When ignorant pet owners happen, do you kill 'em with kindness or slay them with cruelty?
Here's a tough one: How would you handle the inevitable onslaught of clueless clients should you ever take the plunge and enter the wild world of companion animal veterinary medicine as a pro? Will you wield rough words when necessary?...or will you have a perpetually soft touch, killing them with kindness regardless of their crimes?
Here's a recent scenario to help test your mettle on the issue: An owner comes in with a dying Maltese after a C-section (at another hospital) went horribly awry. Imagine you’re busy trying to decipher the sparse records only to hear your new client explain this:
Boyfriend gives her this pet shop dog the year before. She’s never had a pet before. Genius boyfriend finds another Maltese-ish dog in the street and they––together––decided to "marry" the two dogs. Unfortunately, they allowed them to breed when she was still a pup. They "oopsed" again by not knowing she was pregnant until they saw milk coming from her nipples. Too bad this stroke of brilliance arrived only after the overcooked pups were at least 24 hours dead...still inside her.
But now––get this––they’re blaming the veterinarian before me for the fact that the dog has a nasty peritonitis (basically, an infection of her abdominal cavity). This, because they’ve read on the internet that C-sections are "routine" for their dog's breed...and because their dog was "healthy" when they brought her in for the procedure.
On the one hand you want to kick the offenders in the head––or at the very least see them prosecuted for animal cruelty. After all, it was their idiocy that led an innocent dog to the brink of death after all her pups careened into the void before her. On the other, you want to calmly enumerate their mistakes so they learn how to properly care for their pets in the future.
This particular tale, however, must have gotten to me worse than most. I know this because this depressing ordeal unleashed my demons within, somehow managing to loose my tongue at the ignoramuses before me (something I almost never do). I told them, in no uncertain terms, that if this dog died it would be, “your fault more than anyone else’s.” Not that blame might not be shared, “because I can’t speak for your previous veterinarian” (the records were a mess), but “listen up,” I said, “this one’s on you.”
Strangely, they didn’t get too upset over this little rant. It did manage to stress me out, however, especially when they decided to euthanize the little thing. And now they’ll never come back for their other dog’s care.
Then...after this blessed event ruined my day, I received an off-topic “please-help-me” question on Friday’s PetMD post. And I paraphrase for clarity’s sake: “Help me! How do I know if my dog’s in labor?”
To make matters worse, this piteous plea arrived on a post about fly-by-night pet stores that set up shop on on Black Friday only to shut their doors come December 31st. Can you imagine the degree of idiocy you have to reach to manage such an ignorant feat?
Which is why I probably should have exercised some compassion. Which would have made me feel better. Which would have––I’m hoping––helped this person understand how much they need the help of others and why they should never do this to their pet ever again.
But then, my temper got the better of me and, as with the first situation of the day, I missed an opportunity to teach, embroiled as I was in my display of righteous indignation.
Sure, at some point there’s a horrible crime that cannot be forgiven without appropriate redress (think Michael Vick’s serial offenses). But most of the time there’s basically ignorant behavior committed by humans who deserve a second chance...if only because they’ll get away with it whether you grant them one or not. Which is why I've decided it’s better to take the time to try and prevent another horrible death than to angrily comprehend––certainly and smugly––that I'm absolutely right.