Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Recently, three people in one day asked me about the criteria I use in choosing a vet. One was seeking a second opinion about their dog who’d been diagnosed with bone cancer; another was worried about a new vet taking over her long-time doctor’s practice; one was asking about a vet who would show the utmost compassion when performing euthanasia.

Over the years, I’ve seen my fair share of veterinarians. Some I’ve loved dearly; others, I wouldn’t step through their door again if they paid me. But, for the most part, my decision to see a certain vet depended on the animal that I had at the time. And that decision was admittedly made through trial and error.

For example: My dog is a handful. She is highly intelligent yet also extremely high-strung. Although 12-years-old, she’s still skittish as hell when it comes to going to the vet‘s office. Consequently, I had to visit three different vets before I found the one I consider to be the best animal doctor on God’s green earth.

However - be it time, finances, or not too many to choose from - I realize that not everyone has the option of being so "picky." Yet, if you do, here are some things I’ve learned:

Number One: When contacting a new vet for any reason, pay very close attention to that initial phone call. Are you put on hold for "ever"? Does the staff member respond to your questions with knowledge? With patience? Is their attitude one of sincere concern? Or one of "hurry up and hang up"?Understandably, vet’s offices can be very busy places. However, that should not preclude the fact that you are a pet owner who needs help. In other words, if you are shuffled off to Muzak-land or barked at like you’re the dog, let your fingers do the walking and call someone else.

Number Two: Okay. So you’ve made it past the front door and are waiting to see the doctor. Are you twiddling your thumbs in the examining room for another "forever" while your pet becomes increasingly agitated? Is the vet tech who comes in to do the preliminary vitals in a speed race to get to the next patient, leaving you to anxiously twiddle some more?

Number Three: The vet. Is he/she loving, patient, compassionate no matter if your stressed-out dog is a clawing maniac or your scared cat is a hissing witch? Or are they a "wham, bam, thank-you, ma’am" who keeps watching their watch?

Bottom line: The vet I see now is a wonder, most definitely to the profession born. So is her staff. If you can’t say the same, I hope you have the wherewithal to keep searching. For my Maggie’s sake - and my sanity - I’m so glad I did.

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