Last week I was Facebooking with some of my classmates (oh no, has Facebook turned into a verb now?) and many of these good, corn-fed Midwestern-trained veterinarians were lamenting the silly questions some of their clientele have asked them recently.
As the threads continued to grow, and more and more classmates tried to outdo one another with tales of the wacka-doodle client questions, I chuckled in disbelief and astonishment at the comments my classmates were relaying that they had actually heard from real, live clients. One of the most vivid, for her biting wit, that some of the inquires are so “beyond anything in this solar system” that she is often tempted to respond using and interpretive dance rather than a verbal response.
Not wanted to be left out of the Facebook fun, I shared a comment made to me awhile back from a wealthy client in Napa that left me open mouthed and then speechless, scratching my head and not knowing whether to laugh, cry or retire right there on the spot. The very sweet and very chic woman vehemently declined purchasing Heartgard for her dog, saying that there was no possible way her dog could ever get heart worm disease from any mosquito bite where she lives. “We live in a gated community” she explained, with a straight face and a stern gaze.
As I considered what my classmate response might have been, I fantasized about immediately hopping around the exam room in a Maasai African Tribal Dance, complete with mouth popping and foot slapping, vocalizations and intense jerking motions to convey my inner conflict. In reality, I calmly and quietly attempted to explain that even lovely areas in gated communities that spray for mosquitoes can still have heart worm disease, and those pets should be on heart worm preventative.
I’m not sure my calm, rational “doctor like” explanation took effect. In fact, I’m pretty sure that after about the first five seconds of my response, my client was already mentally checked out and thinking about a completely different topic. But honestly, don’t we all agree that seeing your local veterinarian perform an inspired, unique interpretive dance would be much more amusing that a boring old fact-filled speech?
Since this first Facebook discussion took place a few weeks ago, classmates have mentioned some pretty outlandish things happening around the country. One guy I went to school with had a client bring in his dog that had a fractured bone poking through the skin for two weeks. The client had simply applied Neosporin, hoping the ointment would heal the broken bone. The vet could only silently squirm in response. He’s now in rehearsals on a daily basis for his new dance routine “break a leg.”
And still another classmate, Lisa, shared with us that a client had chosen not to bring in a litter of Parvo puppies until all had died but one. The client said she had hoped burning incense around the kennel area would cleanse the bad karma and heal whatever was wrong.
Lisa said that she tried very hard to educate the client about Parvo and the ease with which it spreads and kills, and went on to say that bleach, not cinnamon incense, was necessary, as well as bringing sick puppies into the veterinarian right away as soon as clinical signs of diarrhea and vomiting develop. Thankfully, my classmate’s tears about the dead puppies she herself had delivered a few weeks earlier, via C-section, must have hit home with the owner. She seemed to absorb what Lisa was saying and appeared committed to saving the last remaining puppy and becoming educated about Parvo.
Each of these pet stories illustrates a challenge, and more importantly an opportunity for us as veterinarians to reach way deep down inside and try to help when it seems utterly incredible that a client is unaware of something so basic and requiring what appears to be simple common sense. This urge to break out in dance must come from a deep-seated need to channel those frustrations into some kind of positive energy!
– Sincerely, Dr. Vallard C. Forsythe