Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Diva Las Vegas

[Author's note: I hereby apologize for the gap in posting. I'm fine, just catching up from the trip, my cold, and some extra scheduling. For two weeks in a row my usual writing days were consumed by non-standard scheduling events. With any luck, that's over for a while. Meanwhile, my sincere thanks to all who have inquired after my welfare and offered help should my stock dog (in the air as we speak, on her way home to me) become stranded. That's generous, and much appreciated. It only confirms that "animal people" - whether they currently own animals or not - are the best, warmest, most generous and good-hearted people around. In my Very Humble Opinion, of course - but feel free to join me in this opinion! And now, back to your regularly scheduled programming....]

Sometimes, in my more frustrated moments, I wonder about things. For instance, hardly a week goes by that I don't run smack up against some logical inconsistency that brings me up short, stopping me dead in my tracks and making me wonder: Is it me? Am I expecting too much? Am I the one who's off-step here, while everyone else is on the same page, but one different than the one I'm on?

Sometimes, mind you, it becomes obvious that I AM out of step, and that the clients ARE on the same page, which happens to be one I have not yet turned to.

Meanwhile.... I get it that not everyone processes information the same way, and that some people can't process factual information until their emotional state has been addressed. I get that. I also get it that for such people, pointing out their logical inconsistencies (no matter how gently, diplomatically and carefully it is done) quite often makes them feel picked-on, defensive, insulted. This is a difficult position to be in, as a doctor; not only is logic my personal default position, it is also my job to impart factual information and arrange it in a logical fashion, accessible to the client. It is in addition my job to disabuse them of harmful notions. This is difficult to do, sometimes; it is impossible to overestimate the passion with which an emotional client will cling to a wrong idea if they fall into this group, assuming you have not first disarmed them by addressing their emotional state. Sometimes I have the distinct feeling that the client KNOWS they are clinging to a wrong, mistaken, irrelevant or downright idiotic idea, but they cannot stop: they will cleave to it more and more tightly until someone soothes the emotional child within. Assuming this is even possible, which sometimes it appears not to be.

This is not, strictly speaking, my job, but at times it's the only way to get the job done. I admit I find this kind of poutiness and contrariness tedious, and in some cases both petulant and self-absorbed, although I assume it is largely involuntary and may result from things beyond the client's control. So, in general, I suck it up and do what I have to do. Unfortunately, I don't always recognize that the client is veering that direction until after they've gone all the way to their internal limits and have reached a point where they can't be moved off the position they've staked out, with any amount of coaxing, reason, logic or dynamite.

A case in point: One day a woman comes in to the clinic with a puppy and a poop sample. I am up in the reception area handing over a file and some medication for a dog, while the dog's owner waits patiently for his meds and his bill. The woman is at the reception desk looking antsy; she has in her hand a fecal sample, hermetically sealed (the stool wrapped in a paper towel, inserted into a sealed Ziploc, and then contained in a tightly-closed Tupperware-style container). The receptionists are all tied up with other clients - it being a busy time of day - and my own client and his dog's meds are next, but the woman with the poop says, gesturing with her carefully-sealed stool sample, "Who do I give this to so I can stop holding it?"

Well, okay. There is no chance that the tiniest poop molecule can possibly escape its confinement in the multi-layered bomb-proof arrangement she has created, but some clients are squeamish. Mucus and diarrhea may be MY life, but they certainly aren't EVERYONE'S, so I understand that not everyone has my level of comfort with what might be termed "biological samples". This particular client is extremely pretty, with a beautiful manicure, and an air of someone who has more than the usual degree of fastidiousness. Well, nothing wrong with that, exactly; poop isn't everyone's gig.

"I'll take it," I say, relieving her of the stool sample; she is getting edgy and impatient, so I ask TN, who has taken the meds and chart for my previous client, to quickly look up the antsy woman's number so I can record it on the sample and get it started. My previous client - who, I will point out, was there first - waits patiently and with all evidence of good humor while I slip this small task in ahead of him, and makes no protest.

