Oh the stories I could tell!
Anyone who works in the service industry knows that serving people can be challenging. Fortunately, I spend most of my time serving the needs of four-legged, furry customers, but every customer comes with a human owner.
As a medical professional, I try to educate, communicate and relate to my clients, but sometimes that feels impossible. Here’s an example of one of those times.
A young woman brings her dog into the clinic to get “stitched up.” The technician checks the patient in and alerts me. I scan the records as I enter the exam room.
As I do with every exam, I ask the owner to explain the situation.
The client says, “Well, my dog was attacked by another dog a few days ago. The other dog ripped his testicles out!”
My initial thoughts:
- This occurred a few days ago? I feel like you should have come in earlier.
- That sounds really painful and really bloody, which doesn’t fit the dog’s demeanor or appearance.
- The patient’s chart indicated he was neutered several years ago.
My conclusion: Something’s not quite right.
I asked the client, “Was your dog neutered a few years ago?”
To which she replied, “yes.”
At that point, I realize that she doesn’t know what neutering a dog means.
Just to be sure, I proceed: So this dog was neutered a few years ago, but a few days ago his testicles were ripped out by another dog?
Again, she replied, "Yes."
I lay the dog on its side and take a look at the laceration. The injury was indeed near where testicles should be, but the laceration was not from another dog ripping his testicles out. Mainly because there are no testicles to be ripped out.
When a dog is neutered, both testicles are removed as standard practice. Sometimes the patient can be left with a little extra skin there but over time it usually goes away.
I began to tell the lady that her dog was going to be fine. The laceration was very minor and was draining well. We were going to treat it with antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory.
I prefer to use the least invasive methods when possible as to minimize trauma and healing time for my patients. Since this dog’s wound was healing well on its own, stitches were not necessary.
The client says, “Whew, so he still has his testicles?”
Me: Uh, no. He was neutered several years ago and we remove those during surgery.
Client: So he doesn’t have testicles?
Client: So what was ripped out?
Me: Nothing was ripped out. The cut just happens to be in that area.
I give her the prescriptions and explain how to give them. When we were finished she says, “That sounds great. Do I owe anything for today?”
[Insert my bewildered expression] I just did an exam, spent 20 minutes explaining what a neuter was and prescribed medication. Yes, that’s what veterinarians get paid to do.
I politely said, “Yes, we will take care of you up front.”
Client: Oh, well I didn’t bring in my wallet.
Mind you, she came in to get her dog stitched up, which is a more costly procedure than an exam.
[Insert bewildered expression]
The client doesn’t have enough money, so she decides to come back for the anti-inflammatories the next day.
The story gets better.
Her husband calls and wants to know why I didn’t sedate the dog, debride tissue and stitch up the cut.
Meanwhile I’m staring at the anti-inflammatories left on the counter because she couldn’t afford them.
[Insert bewildered expression]
I just have to laugh at these situations. I love all my clients, even the challenging ones. And cases like these make my day a little more entertaining. Unfortunately, I deal with clients all the time that can’t afford exams, procedures, medications or other treatments for their pets. It stinks. But I do the best I can with the resources they have.
Appointments like these also remind me that I have to keep educating and I should never assume something is common knowledge...like the definition of "neuter."