Just follow the bouncing ball

Some clients want a second opinion – then a third, and perhaps a fourth – before they come back
Jun 01, 2007

Over my four decades as a veterinarian, I have been privileged to meet and retain many fine clients. You know the type – those who seem more like close friends than a source of practice revenue. I feel a loyalty to those pet owners, and have a notion that the feeling is mutual.

Yesterday, I did not see any of those people. Instead, my day started off with Rick O'Shay and his two Yorkies, Back and Forth. It seems that Forth needed a refill of his allergy medicine and Back just needed a nail trim.

I glanced at the record. There was no indication of Forth being on allergy medicine.

"Oh, we usually get that from the hospital over in Cheapville. You know, things are a lot less expensive over there. You big-city vets are awfully expensive," O'Shay said.

(Big city? Just because we have a stop light and Cheapville doesn't?)

"Anyway, Doc," O'Shay continued, "with gas prices so high, I thought it might be better to come here and avoid the long drive. We just need a nail trim and a few pills. No need to put the boys through the expense of an exam or anything."

He didn't know what the pills were, other than the fact that they were "the white ones." He left when he found out that I expected to examine before prescribing anything.

Mrs. Seesaw was in next. Her cat, Scratchy, had a nasty rash. It didn't take long for me to determine that Scratchy had a bad case of ringworm.

"Oh, that's impossible, Doctor. The pet store assured me that he was wormed twice before I got him. You must be mistaken. We saw my regular vet yesterday and he was wrong, just like you. To me, it seems to look more like an allergy than anything else. Since he got this, my kids have developed some spots on their skin, too. There must be something in the house that they are all allergic to," Mrs. Seesaw said.

She listened carefully to my explanation of what really was going on, then decided to go for a third opinion elsewhere.

O'Shay and Seesaw are typical of clients who bounce from practice to practice. I don't know what they are looking for, but they never seem to find it.

The ultimate example of such a pet owner is Mr. Yoyo. He has been coming to me on and off for more than 30 years. The first time was when his pet squirrel became sick. He had no clue concerning the husbandry of such an animal. However, when I diagnosed the condition as a vitamin deficiency, he didn't believe me. A week later, he called to tell me how wrong I was. It wasn't a "vitamin deficiency" at all. Another vet told him it was a "nutritional problem."

Over the years since, he has been in my office many times with other pets. I wish he wouldn't, but he just keeps coming back again and again. Either I am the first opinion, or possibly the second, third or fourth. (Mr. Yoyo likes to spread the joy around.) Most of my local colleagues have seen him at one time or another.

Last month, several of us were called upon to examine his dog, Boomer, for a lameness problem. I saw the pooch first. Then, he had X-rays taken by my friend Arnie. Two days later, Dr. Hertoo had the privilege. Within a week, he was back to me for treatment. I called Dr. Hertoo's office to get the lab results, but they had no record of Boomer's visit.

Mr. Yoyo was able to explain why. "The records over at her hospital wouldn't be under the name Boomer," he explained. "They would be under his full name, Boomerang."

I should have known.

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