A few minutes later I am in the room with the antsy client, her husband, her son, and her three small dogs. First we vaccinate her two adult Poms, dogs she informs me are "her babies", and that she cries every time they get shots. She warns me the dogs will scream and struggle when vaccinated, although neither of them do; only one appears to feel the vaccine, and does not protest. The client is shocked and amazed and admiringly asks me if I can give her HER next shot, as I appear able to do it without hurting her sensitive Poms. Then we are on to her puppy, a new acquisition. Amongst other things, this dog has an ear infection. The ear hurts - is in fact quite tender, crusty and raw and swollen inside - and despite the dog's good nature and generally friendly and willing attitude, she ducks away from my hand every time I try, gently, to examine the affected ear. Finally, with patience, I manage to get an ear swab and thence a diagnosis.

I go back into the room and explain that we have to put medication in the ear twice daily. Because the infection has proceeded up the pinna - the "flap" part of the ear, which in this case has small red bumps and some pinpoint scabs on it - I advise her and her husband that in addition to dripping the meds into the cup of the ear, they'll need to smear a little medication over the pinna: anywhere the lesions are. The wife - on the far side of the table from the infected ear, so not getting anything like a up-close view - none the less turns away immediately, her mouth dragged down in a grimace disgust, her eyes squinty with distaste.

"Oh, GOD!" she exclaims loudly, in complete disgust, shuddering. "URGH! That's disgusting!" She can't even watch while I do this extremely minor - and much-appreciated - service for the dog. I can't decide what is so completely ghastly about this; after all, I'm just touching the flap of the ear, not inserting my finger into the the canal, and the lesions on the pinna are in fact pretty dry and non-disgusting, as skin lesions go. The husband looks on, nodding intelligently, closely observing my actions.

"It's not really so bad," I reassure the client. "She's pretty cooperative, and this kind of feels good to her." I go on to detail ear-cleaning instructions.

"Don't tell ME," she says, shuddering again. "Tell THEM. THEY'RE going to have to do that," she says, grimacing at her husband and son.

Looking at her acrylic nails - which are not only meticulously manicured, but long and filed to sharp square tips - I say, "Well, that might be best, actually; as pretty as your nails are, they aren't the best shape for cleaning little bitty ears like this. Her ear really hurts, and we want to make this as easy on her as we can." I think I'm agreeing with the client, but evidently I'm insulting her.

"I'd wear gloves!" she tells me, waspishly, completely missing the point.

"It's not that," I tell her patiently. "These are small ears, and it's hard to get a finger in there when you have long nails, without scratching the ear. If it were a big dog you might have no problem, but with these little ones it's a lot harder." I glance at the husband's hands, which are large and capable, but not the best size for inserting into the canal of a small dog's ear to wipe away debris. "It might be best, based on the size of your hands, to use a Q-tip moistened with the ear cleaner, rather than trying to clean the ear the normal way," I smile at him. "I don't think your finger would fit in there." He smiles back, looking down at his big fingers and the dog's tiny head and evidently seeing my point.

"I'd better clean them before I go back to the Slope," says the husband, musingly.

"I'm not incompetent!" the wife snaps at him. "I do things with my other dogs! I kill animals! I can do stuff!"

Hmm. Maybe it's just me, but are you not the self-same person who could not hold a heavily-sealed packet of poop for five minutes because it grossed you out? Did you not just gag and turn away with extreme grimaces of disgust rather than watch me medicate your dog's ear - a minor and decidedly un-gross event, lasting no more than ten seconds, but still too much for you to bear? Did you or did you not just tell everyone here that you weren't going to treat the dog's ear because it was disgusting and that everyone else in the room was going to be responsible for it, but you refused to be? And maybe I'm missing something here, but what does killing animals (yikes!) have to do with your ability to clean and medicate an ear without hurting the dog?


Probably what the client needed me to do was to say that I could see that she was deeply caring and tender hearted and sensitive and so of course we wouldn't expect her to do this and it would be no problem; we'd let her husband do that part and she could handle the cuddling and praise, a team effort with everyone playing to their strengths. Unfortunately, I did not recognize where the owner was going until it was too late, at which time I find it is generally a waste of time to try to jolly them out of it: no matter what you do by then, they will become more and more insulted and self-righteously furious, which solves nothing. At that point the best result is usually to be calm, cheerful and matter-of-fact, because nothing you do will break the owner's tantrum, and most things will just make it worse. As this client is now in full-blown pout mode, I give it up as a bad job, convey the information as factually and unemotionally as possible, and bail out.


