Misanthropists Divide!

Filed under: @ 8:07 am

Well I couldn’t very well cry out “Misanthropists Unite!” could I? Unity not being a particularly misanthropic trait.

Semantic quibbling aside…..

Most of my last several posts have been in regards to the cooler aspects of veterinary medicine. Maybe it’s just that I’ve had a particularly noxious week, maybe it’s a conversation that I’ve been participating in with my VIN (Veterinary Information Network) buddies regarding the more -um- annoying aspects of clinical practice, but I was struck with the thought that I needed to add some balance to the overall impression that I am creating of veterinary medicine.
It also may explain a change that I’ve noticed in my personality. I don’t think I was NEAR this anti-human before I started my professional career.

So. In a word, the major problem with veterinary medicine?
Far and away the major problem with my vocation and avocation is the fact that my patients can’t come to see me with a note detailing their problems and a credit card to pay for treatment tied around their necks.

Many of you will have heard me rant about my clients and, to be fair, the ones I rant about are thankfully in the minority. That having been said however, I also must point out that that minority is responsible for the majority of ANY clinical veterinarian’s stress. And are, in great part, the reason that I spend much of my time outdoors with ear buds jammed so far into my ears that my cochleae vibrate and why I let Andrew do much of the interacting with people outside of our immediate circle of friends.

The loonies range from the merely daffy — I had one, a rather good client actually, who insisted that her cats communicated with her through the services of a pet communicator and would bring her pets in based on the problems that they were having as dictated by the pet communicator. Who was, for the record, rarely correct about the medical condition of the various cats. And a second woman, quite blind, who nonetheless managed to detect me whenever we ran into each other outside of my office (which was distressingly frequent), who wanted to spend much of whatever time I would spare her discussing “fuzzy Hawaiian men”.
One step up from daffy we have the kooks. The woman who insisted that her neutered male cat was gay, the one that was certain her neutered male (and re-plumbed) cat was pregnant because he’d had “a sex change operation”, the woman who convinced her sister to breast feed an orphaned pit bull puppy, and the thoroughly baked woman who was sure that her equally baked maltese puppy was suffering from a wasp sting and was convinced that a vital part of the puppy’s treatment included this colorless goop that contained “the eloptic essence of God” (No, I don’t know what it means either.)
From the kooks we go to the seriously mental. The man that insisted that he’d “just heard on the radio” (when he walked into the building without any form of radio around him) that we had a psychic vet and that he had to talk to the psychic vet. While debating with the manager about whether or not there was a psychic vet on the premises he danced around a little and then left us the turd that had run down his pants leg as he walked out. An older man that came by a few years later was certain that his Doberman had had two silicon microphones implanted in her trachea (one to record, one to transmit) by his neighbor children. He brought his pathetic, paralyzed, dying dog back to us something like six times over the space of two weeks each time with complaints ranging from the cyanide that was in the (unopened) bags of balanced electrolyte solution that we had sold him for her (the cyanide was also the fault of the neighbor kids) to the fact that the dog was talking to him and he wanted us to tell the neighbor kids to stop making the dog talk. The last visit we had with him he came within six inches of driving his truck into the side of our building, wet himself in our lobby and finally was hauled off to the happy house after he collapsed screaming about the neighbor kids (we kept the dog until he was released).
We’ve had dangerous — there was one man in Olympia that I refused to see any further when he showed up with his dog wearing full military kit with a large Buck knife on his belt. I didn’t mind the camo and the knife so much, it’s just that he also handed me his “business” card that listed him as some high muckity muck in the church of the Aryan Nation. Being a small woman married to a Jew, I thought it wise to NOT interact with him any further. There was one guy who, when confronted with the possibility that his dog might die responded “Lock and load!” when he was asked about his plans for what would need to be done if the dog died.

But the vast majority of the stress comes not from the outstanding loonies, rather the run of the mill loonies. The average American is woefully ignorant and is willing to take as gospel ANYthing that they see as forwarded e-mail, on the nightly news, or written in a photocopied, poorly written document that they got from the person from whom they just purchased a puppy. Additionally there is a frighteningly large number of people who think that they are just one lawsuit away from a life of ease.
In 2007 when huge numbers of pets were sickened as a result of melamine contamination every single damn thing that was making pets ill was, naturally, because they had eaten tainted pet food. We even had people coming in with CREMATED REMAINS of pets wanting us to have the ashes tested so they could be part of the class action lawsuit.
At least once a week I will have someone tell me that something about their pet is markedly different from every other dog and cat based on something that the breeder of said pet has told them. Frequently the breeder who, in most cases, is awarded their authority simply on the fact that they can put two animals in a room and watch them successfully mate, has little, if any, secondary education. When I point out that I spent eight years in pursuing my degree and have had numerous years in practice to one of these nimrods the answer often is “Well my breeder said that they just don’t teach anything about (insert the breed here) in vet school.” (For the record that is usually true. For the most part we don’t get significant education on the peculiarities of individual breeds because in most cases, C. lupus familiaris is C. lupus familiaris regardless of whether it’s shaped like a chihuahua or a great dane.)
And I’ll try not to rant too much about people who try treating their pets at home. The man who was treating his dog’s runny eye with the eyedrops that he had been prescribed after his corneal transplant was astonished that anti-rejection eyedrops had done nothing to cure the dog’s eye when the dog had a grass awn stuck under his lower eyelid. Bacon grease and/or Bag Balm on everything from mange to abscesses. Bleach to kill earmites, Nair to remove hair from a poodle’s ears. Aspirin, godforsaken aspirin for arthritis, for vomiting, for paralysis and just last week, aspirin to treat a heart murmur in a cat. When I told the woman who had been giving her cat aspirin for its heart murmur that aspirin was not indicated to treat heart murmurs and can be dangerous in cats she replied: “Well I wish someone had TOLD me!” (Sorry lady, my psychic license expired three years ago and I’ve not had it renewed yet.) And the woman that Shawn and I actually plotted to kill in a semi-serious way who treated everything that was wrong with her dog (and that was a LOT) with aloe vera gel.

I’ve actually encountered very few people who were abusing their pets. Most of the abuse I’ve seen has been more along the lines of neglect (benign or intended) and extends into areas that many people wouldn’t see as abuse (the people with the poorly socialized, fear aggressive dogs who won’t do anything to help train the dog out of it are, in my estimation, abusing the dogs by allowing them to remain in a psychotically fearful state for their whole lives, but that’s a different argument).

There are volumes more that I could write about the people that I see or those that I discuss with my colleagues –I have a friend in Florida who was recently presented a dog for a breeding soundness exam. When he pointed out to the dog’s owner that the dog was neutered she said that she was aware of it, but that she was going to take the dog for stem cell therapy so he could grow a new set of testicles– but I’d be writing for days. If I wrote a book about veterinary medicine I wouldn’t be able to keep the loonies from creeping in which would mean that the book would only sell well to other veterinarians.
As eccentric as are most of the people in this group and yes, I am talking about YOU, dealing with the general public has made me much more aware of and much more likely to value those people I know that actually aren’t nuts.

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