It was last Thursday. The next surgery on my list was a nice old cat named Hooks. He was scheduled to be declawed. Unfortunately, there was a problem (a hitch in the getalong). Hooks was 14 years old, and his pre-operative blood tests showed that his kidneys weren't doing too well. I gave his owners a call. The surgery would need to be cancelled.
Mr. Topblower did not take the news well. He could have asked me about the cat's prognosis. He could have asked me about treatment options. However, he had a much more important question. "How much did that bit of news cost me?"
I explained that a few blood tests cost a lot less than a surgery that might have left us with a dead patient. He could not follow my logic.
I told him to come and take Hooks home.
Within 10 minutes, his fiancee, Anna Mossity, was on the phone. "What is this nonsense about Hooks not getting his surgery?" she said. "We've been good customers here for 15 years. I can't believe we're being treated like this. We shopped around to every veterinarian in the phone book, and your price was the cheapest. Then when I got there, I was told that I had to get those unnecessary tests. Now you declaw that cat right now!"
I told her to come and take Hooks home.
She sent her friend, Lee Vinnahuff, to pick up the cat. She had a few words for me as well: "What is wrong with you people? My friend Anna said you are against declawing. If you don't believe in that surgery, why did you let them schedule it in the first place?"
I never had time to answer her question because Mrs. Meddle was in the waiting room and jumped in the conversation uninvited. Appointing herself chief negotiator between me and Miss Vinnahuff, she began to spout unwanted advice on a multitude of subjects. I chose to ignore her because Mrs. Meddle is known to be a gross ignoramus (that's 144 times worse than a regular ignoramus).
I told them that Hooks should go home.
Once the cat was out of the building, I thought my problems were over (wrong).
Within half an hour, Fancy Davenport was on the phone. She gave it to me with both barrels. "You may cost me a sale," she said. "Mr. Topblower is threatening to cancel his order for a new couch unless you declaw his cat. Do you have any idea what furniture costs these days? This is going to be a hefty commission. Surely, as a fellow businessperson you can understand that we can both make a lot more money if you would just do your job and stop being so fussy."
I told her that I sent Hooks home already.
The saga continued the next morning. Mr. Topblower called to let me know that he was no fool and that he had stopped payment on his check from the previous day.
"I am not paying one penny for those unnecessary tests," he said. "Why, the last time we had Hooks in there to see you, you said he seemed perfectly healthy."
That was true; it is also true that Bill Clinton was president.
A little before noon, a phone call that I fully expected came in. It was Downtheroad Animal Hospital calling for blood test results. It seems that Hooks was there for surgery, and the owners said that he didn't need tests because they were just done yesterday. I gave them the results. I also advised them to send Hooks home.
Later that afternoon, I had a meeting with Will Blankslate. Will is a bright young man who wanted to talk to me about a career in veterinary medicine. Will had a great misconception about our profession: "I'd really like to have a job like yours," he said. "It would be great not to have to deal with people." (He might be in for a surprise.)
Dr. Obenski owns the Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.