Learning left from right is something that children do pretty young. I'm not sure exactly at what age but I'm sure that by the age of 10, most kids have that down pat. Kids are also pretty clear on the concept of mirror images. They look in the mirror and raise their right hand and they see their mirror image raise its left hand. Pretty simple. My six-year-old demonstrated this for me last year at a school event.
So, what's the deal with the people who insist that their dog is limping on the left front leg, and then after a lot of back and forth and arguing and namecalling, finally admit that they mean THEIR left, and the dog's right?
I have a patient who came in about six weeks ago and saw a colleague. The appointment was booked over the phone as "check right leg - limping." On physical exam, the dog was found to be limping on the right foreleg. Rest & Rimadyl was prescribed after radiographs were declined and the exam did not reveal a specific cause. The dog went home and recovered uneventfully.
Two weeks later, the owner called again and told the receptionist that the problem was back. The receptionist said "his right leg again?" and the owner said "no, left," and the receptionist remarked that this must be a new problem. The owner then got irate and screamed that the doctor must have written it down wrong, because it was the same leg, and it was the left leg, because she was looking at him right now and could see it was the left leg etc. She eventually came in and saw another one of my colleagues. The dog was not limping on any of his legs at that time. Again, radiographs were declined. She argued with my colleague about which leg it was. She pointed at the dog's right leg and said "now, this is definitely the leg he's been limping on. The left one." My colleague explained that that was in fact the dog's right leg. The owner argued about it. There's really no need to describe the argument I'm sure. You've been there, right?
So anyway she called me today & told me the dog was limping on the left leg "again." I said her left or the dog's left? She said "they're the same left. Left is left." I reminded her that the past two times she'd pointed to the right leg. So she said "oh right. You guys go by HIS sides, not mine." And it made me wonder - why do people do this? I don't take my kid to the pediatrician and say his left leg hurts and point to his right leg because that is what I see in my left visual field. Why do people do this with their pets???