Anyone who deals with the public is going to accumulate stories about the memorable people with whom they’ve crossed paths. You’ve noticed this. Some of the people you meet will leave you smiling, and others are responsible for that spit drying on the inside of your car’s windshield after you have vented some of your frustration during your drive home at the end of the day. If you’ve explored this blog at all you no doubt recognize some of the people the veterinarians here are frustrated with. These individuals have likely ruined your day, too. I’m talking truly remarkable people here, the ones that years later still send a surge of acid up your throat when their memory somehow slides back into your consciousness.
I read once that our sense of smell is the best trigger for memory. And I’m sitting here at the computer reliving some of the worst days of my career, when the ignorance or irresponsibility of a client presented the very worst odors to a nose accustomed by this job to some pretty rank stench. If you are eating, or the kids are reading along with you, or you confess to being a tad faint of heart, I’d skip the rest of my story. For the brave who continue here, sorry about this…
Decades ago, when the options for fracture repair available to veterinarians were nowhere near as extensive as what we now enjoy, clients shied away from the better care every bit as often as they do now. Some couldn’t afford the best, and others couldn’t care. Ya grow accustomed to this in our line of work. This puppy should have had surgery on its busted rear leg, but his people were headed for Vegas for the weekend and they wouldn’t spare the money.
Our fall back option was a splint constructed from an aluminum rod bent to shape and the clever application of large volumes of tape to hold the leg steady within this support. These things worked well, but with a growing puppy we needed to check the splint weekly to assure that it wasn’t knocked askew by romping enthusiasm, or simply needed adjustment to account for growth. Eight weeks or so of this usually gave us an adequate fracture repair, and a pup who could then live a normal life. These folks missed the first recheck, and then the second. No one answered their phone. Time passed. No rechecks.
Four months later they showed up, without an appointment, to have the splint removed. I smelled them coming, long before they entered the exam room. The stench was remarkable, and maggots fell out of the splint when they lifted the crying pup onto the table. It was February, and even here that means winter. Those flies that lay their eggs on dead animals and thus yield ugly maggots had left by the end of October, but apparently not in that house.
The pup was in agony, but still sweet. Drugs lent him some peace while I cut off the splint. Much of the leg came with, rotting pieces falling off and stuck by the hair to the filthy old tape. Writhing gobs of maggots fed on this stew. Amazingly, the leg healed after this, and since I kept the gun locked up, the owners survived, too.
Few things smell worse than parvo. Picture an innocent young puppy, spewing sticky yellow slime from the front end and unworldly horrid bloody diarrhea out the other, and lying in the puddle, too weak to crawl out, for 6-8 days. Most will die without treatment, but many can survive with proper care. Hopefully, this is as close to parvo as you will ever go. But let me assure you that one puppy with parvo will stink up the entire hospital, and seven at one time will peel the paint.
Vaccines have been available since the early 80’s and the disease is utterly preventable. Only ignorance and irresponsibility on the part of too many owners allows it to hang around at all, and so it still kills puppies.
The young lady was nicely fitted out, all make up and perfume, provocative clothing, and that come hither smile as she began to negotiate with me over the cost of treating her sick puppy. I guess she was hoping for stupid. No doubt her ready availability had worked wonders in the past on men my age. I glanced at the medical chart and noticed that this was the third puppy with parvo she had presented to me in the last ten years. And she still had not vaccinated this puppy. Fortunately, the gun was locked up. I laid a short dissertation on her irresponsible head. She was not smiling as she left.
The animal control truck backed into a parking space next to my clinic. What manner of disaster was the officer bringing in this time? He headed for the box on the truck bed carrying the snare pole. Not a good start.
The mostly grown pitbull puppy was screaming in agony as he pulled it along with the pole. “Doc, ya gotta put this one down right away. Some kids set it on fire, and he’s all burnt all over. I can’t even touch em.”
Story was three or four “kids” had doused the pup with lighter fluid and then set him ablaze. The “kids” sped off leaving the pup running around in flames. The officer figured the pup wouldn’t fight in the ring, so they tried to kill him nasty-like as a lesson for their other dogs. And yeah, the “kids” who fight dogs are that stupid. Ask Michael Vick.
Third degree burns means burnt hair, charred tissue, blackened parts of dog falling off on the floor. Could not touch the dog anywhere without him screaming and fighting. We had to pin his frothing screaming head to the floor with the snare pole to get close enough to inject a hind leg with drugs potent enough to finally get near him to give the final injection that let him out of this life.
Could not get the dog’s screams out of my wretched brain for months. The smell I will leave to your imagination. I had impure thoughts about those “kids”. For them, I would have unlocked the gun.
Sorry about all this. But if any reader questions the motivation behind some of the less than perky descriptions of bad client behaviors in this blog, maybe this will help with understanding.