Yesterday’s sickest patient was a perfect example. Jefferson came in at nine AM with no appointment. His owner explained (in dulcet, southern accented tones dripping with apology) that he just wanted to weigh his dog on a proper scale, as he seemed to be losing some weight.

After the technician weighed Jefferson and confirmed a ten-pound drop over six weeks, the client asked if he could take the first available appointment. Touched by his sensitivity to our schedule, the tech made sure I saw this nine year-old black Lab as soon as I was able…within about twenty minutes.

Jefferson seemed to be perfectly normal except for the dramatic slim-down and…oh yeah…a gigantico mass in his caudal abdomen. Oops…was that his prostate? A couple of X-rays of a [very wiggly Jefferson] later, it sure looked like it. It was so big, actually, that it seemed as if it was pushing his intestines up into his liver.

While the X-rays were being taken, I apologized for the length of the process. (Jefferson was generally unwilling to lay on his back while the presence of an unknown mass seemed to preclude sedation at this point.) Jefferson’s owner returned with one of the nicest things I think I’ve ever heard a man say about his dog:

“It’s no problem, doc, I’ll sit here all day if I have to. This dog here is my number-one priority.”

It was so heartfelt a statement that our crankiest tech (whom we cloister in the back room to spare the clientele), upon overhearing the remark, actually popped her head in the door and said something really nice to this man (and she doesn’t even like men!).

A blood draw and a phone call later, I’d managed to beg an appointment for the internist to perform an ultrasound later that morning. Sure he’d have to wait ‘till 11:30 (over an hour from now) but he was going to use his time wisely: he said he would stop by his wife’s work to pick her up so they could both be with Jefferson during his procedure.

“Awww, how sweet!” cooed the receptionists, by now madly in love with this perfect man.

After Jefferson’s exit, the lab tech and receptionists badgered the lab until the bloodwork arrived—in record time. I then drove across the street to deliver it to the internist—by hand—and had a discussion with her about Jefferson’s case.

At about this time, the internist’s tech (a macho kind of guy with a swarthy look and a goatee) interrupted us to thank me for the excellent referral. He’d just come from discussing basic intake procedures with Jefferson’s owners and he, too, was entranced by the extreme canine commitment exhibited by the couple—not to mention their politeness. Sure, I’ve been thanked for referrals before—but never by a tech. 

Jefferson was in and out of the specialists’ hospital in under two hours. The ultrasound had been performed. The mass had been aspirated. The trio left with a promise of results within 24-48 hours. And I’m sure they made it home just in time for a tardy lunch.

This kind of service is not typical. Usually, non-critical emergencies require time—lots of time. Reworking schedules, squeezing in a procedure here and a procedure there between appointments. Jefferson was in no way in dire straits—weight loss, dramatic though it might be, is no cause for immediate alarm to anyone but the owner. Ordinarily, Jefferson would have waited a couple of days for a proper appointment.

So let this be a lesson to you (and a reminder to all us service workers who get complacent when dealing with others in similar positions), sweetness and light is everything to a vet hospital. From the vet to the minimum wage kennel worker, we can often make things happen faster and better than is typical—if only you adopt a cheerful disposition and a grateful demeanor.

Jefferson’s owner was so charming, in fact, that none of us batted an eyelash at the obvious: Jefferson was not neutered, likely making way for the condition he was currently suffering. My only consolation on that front? As if making a promise to God, he readily agreed to submit Jefferson to the snip-snip—“if we can just get him through this, doc.”