The veterinarian as marriage counselor...not in my job description
Raise your hand if you saw Best in Show. Remember the couple with the Weimeraner? Picture them…with a cat instead of a dog…and you’re starting to get the picture. They’re my clients. Let’s call them “the Bickers.”
For those of you who didn’t happen to see this excellent film (which parodies the dog show world as it exults and examines the human-animal bond), you’d better go rent it right now.
Back to the point of the post: Being a small animal veterinarian in modern-day America can be a little like being in the counseling business. Sometimes we have to help our clients achieve normal body images on behalf of their pets (as in this past Sunday’s post), other times we have to help sort out their marriages…again, for the well being of their pets.
You may think I exaggerate the importance of my profession’s role in society (and you wouldn’t be wrong) but I’m sure you’ll understand me when I offer the following statement:
Some pet owners need a lot of help.
In this recent example, the Bickers brought in their kitty, a two year-old fat cat named Scratch. Scratch has a problem. Apart from having to live with two excessively catty human beings who deserve a divorce, Scratch is obese, regurgitates his food at their feet and scratches or bites his owners when he wants something.
For their part, the Bickers indulge Scratch mercilessly. They change his food daily (without telling one another). They respond to his violent entreaties for everything from couch position to ice cream with pettings and whatever it is he wanted in the first place.
To make matters worse, the Bickers blame one another for everything. Scratch gets off Scott-free, while the family unit falls apart under a hail of nasty epithets, regurgitated kibble and bad behavior all around.
After three appointments like this—during which I was at a loss as to how to bring them around to my way of seeing things—I sent them to a veterinary behaviorist. I assumed that a veterinarian so trained would manage to broker this dispute and get Scratch his proper help.
I was wrong—or, rather, I was right about this specialist’s ability to properly handle a problem I could not. She fired them on the spot.
The Bickers were not amused. They were unable to understand the significance of being fired by a veterinary behaviorist—i.e., You are incorrigible as a couple. If you can’t get it together for the sake of your beloved pet you deserve your misery.
Too bad Scratch has to suffer right along with them.
Though it's possible the loss of their veterinarians will make a sufficient impression to help mend their destructive ways, it occurs to me that in doing so I may again exaggerate the power of the veterinary profession. After all, we're not miracle workers...and God knows we're not marriage counselors, despite our best efforts to help our patients by appealing to our clients' better natures.