Trust me...or not - When basic trust breaks down between pet owners and veterinary professionals
Here’s a hypothetical for you: You bring your new kitten to your vet for her final well-kitten visit. She’s due for her rabies vaccine, too. The visit proceeds smoothly while the veterinarian performs her physical and answers all your questions. Then you’re done. But where’s the rabies?
Your vet explains that she gave it while you were discussing things and assumed you saw her give it. You didn’t see it happen and somehow you really don’t believe it was given. Doctors forget things sometimes, too, right?
Now you have a choice.You can ask your veterinarian for some kind of proof that it was given and risk insulting her. You might even ask that she administer the vaccine again, just to humor you. Either way, it’s a touchy situation.
Something like that happened to me yesterday morning. I gave a deworming pill to a cat when her owner had been unable to accomplish the task at home. We were talking about how wily cats can be while I administered the medication. It literally took me a second. I think I even punctuated the event with a semi-musical, “ta-da!”
The owner, however, was unconvinced. She swore up and down that I had not actually given the pill. “Trust me,” she said, “you did not give the pill.”
Interesting choice of words, to which I could only respond with an unwavering, “No. Trust ME.”
Inexplicably, the standoff continued and the owner demanded that I administer the pill again. I refused, explaining the side-effects of a double-dose of dewormer. Instead, I offered to re-administer the pill in one week at no charge.
I figured this would be a win-win solution. We’d end this ridiculous argument and the cat would be well-served in the end. Sure, we’d all “lose” something: more time spent, one more pill down the gullet for the kitty and all that. But at least the cat wouldn’t get overdosed and the relationship between veterinarian and pet owner would be salvaged. We might even laugh about it at next year’s visit.
But it wasn’t to be. In the end, the owner remained intractably firm and I explained that she’d need to find another veterinarian to give the pill if that’s what she really wanted. I could not in good conscience knowingly double-dose a patient. Sorry.
Does this scenario remind you of anything? I remember once getting upset at a cashier in Mexico for handing me incorrect change. In the end, I had been wrong and I’d taken my lumps when I found the crumpled, large-denomination bill in my back pocket. I’d gone back to apologize, tail between my legs.
We all mess up when we do little, seemingly inconsequential things throughout our daily lives. No one’s perfect. That’s why I mentally retraced my steps to the medicine cabinet, called up the image of the cat’s chin and the yellow pill on the back of the tongue. I’m SURE I gave it. Every bit as sure as I was when I thought I gave the Mexican cashier that big bill.
Only this time it’s not about a bit of money any establishment can swallow citing “the customer is always right” philsophy. And it’s not just about the cat’s well-being, either. For me, the bigger picture is all about the lack of trust. It’s all about how that stainless steel exam table came between us.
In the end, I copied records. I fired the client. And I seethed at myself all day for being unable to negotiate my way out of a paper bag.