Friday, June 22, 2012

Professional Courtesy and Pay-It-Forward

Today I took my 6 year old male cat Dublin to the cardiologist. It was time for his yearly echo to monitor the changes in his heart. He has a genetic disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscles get thicker. It can either be benign for the life of the cat, cause sudden death, or be somewhere in between. His disease is stable and he had very minimal changes today compared with last year, which made me very happy.

His cardiologist has been seeing him for the past 3 years. When I was in vet school, he very nicely gave us a professional discount that was not insignificant, and which we appreciated very much. He was under no obligation to do this. Today, my first visit as a full-fledged veterinarian, he charged me absolutely nothing. I couldn't believe when I heard the receptionist say I was good to go, as I fully expected to pay the whole amount this time.

I left feeling amazing. Not so much because we won't have another few hundred on the credit card bill this month, but because someone did something nice and unnecessary for me. Just because. And I felt so honored, and that I am truly valued as a client - and as a referring DVM. That's the real value of what happened. I plan on sending a thank you of some sort next week, as well as pay-it-forward.

I hope that every time I give something to a client for free, it lifts their spirit and they feel compelled to do something for someone else. The world can be a better place... one random act of kindness at a time.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Airing Grievances

I'm very sorry that you cannot afford minimal care for your ancient, flea-ridden, filthy dog. But let's first be honest about "cannot afford" and "will not" afford.

When you say you "cannot afford" radiographs, then whip your iPhone out of your Marc Jacobs bag to text your friend with your recently manicured nails about what I can only presume is something about how unreasonable I'm being, and then go out to your brand new car, that is "will not" afford.

I am completely amazed by how many people complain about money almost constantly and then get a new car. Or a new phone. Or discuss what TV show they watched on one of their premium channels last night. Newsflash.. you can't get those things without money.

Now, if you are using credit to get those things.. and you don't actually have the cash.. that's called stupidity. And poor money management. And one day, when your credit is shot, and your nails are broken, and your cable gets cancelled, then you can tell me that you have no money. And I might - just might - believe you.

If you come in here and tell me you only have $300 to spend because you just dropped $900 on a spa day, I'm very sorry, but I do not feel bad for you. You have an animal, which is a living, breathing, feeling being, and you have a responsibility to provide for its needs, medical and otherwise. Not me.

When I was working at the ER, an intact (not spayed) female Maltese was presented to emergency for vomiting and diarrhea. She was carried in on a pink fluffy dog bed by her owners, who were in total distress that their beloved Muppet was sick.

The owners happily signed an estimate for some bloodwork and radiographs, a typical starting plan for the problem at hand.

Meanwhile, they went outside to wait in their .. wait for it.... brand new BMW SUV.

Initial diagnostics revealed that Muppet most likely had a pyometra, a condition resulting in unspayed females where the uterus becomes infected and filled with a purulent material. This condition can be life threatening, and requires emergency surgery (Spay your pets!!).

When informed that their precious Muppet needed surgery, suddenly the tune changed, and the owners became quite belligerent and claimed that they had no money for such a surgery, and couldn't we just give her a magic injection that would fix everything so they could take her home?

No, sorry, I left my wand at home.

Can we just do the surgery and not charge them for it? Why, in fact, no, no we cannot do that.

Can we take an international credit card (without a valid US license?) No, no sorry we can't do that either.

Can we take traveler's checks? Nope.

Finally the owners decided they were going to try to get something for nothing at another hospital. They didn't even want to pay for the diagnostics that had already been performed. There was a tense moment when we thought they were going to barge into the treatment room to get their dog. Then, the woman pulled out A ROLL OF $100 BILLS from her purse. There must have been $2000 in there.

So, excuse me if I don't quite seem sympathetic when you say you "cannot afford" treatment.

If you have pets, have a plan for how you are going to pay for their [inevitable] medical bills.

Sorry for the rant!

*All names and identifying details have been changed. Any resemblence to actual persons, animals or events is purely coincidental.