The errand: How to make sure your veterinary practice doesn't get crowded out of clients' busy lives

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Jan 01, 2012
By dvm360.com staff

10 a.m., Tuesday

Whitely residence

Ginger Whitely looked at her white couch. In the corner was an expanding area of moisture. The edges were the color of diluted tomato juice. She couldn't find her cat anywhere. After searching, Ginger finally located her cat Veronica crouching over the litter box, frozen in place for what seemed like an eternity.

"Ronnie, you've been a bad girl. I'm going to have to take you to the vet today."

Ginger paused and then continued as if her cat understood every word.

"I have all these other errands to run today, and I'm going to have to add you to the list. Poor girl—you've never done anything like this before."

10:15 a.m.

Thomason Animal Hospital

"Of course, Mrs. Whitely," Sarah said. "We can get you in at 3 p.m. Will that work?"

Sarah listened quietly on the phone then continued: "I understand completely, but I really don't know the answers to those questions. You will need to see the doctor. He should be able to address all of your concerns."

Sarah listened again.

"Yes, 3 p.m. See you then."

"My goodness," Sarah muttered to herself as she gently hung up that phone. "That client seemed really stressed."

12:45 p.m.

Thomason Animal Hospital

Dr. Bill Thomason sat at his desk with his head pointed at his knees. He drew a deep sigh and reflected on the small dog lying lifeless on the exam table in the treatment room. The Jack Russell Terrier was Jimmy, a little ball of energy that had ran across the street after a squirrel and was fatally injured by the front right wheel of a speeding SUV. Jimmy died after a 20-minute battle for his life.

Bill needed some time off. His last associate had long since quit, and he was again a solo practitioner. He raised his head and pushed the intercom button to the front desk.

"Sarah, can you just mark off the rest of the day for me?" he said tiredly.

"Certainly, Dr. Thomason, but Ginger Whitely is scheduled to come in at 3 p.m. She really wants to talk to you about her cat's urination problems."

"Reschedule her, please. I just need to go home."

"Yes, doctor."

Sarah paused a moment and looked up Mrs. Whitely's home number. She dialed but no one answered. Next she tried an old cell phone number written on the upper edge. She got lucky.

"Mrs. Whitely, this is Sarah from the vet's office."

Sarah listened.

"Yes, I apologize. We have a situation here and Dr. Thomason won't be able to see you this afternoon. Can I please reschedule your appointment?"

Sarah listened and her eyebrows knitted as she tried to understand what the client was saying.

"OK. You'll call back later, is that right?"

Meanwhile, inside the Whitely car, things weren't going so well. During the phone call with Sarah, Veronica had escaped the makeshift cardboard crate box that Ginger had hurriedly put together. Now the cat was urinating on the carpeting in front of the backseat adjacent to a beautifully wrapped birthday gift for one of Ginger's best friends.

Ginger stood on the brake and pulled over. She opened her cell phone and searched for nearby veterinary hospitals. To her surprise, a veterinary clinic she never knew existed was nearby—even closer than Thomason Animal Clinic. Her cell phone's GPS got her right into the parking lot. Ginger spent the next hour as a work-in but she went home happy. Later that evening, she made up her mind to switch veterinarians.