While Archie’s recent posts have attempted to approach his surgical experience from a dog’s point-of-view, his surgery and aftercare have forced Dr. Burns and I to stand in a place I’ve often thought of as the “other side of the table.” That is, to a great extent, with Archie, we are now on the opposite side of the examination table, occupying the place of a pet owner and client. And while we haven’t held this position frequently or for any great duration, it is always an eye-opener for us.
You, see, when clients are having trouble with some aspect of care at home, or when they postpone treatment for what seems like a minor illness only to find out it’s much more serious, or they have an emergency and behave badly under emotional distress, it’s easy for a veterinarian to sit back and judge, to project what they would do onto the situation at hand. It’s only after you’ve had to sit in a pet owner’s place for a while that you really understand what is happening across that table—the complexity of emotions, the decision-making process, the worry, and the financial reality of providing the best care you can for your pet. It’s a real life version of the “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” proverb.
Over the last several years, we’ve had a number of experiences that have made both of us much more conscious of how it feels to be the one with an ill pet requiring the help of someone with more education, training, or expertise than us. We have made the difficult decsion to euthanize a beloved pet, permitting her a painless and dignified death that her cancer wouldn’t have provided. We’ve seen one dog through emergency surgery to prevent a potentially life-threatening stomach torsion, and another through a case of parvovirus—agonizing over the fact that (despite vaccination) his illness was a result of something we had done. We’ve also faced the challenges of housebreaking, raising, and training two puppies with very different personalities, making the decision to amputate a chronically injured limb from one of our cats, correcting annoying “wake the people up at 4 am” cat behaviors, and, now, confining a post-surgical patient for over a month (which is a tremendous challenge, by the way).
Each of these experiences as been an epiphany, and we now use them to temper our judgement when our clients are having trouble. While many of these events have been challenges, we have managed to find a way through each of them, as you will with the difficulties your pets will throw your way. But, rest assured that we’ve been there. If you’re having trouble, if you have question, if you think you’re at your wits’ end, remember our team is here to help. Perhaps you can help us, as well. From time to time, we will ask interested clients to blog under this category and walk us through their veterinary or other pet-related experience, from the other side of the table.