Client taxonomy: Your field guide to identifying 3 more challenging subspecies

Aug 01, 2009

As you may recall from last month's column, my friend Arnie is America's foremost pioneer in the field of client categorization.

To date, he has identified and categorized 37 sub-species of that peculiar animal known as the veterinary client.

Last month, with Arnie's permission, I gave you descriptions of four of the more common varieties. They were: the free-roaming hall stander (Nomissa thingum), sterilization vigilante (Fixum mustus), the last-minute dog trainer (Commandus futilus) and the deadbeat (Swift running thump mortis).

These, of course, represent only the tip of the iceberg. Veterinary clients (Soursa income) exist in 33 other documented varieties, and research into the possible existence of others is still under way.

One type, which I find particularly difficult to deal with, is the extraterrestrial (Takemetu yurleeder). These usually are mistaken for humans until you attempt to communicate. Then it becomes obvious that they hail from another planet. Their responses are annoyingly inappropriate. If you ask, "How old is your dog?" They say something like, "We had our green Chevy when we got him."

Should you ask, "Has he been eating?" They say something like, "We have three other dogs at home."

The situation goes from bad to worse when you try to give them instructions. Apparently, they are unable to comprehend phrases such as, "Use the pills until they are all gone." Or, "Bring him back next week when he's all better, for his routine vaccinations."

Communication problems are almost as bad with the client type known as the baby talker (Infantus lingo). A good example in my practice would be Kent Mature. The last time he came to the clinic, it seems that his "puddie tat was having twouble with stinky and tweety."

Though it sounds like the name of an old vaudeville act, he actually was referring to his cat's litter-pan habits. He never seems to hear a thing I tell him. He could, if he would listen, but instead he spends the entire office call with his nose pressed into the cat's face muttering about how much he "woves his wittle puddie tat."

On occasion his little darling will turn on me with the desire to amputate some appendage that I am not willing to part with. It's never the cat's fault, though. He usually says something like "Did that bad, bad man try to hurt you, my little Woogums?"

A similar attitude can be found in the client subspecies known as the canine psychologist (Doggie no-faultum). This person knows that his dog is mean, but uses his extensive knowledge of psychology to justify the pooch's behavior. This type can be identified by his or her distinctive call: "We think someone must have abused him when he was young."

The last subspecies I will describe this month is the paranoid conclusion jumper (Thereout tagetme). They are a special challenge. Their call varies with the circumstances. If accompanied by a sick dog, you will hear, "Someone poisoned him!" If he arrives with an injured animal, he might say, "Someone must have hit him!"

Should you happen to recommend hospitalization, you are likely to hear: "How do I know that you won't experiment on him if I leave him here?"

I may describe more of Arnie's client types in the future, but in the meantime he asked me to pass along a request:

If you have identified any special client varieties in your practice, Arnie and I would appreciate hearing from you. You may have discovered one that we have not yet isolated.

One thing you may have noticed is that the types I have described so far seem to portray our clients in a somewhat negative way. That also occurred to me, so I asked Arnie about it.

"Surely," I said. "You must have clients who are bright, cooperative and pay their bills on time."

"Of course, I do," he said.

"But you never asked to see my endangered-species list."

Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.