I had an interaction with a client recently that reminded me that “small” moments to us, may be “big” moments to others.
An elderly woman, who happens to be a retired RN, brought in her 13-year-old Poodle for some help with chronic arthritis, to look at a few lumps and bumps and address some dental disease. He had been examined by other doctors in our practice, but I hadn’t examined him personally for maybe two to three years.
After my routine exam, I informed the client of my findings and recommended that we take care of her dog’s fairly advanced dental disease soon. She told me that she was concerned about anesthesia safety because she had recently lost her husband and couldn’t fathom losing her little fur baby boy as well.
I reassured her that we would take every precaution possible to ensure safety before, during and after the procedure. I briefly described our procedures and said that I understand her concern, but her dog’s dental condition was affecting his quality of life. I couldn’t see any immediate reason on my exam why we couldn’t do the dental.
I then asked her about her husband. She told me that she lost him a little over two years ago to cancer, and it was absolutely life-shattering. This is something I have recently experienced in my own family, with my mother passing four years before my father. I sat down on the bench next to her and gave her a little hug, as I could see the tears welling in her eyes. I recalled how it took a couple of years for my father to not feel like a “boat without a rudder,” but gradually he was able to figure out what a meaningful life without her looked like. For him, things got better eventually. I said that mortality is something I contemplate for the future with my own relationship with my wife. That kind of stuff. I sensed that she really needed a conversation, and I’ve always got time for that.
She told me that she had to euthanize her other dog shortly before her husband passed. She said, “Dr. Francke, you waited until we could get my husband into the animal hospital to say goodbye. You took us into your personal office, made us comfortable, put our baby on my husband’s lap and explained everything to us in detail. It meant so much to us and I’ll never forget the compassion of you and your whole team. So, if you think that my boy needs a dental, I trust 100% that you believe it’s in his best interest. If his blood work is ok, I’m going to schedule it with you.”
So, here’s the thing. Until she prodded my memory, I had no recollection of the events on that day with her husband and the euthanasia visit. I’m not proud of that fact, seeing as it was SO life-changing and meaningful to her. Honestly, it’s just the “type” of thing that goes on in our practice every single day. We do so many euthanasias, that sometimes we do what we do, and then we do our best to put it out of our mind. I don’t try to over-analyze it after 29 years, but I’m sure it’s a mental defense mechanism. However, for the pet owner, it may be one of the most consequential and memorable days of their entire life!
It’s important to remind ourselves from time to time that the little things we do during our workday, may not be “little” to others. We need to always do the small things well. We need to strive to do the right thing in every single interaction, despite our occasional imperfections.
My first boss used to tell me, “Don’t spend too much time explaining things to people. They just want to get their dog a shot and get the Hell out of the hospital!” My response to that advice was, “With all due respect, if I ever find it impossible to give people what they need from me to understand, make good decisions, and be comforted when necessary, that’s the day I’ll leave the profession and go do something else with my life.”
I only worked for that doctor for two years. We had different philosophies on what a doctor should be, and that’s OK with me. There’s a place in the profession for his approach. To use a sports analogy, at the end of the day, I’d rather “leave it all on the field.”
So, my amazing veterinary friends, your small deeds matter to the World! You are some of the best, most compassionate people in our society. Our work makes the World a better place. Thank you for all the “little” things you do each and every day!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.