Is it me....?


Karl Katzke said...

Just as you pointed out in your intro, there's animal people and then there's... well, people. That's not to say that non-animal people are bad, or that there isn't a place in the world for all of us ... but I will seriously marry the first woman who helps me clean up a mess that originated on the inside of one of my basket case mutts instead of making a hasty excuse and a rapid exit, stage right.

Barb said...

Glad you're back! And I hope Raven makes it home safe and sound and unruffled.

And no, of course it isn't you! Although I wonder how the dynamics would have been different had you been a male vet... especially a young handsome one! :-)

Dragon43 said...

Not you, it was her and there are really a lot of folks like that.

I'm not a nice as you about it though. I tend to rock on with even more vile things when they start that silliness...

Pat said...

Welcome back! Glad to know you are feeling better.
Some things are better just shrugged off.
I love Karl's dog photo :)

Holly said...

Uggghhhh. I hate it when this happens. And it is not you, it is their own insecurities surfacing at a rate they can't deal with.

When it happens to me I usually go silent. But I have an advantage since I know the client who is escalating this will be back. They don't have a choice but to deal with my agency.

MaskedMan said...

Some days, with some people you're not going to win. You're not even going to break even. On those days, better just to charge ahead, torpedoes be damned.

Anonymous said...

I hope you are all recovered for your trips and ready to start working your stock dog!! Safe flight Raven...

It is amazing the array of people that you meet that own animals. Did the son have any reaction to what his mother was doing or saying?

Off Topic - While you were away and I was constantly checking to see if your wrote a new blog. I had a vivid dream (maybe starting those pregnancy dreams) that I met you in my state - at a flood scene. A bunch of people had got together to help evacuate animals in an area that was flooding fast. Your BF Pilot was there in his plane, and your truck was there. It was interesting! *No I am not a stalker!*

Janice in GA said...

Heh. One of my dogs just had a bout of gastroenteritis. The vet asked me if I could get a stool sample. "Sure, no problem." I told her.

She laughed and said that some people were squeamish about it.

They sent me home with a little vial with something like a spoon thing attached to the top. Absolutely the easiest poop I ever had to pick up.

But I'm a petsitter too. Poop holds NO terrors for me, and neither does vomit or hairballs or whatever. Sure, I don't LOVE it, but you just do what you have to do.

Bev & Bailey said...

I really enjoy reading your blog--it's like falling into a good book. I hope you won't think this is too cheeky, but I've given you an award. Details are in my latest post, if you have a moment to please take a look: http://my-fire-hydrant.blogspot.com/2009/02/ive-received-award.html

Keep those stories coming!!

AKDD said...

Thanks, all!

Raven is home and dry (she wasn't so dry when she came out of the crate at the airport, but I was prepared... dog blankies lining the truck interior, and a quick stop at the clinic - at 1:15 in the morning! - for a waterless shampoo.) Thanks to all who were willing to step in and snag her from airports in case of emergency - whether she was coming to an airport near you or not! :D

Sometimes I can't bite my tongue fast enough to keep from pointing out that if you espouse two mutually exclusive points of view, you have a logical schism, since both can't be true at once. Pick one. I don't care which one, just pick ONE, and stick with it. [Beats head against wall]

Beth, the son just sat quietly. The father kind of ignored the histrionics and went on about his biz. I think he's used to them. I imagine the kid is taking notes about how to deal with his mother's logical failures and is flying under the radar, letting her rant and rave and just quietly proceeding under his own steam.

BTW, where do you live? I suppose it's not impossible I might one day be at a flood zone avec le BF...! :D

Janice, thx for reassuring me that it's not just ME who has clients who are squeamish... although I have to say that I think rubbing ointment on a dog's ear is WAY lower on the "ick" scale than picking up poop. For Heaven's sake. It's an EAR, not a sewer, not a maggot-infested wound, not a liquifying gangrenous infection, not a huge juicy stinky abscess, not mucoid bloody diarrhea, not a big pool of vomit. Get a freaking grip. Sheesh. Meanwhile on behalf of all vets everywhere, a big THANK YOU to all here, who would happily go gather a rank slimy poop sample for us if we needed one to diagnose your pet. You (and others like you) know who you are. We salute you.

