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Pet Talk: ‘Big shoes to fill … but those shoes aren’t mine’

Wednesday 15 November 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Pet Talk


Pet Talk: ‘Big shoes to fill … but those shoes aren’t mine’
The outgoing Te Are Manu Vet Clinic medical director Dr Michael Baer with Mata Nooroa Jr of SPCA Cook Islands. TAM/23111411

Mark Twain had the dubious pleasure of seeing his own obituary printed in the paper and over the last week I have had a similar feeling. While far from being an obituary, a Facebook post about me leaving has attracted heaps of comments, writes Dr Michael Baer, the outgoing Te Are Manu Vet Clinic medical director.

I have been overwhelmed by the good wishes and kindness expressed. One recurring theme has been that the next vet will have big shoes to fill, and I agree but those shoes aren’t mine.

Te Are Manu (TAM) is a wonderful place, and does wonderful work. For two years I have been lucky enough to be part of that. But Te Are Manu was a wonderful place doing wonderful work before I arrived and it will be a wonderful place doing wonderful work long into the future. I am not responsible for that, and while I hope I have contributed, it has been correlation not causation. I happened to be lucky enough to be here while wonderful work was done.

That wonderful place and wonderful work are the result of a fabulous, and large, team. I have written recently about our helpers and friends, so won’t reiterate, except to say Meitaki. Today I want to celebrate the TAM circle.

When I arrived Ellen and Virginia were driving the clinic, and I quickly realised that I would not have an easy task making improvements. I asked lots of questions, hoping to find cracks or deficiencies; I couldn’t and didn’t. The board; Trish, Pip, Donye, Gail, Erica, Luke and Virginia, had a brilliant balance of hands on expertise and long-term plans. The clinic was well equipped and well stocked. It was friendly and welcoming. And it did great work. I thought “Bugger”.

I met Marylin and Jojo. The grounds and clinic are in great hands with them and their children. I still love getting to work on Monday morning and seeing the clinic shining, squeaky clean. Unfortunately, by the end of most weeks I have done my share to ensure they have a tough task ahead to restore that shine.

The volunteers started arriving in January 2022, once our borders reopened, and they started teaching me straight away. New people, new skills and techniques, new therapies. These amazing people give up their time and money to visit us, and provide their skills for free. It was a great honour to work with them.

Pip has been a fixture since before my arrival. She and John are great company and so generous. She makes work easy and her kind way of reminding me to do my jobs with gentle hints rather than the nagging I deserve keeps me on track.  She is a gem.

So is Lorraine. Steady and determined. Dedicated. Funny. Unfortunately, a few hippy type tendencies mar her perfection, but without it I wouldn’t have access to an endless supply of organic produce and her sense of humour keeps me entertained. Her compassion for people and animals is unmatched.

Junior (Mata) is a virtual colleague. Although he is with the SPCA, he is at the clinic so often helping me out that I can’t imagine TAM without him. He is such a capable, gregarious, friendly and relaxed bloke, and I am so fortunate to be able to call him a friend.

Sarah has been there since my first day. She is hilarious, friendly, kind, generous and so capable. She is at home doing just about anything, and will do anything asked of her. Often before she is asked. She goes with the flow and adjusts to the various changes the rotation of volunteer vets brings, and returns things to the Michael way before I get a chance to rage about it. She has been a great friend.  I have been lucky enough to meet Junior and Sarah’s children, Cash and Coco, and they are a credit to their parents.

And then there is Natalie. This special person has supported me throughout my time at TAM, and before. Can’t say enough about her, but this is already too long.

So, yes there are big shoes to fill. They aren’t mine. They belong to the amazing people who work in, around and for TAM. I started off by mentioning an obituary, so I will end with an epitaph. I feel that any success I have enjoyed is best summed up by Andrew Carnegie, who wrote this for his grave – A Man Who Knew How to Enlist in His Service Better Men Than Himself.