You may not know that it's a common saying in Veterinary World that the "unluckiest" pets in the world belong to veterinary students. No pet gets ill as often as a future vet's pet. My cat seems to have read the book on behaving like a vet student's pet while I was at orientation, because she woke me up the Saturday after the first week of class with one of those this-is-not-going-to-get-better-on-its-own-but-it's-not-really-an-emergency problems. Sigh. I called the vet's office and they very kindly fit us in that morning's schedule.
We arrived for our appointment. I talked to the tech. The doctor did her thing. I headed to the front desk with medications and a slightly miffed cat.
As one receptionist presented me with the bill and took my payment, a couple walked into the lobby. They wanted to make an appointment for their maltese, who had been involved in what we like to call a Big Dog Little Dog altercation. No, they hadn't brought the dog with them. She was at home, because it was easier for them to come to the veterinary hospital to make an appointment than to call. Okaaaay. The other receptionist offered the couple some appointment times, they agreed to one, and the receptionist did what all good receptionists do: she let the clients know they needed to provide a vaccination history for the dog. If the dog wasn't current on her rabies vaccine, she would need to get one before being discharged, because it's a legal requirement. It's also a good idea in case the dog who bit her might be rabid, but the receptionist didn't get into that. I don't blame her, because:
Ready? Here's what these people said over the course of less than three minutes:
- You can't give her a rabies vaccine! It'll kill her!
- But she's old!
- You know, I think vaccines make them sick. My friend's dog got a vaccine and she got sick.
- Listen, she can't breathe well. You're going to have to kill her.
- Do you want me to go to a different veterinarian?
- How would I know her history? She's from Arkansas.
- How would I know if the other dog has been vaccinated?
- I don't want to talk to the veterinarian about it, I just want her to be seen! She needs stitches or something!
- I can find someone else who will care about this.
- She's 10 years old. She's going to have to die.
Let's ignore that this dog probably should have gone to the emergency room, or at least come along for the ride to make the appointment so the vet could see her promptly. Let's pretend that veterinary records can actually cross state lines via the magic of these things called mail, fax and email. Let's assume that it's totally acceptable to treat polite, professional receptionists with yelling, a bad attitude, and refusing to respond logically to what they say. Let's agree that 10 really isn't old for a small dog. We may also be able to agree that the average
land shark maltese is far too mean to die young, but I don't want to make assumptions about what kind of dogs you've got at home.
How on earth is the staff of a veterinary hospital supposed to respond to people who seem to want a) proper, if delayed, treatment for their pet, b) to refuse proper, routine care for their pet, c) to threaten to take their business elsewhere, d) to talk nonsense, e) to deny that rabies is a public health issue that might become personally relevant via their own dog, and/or f) to insist that a receptionist kill a patient?
I was relieved to be able to walk out the door of the clinic before the resolution of this conversation. That I was relieved makes me so sad. Sure, I don't have to have these conversations while I'm in school, but I've got a career's worth waiting for me when I graduate.
And you know what else? My cat may keep getting sick the whole time I'm in school, but she's not even close to the unluckiest pet out there. I may not have a ton of time, or a lot of money, but if she's in a Big Cat Little Cat incident, you can bet she's going straight to emergency. It just hurts my heart to think about that poor
land shark maltese suffering at home while her owners wasted time and added more misery to the world. I'm going to school to argue with people who won't let me take care of their dog?