Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Notebook - The reality version

I have a heartbreaking story to tell.  One that does beg to differ with those who accuse us of doing things only for the money.

I have these wonderful clients who love their dog, Mr. Sweets.  Mr. Sweets does not hurt for food and is overweight.  I used to harp on them about his weight, until one day - only a few visits after I'd first met them - the owner (Mr. Z) pulled me aside and informed me that his wife (Mrs. Z) had advanced Alzheimers, can't remember when she feeds Mr. Sweets, and therefore the dog will not be able to lose weight.  He also informed me that "that damned dog keeps her alive" and that anything else I can do to work with him would be greatly appreciated.

Okay.  Totally new rules to this game, I can see.

So Mr. Sweets secretly takes Slentrol, a drug that can help dogs lose weight.  It doesn't do much other than keep him from being a total ottoman, and it's something that Mr. Z can give in secret without Mrs. Z finding out.

Then I started noticing how often they were coming to see me - nearly every day some weeks.  So again Mr. Z and I had a discussion.  I told him I didn't feel right about charging them for exams every day when there is never anything wrong with Mr. Sweets.  He told me that he knew there was nothing wrong with "that damned dog" but that every time he sneezes, Mrs. Z (with advanced alzheimers) goes into a panic and demands that he go to the vet.  Who happens to be me.

Okay.  So now I really understand the game.

I think about it, and I call Mr. Z and tell him this:  "Mr. Z, you are a wonderful person and I don't know how you make it through your day.  Your wife of 50 years doesn't know who you are most of the time yet you take exquisite care of her and her dog every single day.  I saw you at the grocery store on Sunday and you were buying a whole bunch of beer, I presume for yourself.  So I'm gonna offer you something that I hope helps, and hopefully will make your life a little easier.  You deserve a break."

I told Mr. Z that he is to bring Mrs. Z and Mr. Sweets down as many times as he wants, to see me.  I will do a full exam on Mr. Sweets in front of Mrs. Z so she will know he is OK.  The only condition to be met is that he comes during the hours when I am not slammed with appts - anytime at all between noon and 2pm.

And I will not charge him a dime.  Ever. 

He was so touched that he cried, and of course we saw Mr. Sweets a LOT.   The truth is that Mr. Sweets could come see me at noon, and then go home, sneeze, and then be back in an hour, because Mrs. Z wouldn't remember that he just saw me at noon.  But this made her happy and gave Mr. Z some peace of mind that his beloved wife of 50 years was up and about and still functional to some degree.

This went on for about 6 months.  Then we recently learned that Mrs. Z is now in the hospital and not doing well.  Mr. Z is still by her side, not leaving the hospital.  It is the real life version of The Notebook.

And we are still taking care of Mr. Sweets because that's what we do. 


  1. Great story and good job of making the best out of a difficult situation.

  2. Little old married couples can be so sweet. We had a couple that lived in our neighborhood when I was in high school and the wife had Alzheimer's. The husband always said that not only did his wife seem more normal with the dog, but that the dog often made more sense than the wife.

  3. We veterinarians have a heart. We just don't like having it stepped on. Great post.

  4. Thanks for sharing. Nice story to show how much vets care.

  5. One of my favorite clients died of Alzheimer's a couple months ago. I examined her dog (for free) about a million times over the last few years--just like Mr. Sweets. Her dog was the only thing that kept her going.

  6. Wait, I thought you were all money grubbing?! Can. Not. Compute!

  7. sniff. sniff. Thanks for doing that. My Mom is in a similar situation and it is all of the sweet things that people do for her that makes it bearable.

  8. So sweet. It's great to hear a refreshing, heartwarming story, even though it's sad too. Thanks for sharing!

  9. This is so beautiful. Thanks for doing this and being you!

  10. This is the second post that has made me well up. You're all so wonderful *sniff*