I don't know about the rest of you, but I actually pause when someone asks me about my profession. Each and every time I'll wage a cerebral war with myself on the pros/cons of telling this complete stranger about what I do, because 75% of the time the next words will be, "So I have this dog...".

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

not even 15 minutes?

You know, when it comes to owners some dogs unfortunately pick the short straw. This was the case with the sweet 9 year old Sheltie that I saw tonight. She's unfortunately developed a rather large mass on her chest that supposedly wasn't present a week ago (according to the owner). On first glance, the tumor felt like a lipoma (a mass composed of adipose tissue that happens to be one of the more benign of all tumors that dogs can develop), but cytology proved otherwise. Many ugly bad-ass looking cells, the kind of cells that you try your hardest to avoid when they've had a few drinks at the bar. Oh, and definitely avoid the "Your mamma...." jokes.

After recommending surgery, the owner succinctly gave me two reason why he couldn't have it done. One was money, he told me that his boss cut his salary so he didn't have any. Understandable, the economy isn't great, people are sometimes lucky to have a job. Sucks, but sometimes a pay cut it better than the alternative. I was about to give him some suggestions, such as getting an estimate from a couple of potentially cheaper clinics, but he immediately threw out the second reason Lucky wasn't having surgery. "I don't have the time, doc."

Say again?

Over the next 12 months you have absolutely no time to bring your dog in for surgery?? I'm sorry, did I not make myself clear when I said that I think your dog has cancer and if it gets much larger it may not be surgically resectable? I'm not asking you to take a day off, you can drop her off the night before at no charge, heck we even have late hours.


Disgusting. I immediately walked away shaking my head.

Funny thing though. I overheard him at the front desk asking about boarding his dog while he's on vacation in New York. "Oh, and Saturday is my 'Day of Rest', so can I drop her off on Sunday instead?"

Punching a client like him should really be legally justifiable.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sometimes, the truth really is best.

Seven or eight years back I used to work at a multi-doctor practice a few thousand miles East of where we live now. One of my colleagues (Dr. H) had a client who owned a sweet yellow Labrador Retriever that had been coming to the hospital since he was a pup. Great dog, I remember seeing him a couple of times in the lobby. Eventually the dog developed some chronic debilitating disease (one that I can't remember now), and finally one Saturday he unfortunately had to be euthanized. This particular client used to bring their two young children, both under the age of six, with them during their appointments, however during this particular appointment they weren't present. Dr. H had told me later that after the euthanasia, the parents wanted his opinion on what to tell the kids. They were fairly young, afterall, and they loved that dog fiercely.

Well, Dr. H (having five children of his own) felt strongly that telling them the truth was the best thing to do. Hey, death is a horrible fact of life that kids end up learning at some point, so he thought the parents should take control of when and how the children learn it. Upon leaving the exam room, they agreed and planned to tell the kids later that night what had happened.

Two weeks later when they returned to pick up the ashes, our office manager asked how the conversation went.

Apparently, telling the kids that the dog had died wasn't what they originally were worried about. Death, surprisingly was easy to explain, it was how the dog died that was the difficult part. I hadn't thought about that. Sure, he had a severely debilitating disease with no hope of a cure. But how exactly do you explain to a child at that age that, not only did the family dog die, but YOU took him to the hospital to be killed.

I guess they felt it was easier to tell the kids that when they parked outside our hospital for a routine visit, he jumped out of the car, ran into the street and was hit by a car.

Wow. I'm not sure why, but I think about that story almost every time I'm faced with a euthanasia. A lot of my clients have children, and I often wonder what they're being told. Thankfully I haven't been faced with that situation yet, so I haven't had to have that difficult conversation with a child. I guarantee though that if my wife and I have to unfortunately euthanize one of our pets, we'll somehow have our kid(s) prepared from the start. Hey, I don't know how we'll prepare them, but we'll do it. I just simply can't fathom how a lie like that is supposed to somehow be more comforting than the truth.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

another FYI

Dear pet owners, most veterinarians generally frown on using Ajax to clean your dog's ears. Yes, I agree that it does get the ear wax out quite nicely, just as it cleans the top of my stove quite nicely. But as a general rule of thumb, if a product is generally considered a great household cleanser and the label recommends wearing gloves while cleaning with it, then don't put it on your pet's skin. Better yet, if you won't put it in your ears, don't put it in your dog's ears. Thank you.