I have had the pleasure the last couple of weeks of working at a clinic where the vets have been out as long as me or slightly longer. We practice similar medicine and all have strong internship training. It's also been enlightening to see that some of my coping mechanisms and "jaded" point of view are not alone. As I saw a veterinarian about to get on the phone with a difficult client and she said, "deep cleansing breath," I thought how those words so often came out of my mouth. I was talking with one of the other doctors today and we were discussing that we really don't have as much patience as we used to.
We used to be idealistic young vets who wanted to save everything and we worked hard to educate the clients. We discussed how we have just seen so many people who don't follow directions, and most of the time it's not money or finances. We vets are kind of bleeding hearts and are most of the time willing to bend over backwards to help people. We were talking about the people who you look through their whole chart and they have been told multiple times what to do to help their animal and they just don't do it. Or they have the money to treat their pet, and they just choose not. I told her how I really appreciate the clients who turn to their children and say, "Well, I guess we are going to have to put off that Disney vacation this year, because Fluffy is sick and we have to help her." I have heard that a couple of times and it actually makes me feel better to hear that they care that much.
I was talking with the doctor and said, "sometimes I just don't have the energy to educate." I used to rely on my pre-law background and power of negotiation to try to get people to help their pets. But sometimes it's the best I can do to just not have an honest face. I had a client earlier in the week who didn't follow simple instructions and her pet was at risk of a serious complication from surgery and she continued to say she wasn't going to follow the instructions because it was inconvenient. I didn't lose my cool... But I wanted to.
One coping mechanism the other doctor and I shared is that we do sometimes judge people. It makes us feel bad, but when you only have so much emotional reserve, you have to choose who to use it on. We both felt bad about judging, but it does allow us to conserve our resources and focus our energy on the clients who really do seem to care about their pets. I know I'm not supposed to judge, I try not to, but I do think it's a coping and survival mechanism.
I judge every day with the pets that come in. I fortunately have not been mauled by a dog or cat. Some of this, I'm sure is a blessing from God, but some of this good fortune is also due to decisions I make. I categorically do not trust most small dogs. Dachshunds and Chihuahuas I do not trust. They tend to have what I call, "Napoleon Complex". They will wag their tail, lick at you, nuzzle you and then try to bite your hands and fingers. Not all of them are like this, but enough are that I just carry a general wariness of me. I'm on my guard. I don't muzzle all of them. Often, owners don't like muzzles, but I don't think they necessarily see it from our point of view. The muzzle actually doesn't restrict the pet from biting. It just gives us a little extra time for our reflexes to move our body parts out of dangers way. If I was a small dog and a strange human with a white coat started touching me, especially if I was in pain, I would bite them. I get it, I don't argue with it, their reasoning is logical. It's just not safe for us, so proper precautions are necessary.
It's interesting how the big dogs get such a bad rap, my theory is that it's because the big dog bites always cause serious damage and are reported. So many of the small dogs will bite their owners, their children or others and are never reported. The true incidence of dog bites is much more than reported, but the small dog bites are typically not something people go to the doctor for. I've been bit 3 times by small dogs, twice required a doctor and antibiotics and one bite did nerve damage serious enough I couldn't feel a finger.
Cats are similar to what I said about small dogs. You need to respect them. I find out often less is more and many of them have a "short expiration date" as I call it. I will strategize what needs to be done, get all my supplies out, have a contingency plan and prioritize what are my most important objectives before I get the cat out of the kennel if I'm concerned.
Yes, I do judge. Often I'm wrong. I try not to judge and keep an open mind, but sometimes judging is what keeps your hands and fingers attached to your body. My judgement sometimes includes humans and it's not always a pretty picture. Sometimes I wonder where this world is going and I look over at my son and see, God hasn't given up on us yet, neither should I.
I also look at my dog and cat. My dog, a 60# possible mix of some of the above breeds and my 6 pound cat. I have no doubt my dog would battle to the end for my family and I and my cat would be the commandant leading him into battle. While feisty isn't always appreciated in the exam rooms and presents one side of judgement there, their qualities can be appreciated by the families who love them.