Saturday, January 12, 2013

Clients Say the Strangest Things

Often, in the course of veterinary medicine, it becomes necessary for one party to dissolve not the bands of connection but into soundless mirth. I'm referring to those times when clients say things so utterly beyond reason or the realm of common sense that I am rendered politely speechless. Some examples:

During an exam of a mature Rottweiler with dermatitis and a particularly powerful doggie odor suggesting his last bath had been from his dam shortly after birth the owner left no doubt about his dog-owning acumen with the following statement,
"...Well, I know you're not supposed to give a Rottweiler a bath because it's bad for their skin."
Here I questioned, "Oh?"
He then assured me there were several studies showing Rotties have special glands in their skin and never need bathed. Sigh. I think I made a comment about not being able to believe everything you read online and that regular grooming and bathing with a moisturizing shampoo made for dogs would considerably improve his pet's "houseability."

Around the same time I was firmly informed that the reason so many pit bulls are involved in aggressive incidents is because, "...their heads stop growing before their brains." I'm not sure what his logic actually was but, if this were true, I could imagine the hellacious headaches ensuing prior to death from brain stem compression could lead to behavioral issues. However, careful assessment of the speaker led me conclude he knew whereof he spoke, perhaps even on a personal basis, and I chose not to comment on the absurdity of the statement.

On another occasion a pet had to be hospitalized and the owner inquired as to where he would be in the clinic. I explained we had individual cages and kennels with comfortable blankets and cushions. he then said, in all seriousness and with great concern in his voice, "He won't stay." I first clarified that he meant the dog wouldn't stay in a cage and then gently assured him that I didn't intend to give his dog a choice in the matter.

There are also owners who, despite assurances to the contrary, cling to impossible concerns, like the gentleman who repeatedly asked if the hematoma in his dog's ear would explode. The answer is, "No." Even if the aural hematoma is not surgically treated and the ear flap becomes extremely distended, bruised, and/or deformed, it will not spontaneously "explode."

Similarly, while admitting a young tom cat for neutering, I had the following conversation,
"When will I need to bring him back?"
"He'll go home this evening, there aren't any sutures to remove so unless you have any concerns we won't need to see him again until his next physical and vaccines are due."
And then the client clarified, "No I mean how long before I have to have him re-neutered?"
Clearly there was a significant anatomical misunderstanding. I explained "they" do not grow back.

The latest addition to the category of strange utterings involved a young ferret who presented for immobility after a fall. Further questioning revealed the owner's boyfriend had been bathing the jill when she bit him and he dropped her from a height of about 5 feet. Onto the shower floor. Approximately 8 hours earlier. At 3:00 a.m. It not being directly relevant to the current state of the little fur ball I didn't pursue why a teenage boy was bathing a ferret at 3 in the morning but it does conjure questions. She had sustained a dislocated elbow in the fall and likely some head trauma but at last check was doing well.

It's not just clients who struggle with the obvious. Several years ago I testifed in an animal abuse case regarding the existence of animal pain and suffering with respect to a puppy who had allegedly been thrown against a wall. After tedious grilling as to my education, licensing, and experience and no doubt to the dismay of the defense attorney, the judge qualified me as an expert witness. In answer to a question from the prosecutor, I asserted it is generally accepted in veterinary medicine that an injury or procedure known to cause pain in a person is reasonably assumed to cause a similar degree of pain in an animal and the pain itself ethically requires prevention or treatment. The defense attorney objected and there ensued a verbal barrage ending in the prosecutor appealing to the judge by saying, "It's common sense, your Honor!"
To which the defense attorney replied entirely without irony, "Common sense doesn't work for the defense your Honor!"
I don't recall the judge's exact response but it was very close to my own thought, which was, "Clearly."

Most veterinarians will tell you a sense of humor is vital to clinical practice and although we may cringe at some of the the nonsensical things pet parents do and say, they are an unending source of comic relief. I'll close with these words from philosopher William James, "Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense dancing."

1 comment:

  1. I asserted it is generally accepted in veterinary medicine that an injury or procedure known to cause pain in a person is reasonably assumed to cause a similar degree of pain in an animal and the pain itself ethically requires prevention or treatment. Portland Veterinary Clinic