Bev, no, not too cheeky. Rather sweet, actually. Thx!

AKDD said...

P.S. I think KK's dog pic is great, too. Can't think why more chicks aren't lining up to help him pick up dog messes. Who could resist that face?

Anonymous said...

Glad Raven made it home safe! Can't wait to hear how she adjusts to being home with you!!

I'm from New Hampshire..so it would be a long flight!! But in my dreams, alaska and new hampshire were on the same street! Go figure!

Floyd said...

Dog vomit is much easier to deal with once you learn a very simple secret- use a paper plate.
Cut the plate in half, use the halves to scoop the puke into the trash, and 70-90% of the mess is gone!

I had a friend who had fake nails and just didn't seem able to emotionally handle things that come with pet ownership- full anal glands, sheath cleaning on her gelding, never cleaned the poop out of the dog yard or horse corral (that was the husband's job). There seems to be a level of "femininity" that I will never understand, let alone achieve. I think that's fine, but man did I get tired of the logical conversations about basic animal care devolving into bitchy comments and hurt emotions on her part. Certain nasty things come with caring for animals, and she just might break a nail or smell funky for a bit after doing the job right. She will survive, and would be *less* traumatized if she'd just stop freaking out about it and DO IT already.

I am a dyed in the wool tomboy for this reason. I don't want to worry about things like how I look when I'm working with my critters, I just want to have fun.

AKDD said...

Beth - in the world-o-dreams, I believe that's correct: AK and NH ARE on the same street! :D

Floyd, good tip on puke pick-up! Bet it works on diarrhea, too.

There is indeed a certain extreme of girly-girl behavior that makes me either want to roll my eyes, smack someone, or say, "You're kidding, right?" Mostly I think that these are people who never really left the seventh grade.... although I'd bet that you didn't act like that even when you WERE in the seventh grade, and nor did I. I will say that I know any number of beautifully coiffed and made-up and elegantly dressed women who will dive right in there and do what needs done - but these are women, not adult 12-year-olds. They have spines of steel and no expectation that the rest of the world will take care of them. If something gross needs done, well, they may not like it, but you do what you have to do, and devil take the hindmost.

For the record, I don't have any issue with people who screw their faces up and complain about grossness (especially when it really IS gross) but get in there and do the job anyway. Even I get grossed out occasionally... If I recall right, that is, because it's been a long time since I was fazed by much that was gross. A lot of people are creeped out by stuff that doen't make me even blink; I expect that: It comes with the job. But the ones I have the most respect for are the ones who step up and do whatever it is their pet needs them to do, no matter how disgusting it might be.

And/or the ones who invent handy plate-scoops for puke. ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm always amazed when the squeamish person in question is a mom, too. I mean, um, you're a MOM, you've got to have been puked on, pooped on, and peed on many dozens of times... if these dogs are your 'babies' your reaction would be 'oh, you poor thing' and helping, yes? I mean, I realized I was definiately a mom when Mr G puked all over me and my reaction wasn't to puke back on him, but to say 'oh you poor thing, do you feel better now?' I have mom-friends who count themselves as having acheived peace with motherhood when they've caught puke in their hands. (Because, you know, that rug is harder to clean than your hands... heh.)

Maybe I just know all the wrong kinds of moms. Or rather, the right kind?

Della said...

second try...
Welcome back!!
I have little patience with that kind of drama. When I was 10 my Dad gave me a calf and a colt, because I was helping out so much in the barn. When I was 11 I got talked into arm wrestling the "second toughest boy in the class" and beat him... the toughest made an excuse why it would be silly for me to even try arm wrestle him. I had to be talked into the first one, so I wan't arguing. The first time I tried to ride one of the cows, she threw me off head-first into the manure pile... and speaking of manure.... LOL The thing is, I was strong as an ox (ok, a small one) and healthy as a horse back then. A good dose of germs and dirt would help a lot of people, I think.
I have long fingernails. I like my long fingernails and they're all real. It took me till I was 20 to quit chewing my fingernails, so I appreciate them now. I'd cut them off in a heartbeat though, if I needed to do so to treat my dog, or any other animal! They'll grow back. I'm not too fond of breaking a nail, but I sure don't cry if I do! lol

PS. Karl, be careful of the promises you make.. lol Too bad you're a bit young.