Playing telephone at the vet's (Strange pet-related calls 101)
As a college student I spent a couple of summers working the reception desk at the practice I (still!) work for. My bosses thought it would be a good idea for a future veterinarian to learn every aspect of a veterinary hospital’s workings (and because, truth be told, they had a hard time with reception staff turnover during this time).
At first, I was frustrated at being confined to “the front,” where views of the animals were always a partition away. It seemed a poor place to nurture my nascent veterinary skills or utilize my by then almost ten years of experience dealing with pets first-hand in “the back.”
But I quickly became attuned to the “charms” of life as a front desk staffer: I could multi-task the appointment book and the ledger (no computer yet), the human incomings and outgoings, and most fun of all…the telephones.
Sure, I wasn’t always able to handle pets directly (save offering the occasional post-appointment treat) but telephone detail was always fun—especially when the wacky calls would come in.
If you’ve ever worked reception at an animal hospital you’ll know what I’m referring to. Some people have the craziest questions, offer the weirdest news-of-the-weird and suffer the wildest reactions to their pets’ illnesses. It’s entertaining at times, though we have to be careful not to let the strange scenarios color our primary concern: making sure the owners get treated with respect and the pets get the help they need.
Cats stuck in the undercarriages of cars whose owners have called 911 to no avail. (Call a tow truck and call me back when the car is upended.)
Dogs in trees. (The fire department won’t come out to help, I promise.)
Neighbor-related pet-napping. (Call the police, right?)
A bat who flew into the freezer. (Unplug it, for God’s sake.)
This topic occurred to me last week, when we received what will go down in the annals of Sunset Animal Clinic lore as the best question ever:
Q. My husband was traveling in Costa Rica when he was bitten by a stray cat. He refuses to get rabies post-exposure vaccines. Can I catch rabies from having sex with him? A. Umm…just don’t let him bite you, OK?
Actually, this one was easy (and, for the record, I didn’t offer the no-bite response above): For the love of God, why are you calling an animal hospital? Call your physician for those intimate issues!
So you see? Working the desk confers lots of advantages—and not just because I can honestly tell my staff that I feel their pain when clients get angry, the phone is ringing off the hook and Mrs. Perez is having another one of her meltdowns. Sometimes you need the crazy calls to maintain a healthy perspective on how sane you really are relative to the rest of the world.
Come on, I know you've got some strange cases up your sleeve. Give 'em up.