Saturday. My colleague and office-partner has this difficult client. She’s one of the most mistrustful, loudly opinionated clients we have—the kind that walks into the exam room and announces that you must scale her German Shepherd’s teeth without anesthesia (I wouldn’t touch the dog without a muzzle, much less open its mouth and undertake an uncomfortable oral procedure). Because of this incident, then another involving the unnecessary taping of one of her pup’s ears, I am persona non grata in her eyes.

Recently, one of her relatives had begun patronizing my services with her new German Shepherd pup. Today, he needed a microchip. Simple. Easy. I’ve installed hundreds without incident. I pride myself on my quick and painless technique, as a matter of fact. But today things did not go my way—for reasons I am at a loss to explain.

I attempted to install three—count them, three—microchips. All inexplicably failed to stay in their intended locatinos. All exited the same puncture sites they entered. Bizarre and confounding, no doubt, but also embarrassing. Moreover, it clearly damaged my credibility in the eyes of my new client.

To compensate her for her trouble (and her dog for three ineffectual pokes) I offered to install the next one, from a new batch, at no cost. Needless to say, I did not charge her for today’s fiasco. She seemed satisfied.

Within the hour, the receptionist informed me that my colleague had received a phone call from the relative (the difficult one) complaining, yet again, about my level of competence.

Among the real difficulties and frustrations of practicing veterinary medicine comes this one, inseparable from the more-pertinent issues of science and skill: the human factor.

While I was dismayed by the microchip incident, and had already done my best to remedy the situation, I was deeply offended by the reaction of a non-party. Perhaps it’s that I don’t like my skills being questioned (who does?), perhaps my consternation over the inexplicability of the microchip’s mechanics was still affecting me (understandable), but I was disproportionately incensed by what I perceived as an insult.

It’s hard enough to do what I do when a patient’s condition gets complicated. Small incident personal frustrations should not be a distraction to the major issues of the day. Clearly I need to let these stressful human situations slide off my back. Instead, I take on the stress of interpersonal interactions too much, too often.

Another area of improvement to jot down in my little bedside notebook. Telling you about it helps. Who says writing isn’t therapeutic?