Veterinary angst

I think I started asking my parents for a dog when I was around two years old.  Maybe three.  I found an old letter from my aunt and apparently I was very specific in this desire: I wanted a black dog.  Finally my parents caved in and let me get a puppy for my fifth birthday.  My dad picked the breed.  I got a german shepherd puppy for my fifth birthday.  And yes, within a year the dog weighed more than I did.

Sally was more my dad’s dog than mine, but was a fantastic dog any way you look at it.  She died at age 9, because German shepherds seem inherently physically defective, and at that point we got another dog, Thumper.  Thumper is a lab-chow mix and is more cat than dog – he’s like a cat trapped in a dog’s body.  He’s about 12 now.  And as all you faithful Roughit readers know, we now have Daphne Matilda, the dog of uncertain origins (part basenji? Part Ibizan hound? Part rare Australian Flying Dingo?).

Thumper and Daphne at the beach

The point of all of this is that, between these dogs and the cats and my life goals, I have spent a lot of time at many different veterinary clinics.  I am definitely a shopper of veterinarians – if I don’t have a good experience, I’ll go somewhere else, and once I do have a good experience, I will highly recommend that veterinary clinic to anyone who cares to listen.

I currently work at a veterinary clinic that is one of a team of hospitals in the country.  Because where I work at is a feline-only hospital, I have to take my dog to be seen at a different area hospital, one that sees dogs as well, in order to use my employee discount.

So I tried one nearby a couple of months ago, when Daphne was vomiting every night over night (she my still do this… gross), because I wanted to get her checked out for the vomiting and because she needed a nail trim.  The reception staff was fine; not really noteworthy.  I had sort of expected a “Welcome!  Do you want a tour of the hospital?” since I work at a sister hospital, but I wasn’t disappointed or anything to not get that kind of reception.  The doctor was good with my very shy, very nervous dog, and did the exam without any problems.  They took her in back to weigh her and trim her nails… and came back without having done her nails.  So I pointed that out, and they came into the room with a muzzle and proceeded to try to trim her tails.  She was in a panic, frothing at the mouth, head whipping, scrambling to get away.  They quicked her once, which isn’t a problem, except that it added to her panic and it seemed that they had no control over the situation.  Then she emptied her anal sacs all over the place.  She shat and bled all over that room, and they only took off the tips of the nails.  Totally not worth the experience.  And then they tried to charge me full price on my way out.  It was not a positive veterinary experience.

So this time I went to a different hospital, one where I knew the doctor I was going to see and I knew and trusted the technician I was going to see.  The vet visit itself was fantastic.  Both the doctor and technician worked really, really well with Daphne, letting her go at her own pace, offering a ton of treats to keep her distracted from the exam and vaccines.  They gave three vaccines and took her blood in such a low key way that she did not even notice it was happening!  That is quality veterinary service, my friends.

The issue, though, was the reception experience.  In case you, dear reader, are not aware of this, I am a receptionist (one of two) at my cat hospital.  I am the first person you see when you walk in, I am the person you usually talk to when you call, and I am the person you can get frustrated at when things are taking longer than expected.  And I think that I am pretty good at dealing with these situations, letting you the customer know what is going on, and offering apologies and coffee when things are running behind.

When we arrived (early, I should add, so that they could copy our old records), I stood at the desk for almost five minutes, less than a foot away from the receptionist, who did not smile, make eye contact, or even acknowledge my presence.  Finally she gave me some papers to fill out.  Once that was done, we waited twenty five minutes to start our appointment; during that time, no one said, “Thanks for waiting,” or “We’ll be starting soon,” or “Sorry it’s taking so long.”  I should add that VCA appointments are scheduled for 20-minute intervals, so we had waited long past our appointment before our appointment even started!

On the way out, we stood at the desk again for a solid five minutes without anyone acknowledging our presence.  Finally she said, “That’ll be $97 for Daphne,” to which my response was, “Okay, what is that for?”  Because I am not going to just hand you a hundred dollars without knowing why!  And I suspected that they had forgotten to put our flea/tick stuff on the bill… and they had.

Blech, I know this post is long and not interesting to many of you, so I apologize for that (if you even read this far).  I did need to vent about this, and if you are still reading, I would love to hear about your veterinary experiences.  The clinic I work at now is the only place I’ve been that I can honestly say is close to the perfect veterinary clinic – if only they saw dogs (for the record, I held this opinion before I worked there).  The reception staff anywhere, I think, is very important, as it is the first impression you get – and my first impression of this place was not good.

And so I continue on the search for a good clinic for my dog, though my cats and I will happily stay where we are.


Sad Daphne


Filed under Menagerie

3 responses to “Veterinary angst

  1. Sue B

    I too, have been to many vets and had many great and many not so great experiences. So I feel your pain.

    However, Milbrook Animal Hospital and Arlington is awesome. The receptionists know (or pretend to know) who I am when I call. They are really friendly and super affectionate to every animal who comes in.

    They have seen both of my cats and both of my dogs and the doctor is great with all of them. He was especially great when it finally became time to put Pie-Pie (the best cat ever)to sleep. The vet was kind, and understanding and even wrote me a personal condolence card a few weeks after the event, just to say how much he had liked Pie and he hoped I was doing all right.

    Now that’s service!

  2. Ellie Leonardsmith

    There are some things I really like about our vet clinic in Sharon (less than a mile from our house, yesss). For one thing, they know who we are, and think our dog is SO CUTE. Which makes us happy. And the vet’s pretty good too…kind, efficient, knowledgeable. I especially liked how he treated me when I called in about Harriet’s vomiting. Totally just talked me through it and reassured me that it was probably nothing serious (Him: “Has she eaten anything around the house?” Me: [not knowing our curtains were inside her] “Oh, no, of course not.”) Only negative experience was when one of the vet assistants told me Harriet was fat last time, which made me embarrassed… one of those things you want to be told gently, you know? But other than that we love it. 🙂

  3. Alison

    I took my cat to Boston Vet Care at the Animal Rescue League in the South End on a friend’s recommendation and had a great experience. The vet was awesome. She even called me when she was away at a conference to personally let me know the results of tests that were done. She also answered all of my questions patiently and kindly. He had surgery there and they were really good about calling to let me know he was okay and giving detailed information about what had been done, what I was being charged for, and what should be done for post-op care. Oh and they also gave a detailed estimate of the costs for the surgery. Maybe this stuff is standard care, but I felt like he was well taken care of there!

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