the end we decided it was too risky for him to leave his job.