In a way I have the Upper East Side clientele to thank for my career as a vet tech. I asked to become a tech, because I desperately wanted to leave the front desk. I didn’t know how I’d handle working so closely with the animals, the blood, the death, the illness, etc. But I knew I’d rather do anything than deal with those clients day in and day out.
When some of the horror stories of our clients make their way to me now, I breathe a sigh of relief. My client interaction is at a minimum, and I couldn’t be happier. But nonetheless, I still have to deal with some clients.
One of our most notorious clients of legendary snobbery is a devoted follower of Dr. Z. She is the epitome of Upper East Side old money. She inherited millions upon millions and spends her time breeding Dachshunds for show. They are beautiful dog, many of which have competed in National competitions. They have the softest coats of any dog I know. And they are dead inside. Behind their big black eyes, lies nothing. No personality, no reactions. It makes sense for a show dog to be personality-less, as they’ll trot and hold themselves in a perfect manner, but they make for uninteresting pets. Anyways, back to their owner who we’ll call V. She’s a small, elderly lady, who wears her hair in a short bob with barrettes on the side much like a small girl. The things we have heard her say are legendary. Like (to the dogs), “Jumping is forbidden” or to other clients in reference to their dogs, “You really should have that bitch spayed so it doesn’t reproduce.” Ew!
Luckily I don’t typically work with Dr. Z, so I rarely have to deal with her. But I recently had a run-in with her. I went with Dr. Z into the room to examine the dog. He hands me the blank-stare dog, and I weigh it on the scale. As I do this V looks from me to the doctor and back again before cooing in a childlike voice, “Hmmmmm, can we get someone who’s experienced?”
I wish I could have seen the incredulity wash over my face. Before I could say anything, Dr Z calmly told her, “She’s very experienced.” V shrugged and kept mostly quiet the rest of the visit.
I head back into the treatment area to tell my co-workers who all laugh uproariously. It’s one of the rudest things a client has ever said to me, or more accurately around me, as V seemed oblivious of my ability to hear.
“That woman’s a c***,” says wise Dr. G. “She doesn’t like me either.” It made me feel better, but it’s still amazing how a client has the ability to suck the life out of you in one quick sentence.
But as far as clients go, there’s a flip side.
One of my favorite patients was a sassy, miniature Schnauzer named Juliet. A lot of my love for her is the breed. Their stern eyebrows, teeny ears, terrier bodies. Juliet was such a little lady, and I was always happy to see her come in. She typically came in with her owner Mr. W who is perhaps the nicest client we have. He’s an older man, soft-spoken, eternally patient. When I was a receptionist, I remember how kind he was to me. Never minded waiting a minute, never raised his voice. He was quiet, and he was good. His wife has MS and can’t function well anymore. His daughter (also a client of ours) is mean to her core. Selfish and demanding, it is mind-blowing that they are related. And in this storm of sick wife, difficult daughter is a gentle man with an utter love and devotion to Juliet.
She was an elderly patient with bad eyes, bad knees and diabetes. She required so much home-care, but Mr. W did it all with a smile. For him, she was solace. A quiet soul that he could tend to, away from the problems in his life. He would confide in Dr. L that she was his joy, his project to tend to. That dog had so much fight in her, and I believe it was because she knew how much she meant to him. She lasted a long time, but eventually we all knew it was time. In true, Mr. W fashion, he quietly nodded and agreed to the euthanasia. It was clear the fight had left her, and he knew he had to let go.
Weeks later he walks into the clinic holding boxes of pastries from a boulanger around the corner from us called Eric Kayser. Dr L and I ran to the front to greet him. He shyly smiled at us and told us they were from Juliet. Once we brought the boxes back to treatment we opened them to find a variety of beautiful pastries. We looked at each other, tears welling in our eyes.
The thing is Juliet’s death wasn’t sad. It was her time, and everyone involved understood. But sometimes, like with the bad clients, it isn’t the patients that get to you, it’s the clients. Working with pet owners I’ve seen such beautiful displays of love and devotion for animals. It reminds me of the inherent good in humanity. And sometimes the hardest part isn’t losing the patient, it’s dealing with the broken heart of a person you care about, you respect.
For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Mr. W.