I’d like to think I’m one of those veterinarians who offers her patients especially personalized care. And it’s true — if I do say so myself — when I’m on, I’m on. But now that I’ve been taking more time off, I’ve been slipping.

It might seem like a tough thing to confess, but it’s really not. It’s become obvious — to me, anyway — that my patients' personalized care has been suffering at the hands of my on-again, off-again status. For this reason, for clients whose pets have conditions I’ve been monitoring closely, I’ve taken to letting know when I’m heading out of town, among other concessions.

Since I plan on being out of town more than usual this upcoming year, it seems like a no-brainer: establish a protocol for determining which clients get a special call when I’m out of town (I’m keeping a written list in my mailbox), and which will be asked to text or e-mail me with updates or emergencies. My receptionists will be alerted to my new preferences along these lines, and hopefully everything will go more smoothly from now on.

But that doesn’t mean I’m out of the doghouse for transgressions past. One in particular nags at me fiercely. So much so that I worry at it like a bad tooth. Here’s the story:

A client calls me a couple of months ago with her down dog. Suddenly, this seven-year-old Dobie can’t get up. Which is a big deal, I’m sure you can imagine. So she does what I typically recommend and heads over to my favorite surgeon. He hospitalizes the dog, makes a tentative diagnosis, and refers her to my favorite neurologist. But, said neurologist is out of town at a conference. Oops.

In the meantime, the surgeon recommends conservative management — which is quite an impressive thing for a surgeon to recommend (they’re normally all about the aggressive play), and not the kind of thing a very worried, highly motivated owner wants to hear. She wants action; a definitive diagnosis. I can’t blame her. So she wants me to talk to the surgeon. And I do. To which he replies that he’s amenable to whatever she chooses, which I report back to her. Or thought I did … but maybe I didn’t.

Throughout this "telephone" process, I’d been finishing up a challenging writing assignment, so I’d taken a couple of days off in the middle of the week to get it out of my hair so I could focus better while on clinical detail (I’ll do that every now and again now that I’ve been doing more writing). Then I had a really busy family weekend. And more writing work in between.

All of which is no excuse, and the owner’s now dismayed, frustrated, and perhaps somewhat annoyed that I haven’t been as attentive as I could/should have been about her dog’s serious condition. To make matters worse, one thing leads to another and I’ve not even visited my patient as she goes through her whole surgical intervention. In fact, knowing I’ve been so slack (guilt, etc.) makes me want to stay even further away from the situation. So now she’s been through rehab and I haven’t so much as called to see how she’s doing.

Oops … all of my own doing.

Wrong. Bad. Must atone.

But how?


And here’s where you come in … vets, clients, your counsel please.

(Thank God for friendly backup.)

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Guilty by Wei

 guilty dog, guilty face, mud on face, little white dog, dirty dog