I hear all sorts of stuff at work. Some of it is funny: “Hey doc, my dog caught me and my wife….uh….well, anyway, is he scarred for life?”
Some of it is sad, like listening to a lonely elderly person tell me about the life of their cat, their constant companion and solace, as the cat is being put to sleep.
Some of it is downright weird, like the woman who pulled her top down to ask me to look at a mole (I demurred.)
All of this has to be met with the same expressionless face. That’s not my forte, to be honest. I have to work at maintaining a neutral expression, though the year after college I spent working for a urologist conducting the clinical trials for Viagra sure did help in that regard. My point is, it’s a learned skill, and anyone can do it with practice. I think I’m pretty decent at it, usually.
Today, though, was a challenge.
We had a client bring in a Lhasa puppy for limping. At 5 months old, this dog already had severe patellar luxations (ie, the kneecaps were slipping out of place); with his difficulty walking, surgery was a foregone necessity.
“Maybe we can fix those at his neuter,” I suggested.
The owner was affronted. “I’m not neutering him,” she said, as if he were the most spectacular specimen of robust health instead of a young pup waddling like an old man.
Then she declined pain medications. “I can’t afford it,” she said. “I have fifteen pets at home.”
I looked at her record, and sure enough, she has been in at various points in the last couple of years with a variety of pets with ailments minor to serious, none worked up, none treated other than a few cursory medications. Always, she says she can’t afford it.
I have a lot of sympathy for people in this economy who are finding veterinary care difficult to afford. I get that, I really do. I want to help. But I have much less sympathy for someone who can’t afford the care their pets need turning around and getting two new puppies that also won’t get the care they need, then getting mad at me for suggesting that care. I have sympathy for the dog. Pity for the dog. For the owner, frustration. Lots of frustration.
I thought I put on my typical neutral face as I listed for her the reasons a neuter would be important, as well as the pain her dog was in and would continue to be in without treatment. I thought I did this in a fairly clinical manner while still conveying care and sympathy for the pet, who after all didn’t ask to be adopted by this person. I don’t know enough to say whether or not she is a hoarder, but the situation is crummy, to say the least.
I convinced her to take home the pain medication. Then when she was checking out, she said she didn’t want to see me any more because I insulted her dog by insinuating that he should not procreate. Oh well. I can’t say I will miss managing that particular situation.