If Paramedics were like puppies…

It is a sunny, warm afternoon toward the end of summer, Bill and his family arrive at the pet store to pick up aquarium supplies. As fate would have it, the pet store is running an adoption day, and a fund raiser for dogs at a local shelter.

Bill’s kids quickly lost interest in obtaining the needed fish supplies, they want to pet some of the sad looking puppies in the store. It didn’t take but a moment for the children to beg Bill to let them adopt a puppy.

Bill and his family waste no time welcoming the new addition to their family. The puppy licks everyone, runs in circles around the children sitting on the living room floor. The puppy grabs a stuffed animal belonging to Bill’s youngest child. The child grabs the toy, and the puppy begins to play its natural game of tug-of-war. The child, not knowing the natural instincts of the puppy, yells at the puppy, then strikes it several times.

Bill doesn’t hesitate to step in. He corrects his child’s behavior by stating that striking the puppy is not an acceptable behavior, and with training, awareness of each other, a bond will grow.

Bill has a fence built around the back yard. He has a doggy door installed so the puppy can go in and out as it pleases. As the weeks turn into months, the once small puppy is now much larger, smarter, and well trained as a family pet.

Bill started to notice the pup’s behavior began to change. It would duck its head, and tuck its tail, when someone would try and pet it. Bill even had to verbally correct the pup for growling at members of the family.  One day when the kids got home from school, and Bill from work, they noticed their pup was limping. Upon a closer examination,  Bill found what he believed to be a wound from a pellet gun. This would prove to be the first in a string of odd injuries their beloved pet, their family member, would face in coming weeks. 

Bill decided to set up cameras to monitor their home and yard, in hopes of trying to locate the source of the odd injuries showing up on their dog. It didn’t take long for the shocking images to be seen. As it turns out, some local teenagers, known for their suspected drug use, run-ins with the police, and just overall degenerate demeanor, were behind the abuse.

What Bill saw on camera not only disgusted him, but angered him. First, Bill called the police.  The arriving officer viewed the footage, took a report and left. Not feeling justice was swift enough, or stiff enough, he decided to put clips of the abuse online. It didn’t take long for the comments of outrage and disgust from friends, and friends of friends, to fill up pages and pages. Bill was  surprised  at the number of shares the clips obtained. A first for Bill, it was an instantaneously viral post. The local news picked up on it, then the national news covered it.

In started coming the letters of support, the donations for medical expenses, and the calls for the perpetrators to be brought to swift, and stiff justice. The public were angered. They wondered, “Why would anyone do such cruel things to a puppy, that only knew how to love people?” Bill’s puppy became the poster child for change. It brought awareness of animal abuse, and what could be done to prevent it. As a bonus, it brought recognition for animal shelters all over the region, and the struggles they face financially, and emotionally, to save sick, injured, and sometimes unwanted, pets without discrimination.

Bill is a paramedic. Although he believes puppies should not be abused, and he taught his child this important lesson, he himself receives varying levels of verbal and physical abuse on the job, and believes it is just “part of the job.”

Like the puppy, Bill has changed over time in EMS.  When he first became a medic, he thought he was going to save the world. He thought he would be a part of something bigger, a family, a respected professional loved by the public at large.

Within about six months of the road, he already started on the path of becoming jaded. He began to see more and more people as evil. After all, it only takes a time or two of being spit on, grabbed, slapped, or kicked by a drunk or drugged individual, to grow a thicker skin.  Although Bill didn’t initially subscribe to the idea that being on the receiving end of violence is an understood part of emergency medicine, he did dive into the whole “us versus them” mentality. The jaded mindset came from the constant abuse he faced on the job, with not knowing how to deal with it, mentally or physically, he obtained his degree in the School of Hard Knocks by OJT, that on-the-job, training.

The sad thing about the OJT Bill received is how much of it was obtained by people who were already jaded, and plain bitter. Their perception of what to do, and when to do it, was skewed by emotion of the moment, not historical fact. Bitterness fueled by frustration, not education.

Puppy or paramedic, when abused, they change. It is never the better. Harboring fear from past abuse, no support system in place, no real chance to heal and move past… Both may show aggression toward others of their own kind, oftentimes this aggressive use of force is misplaced, and at times, excessive. However, even  some of the most horrific  cases of animal abuse have had a happy ending. The happy ending can only come when there is real change. Like any problem to be solved, one can’t, until they know what the problem really is.

The same is true for Bill. If he doesn’t have a support system, if he doesn’t have an answer for the what to do, and the when is it OK to do so, the skin will get even thicker, the jaded even deeper, and the man he was will be lost forever.

Imagine how the public would react if they knew that medical staff suffer the most injuries from violence than any other profession…and what those victimized staff face AFTER an attack is oftentimes worse than the attack itself. Ridiculed by peers, abandoned by administration, forced back to work when emotionally or physically not ready…

There is a real irony between the puppy and the paramedic… When the paramedic is abused, it’s not news, and nobody really cares. If paramedics were like puppies, the abuse of one would spark outrage, and the post about it would go viral on social media.


if paramedics were puppies