Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Groupie? No, thanks!

I learned today, in some cases, it is a good thing if certain people don't like you. Today's example: Lisa Elp. Ms. Elp brought her new Scottie in today to have an exam. She was concerned because the dog hadn't eaten in the last 3 days, and had only urinated three times in the last 48 hours. She had gotten the dog about a week ago, and was clearly upset and looking for a fight. My attitude regarding her was immediately settled when I stepped in the room and she declared, "Don't you think this dog was abused?!"

Looking at the dog, I was a little puzzled by this statement. The terrier was looking at me with what I can only describe as the infinitely patient look of a quiet person with an overbearing spouse. He looked in perfect health, and as I examined him to the constant mutterings and complaints of Ms. Elp ("He never had his dewclaws removed! Have you ever heard of such a thing?" ; "Don't his teeth look yellow?" ; "What a sad look he has! He is sad!"), I felt nothing if not sympathy for this Scottie. Still, I had to address Ms. Elp's concerns.

So, first of all: not eating and weight loss. As it happened, we had the past record of this dog and, when comparing weights, he was a few pounds down from his most recent weight from about 4 months ago when he had last visited a veterinarian. After explaining to Ms. Elp that the difference may not be significant given the inherent differences in scales and the effects of natural doggie squirming that can throw the weight one way or another, I showed her how we body condition score dogs and that this Scottie was as near to a perfect 3/5 as we can expect to see. Additionally, his defecation had been normal and regular and -- after further investigation -- it was revealed that he had a large bowl out with free-choice food, it was likely that he was actually eating, even if Ms. Elp hadn't seen him do so. As another test, I offered him peanut butter and some canned food in the exam room, which he happily ate.

"But look at him!" Ms. Elp nearly shouted in astonishment. "He's starving!"

In all actuality, he was eating the food as happily as I would expect any terrier to do.

The next issue was housebreaking. "He is an older dog! He's already a year and a half! Is it too late to housebreak him?" While it is true that it can be more difficult to housebreak an older dog that is set in his ways, to assume him untrainable was a bit unfair. We talked through crate-training (which she first declared as "Cruelty! I'd never pen up my dog like that!") and the theory behind that. We talked ad nauseum about routine and schedule and consistency. By the time she left, I had gotten her to agree that crate-training would be a good idea for this dog, but it was an uphill battle.

Where our conversation went from there, I'm not entirely certain. It traveled a meandering path that covered everything from heartworms to fleas to diet to exercise to grooming to car rides to..... you get the idea. All I know is that a good 50 minutes later (after what had been scheduled to be a 10 minute appointment for a nail trim), she finally walked out the door, but not without grabbing one of my cards and informing me "I'll make sure to call you if I ever have any problems!"

As a vet, you certainly want to do your best with every client. No matter how nutty the owner, the pet needs to receive the best attention and care that can be provided. That said, I could certainly do without worrying about the next phone call from Ms. Elp.

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