Last week, sensing that spring was in the air, I realized that it was time for my annual visit to our old friend and colleague,
Dr. Leonard D. Hardway. As you may recall, Leonard is a stressed out veterinarian who now resides at The Cold Ember Home for
Burned Out Veterinarians, located in Rope's End, Wisconsin.
Michael A. Obenski, VMD
When I arrived at the home, I noticed a rather distinguished-looking older gentleman approaching the reception desk. It was
"Checking in?" the young lady behind the desk asked.
"No, not yet anyway," I replied and told her that I was just there to visit Dr. Hardway. She directed me to his room.
Leonard was thrilled to see me.
"You know, Mike," he said, "I look forward to your annual visits. Tell me, have you come to your senses yet and retired from
As I do every year, I was forced to disappoint him. Veterinary practice was much too frustrating for him, but I still manage
to weather its storms.
"What do you want to talk about his year?" I asked him.
"I've been thinking about it," he said. "And I'd like to talk about kids."
I started to tell him how my children were doing, but he stopped me.
"Not those kids," he said. "I don't want to talk about our kids. I want to talk about the obnoxious ferret-faced rugrats that
come to the office with practically every sick dog or cat. If I had to make a list of the things that drove me out of veterinary
practice, they would be number one."
I knew exactly what behaviors were bothering him, but I asked for an example just so he could vent.
"OK, how about this?" he asked. "You walk into the exam room and one of the little urchins is swinging from the end of the
exam table. Another is looking in all the drawers. And, worst of all, the stupid parents are just standing there letting them
do it. Can you beat that?"
"Sure I can," I said. "It's even worse when the parents expect a 60-pound kid to hold an 80-pound dog while they sit back
Now that we had gotten the ball rolling, the conversation took off. Leonard and I began training examples of veterinary office
There is a reason why Leonard lives at the Cold Ember Home. Behaviors which most of us find, at most, slightly annoying, drove
Leonard up the wall. He told me how he hated it when families brought in some nondescript mutt and the kids, based on what
they saw in some dog book and insisted it was something like a purebred Latvian Fluglehound. Or how he would seethe whenever
he asked how old a dog was and the children would respond, "In dog years or people years?"
"I used to get really frustrated when people didn't pay attention to what I was telling them," he said. "After a thorough
examination and diagnosis, I would try to explain my findings, but they would be too busy lifting their 4-year-old onto the
exam table like it was a ride at Disneyland. Or, we would all have to stop everything and listen to some 9-year-old give us
his diagnosis based on what he read in the World Book Encyclopedia."
"That doesn't happen anymore," I said. "They all have computers now. They don't read. They just download."
"Just answer one question for me, Mike," he said. "Every time an office call ended and more than one kid was present, there
was always the big fight over which one gets to hold the leash or carry the cat carrier. Every time I witnessed that argument,
the same question would pop into my head. Maybe you can answer it. Since they insisted in bringing their kids along when they
came to my office, why the hell didn't they take their dog along when they went to see their pediatrician?"
I had no answer.