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Escape from veterinary clinic island
Sometimes clients have other ideas in mind when they hear you'll be gone for a few days.I suppose there is some small effort involved in climbing Mt. Everest or leading an expedition to the North Pole. However, several times a year I face a much greater challenge: I try to take a few days off. Prisoners have escaped from Alcatraz with less effort than it takes me to get away from the office for a few days. Nonetheless, my family requires my attendance at an annual vacation, and the state of Pennsylvania politely recommends a certain amount of continuing education.
I suppose there is some small effort involved in climbing Mt. Everest or leading an expedition to the North Pole. However, several times a year I face a much greater challenge: I try to take a few days off. Prisoners have escaped from Alcatraz with less effort than it takes me to get away from the office for a few days. Nonetheless, my family requires my attendance at an annual vacation, and the state of Pennsylvania politely recommends a certain amount of continuing education.
ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN OSTRANDER
The poop hits the proverbial propeller about a week before the scheduled days off. That's when we post a note in the waiting room stating my intention to abandon ship. Panic spreads among our clients. I've become used to hearing questions like: "What's the number of the hotel in case I need to reach you?" and "Will the veterinarian who's covering for you be told that I always charge the bill?"
Earlier this year when I disclosed my intention to attend a two-day seminar in New York, one of my clients, Mrs. Lott, panicked. "What will we do if we have an emergency while you are gone?" she asked. "I don't want little Poopsa to have to see a strange vet. He's used to you. Besides, the doctor on call doesn't have Poopsa's complete medical records. That would be very important in case of an emergency. Couldn't you go some other time?"
The dog's record documented the administration of two distemper shots over a six-year period, the dispensing of a can of flea spray in 2008 and an explanation of why Mrs. Lott doesn't believe in rabies shots. It hardly seemed like a significant amount of information.
The plan was to finish up in the office by five and hit the road by six. Things were humming along smoothly until four, when Mr. Ruse came in to get his dog's nails trimmed.
"Your receptionist said you couldn't fit us in today for a regular appointment, so I scheduled Spotty for a nail trim even though that isn't really why we're here," he said. "We're here for a second opinion."
Mr. Ruse had radiographs and blood test results, a list of complaints about previous veterinarians and a chip on his shoulder. His goal was to have me take over the case, run further tests and get to the bottom of the problem.
"Of all the stupid things," he said. "The last veterinarian told me Spotty has egg-zema, and we don't even feed him eggs. I hope you can do a better job."
He didn't want to hear that I would be on the New Jersey Turnpike within two hours. But Spotty did have eczema-and I was.
It took me three hours to get to the hotel where the conference was being held, including a brief stop at Sal's Diner, a greasy little truck stop I visited along the way.
I was back in office Thursday morning on schedule. As expected, my work had piled up while I was gone. It's always disappointing to find that a band of elves hasn't struck to clear my desk of paperwork and answer phone calls. However, armed with a dose of enthusiasm that only a seminar can create, I tackled the caseload.
Unfortunately, I was also suffering from a case of post-seminar syndrome. This includes symptoms such as using less cortisone, diagnosing exotic fungal infections and recommending a skin biopsy in cases that used to get by with a can of flea powder. I didn't realize that I was exhibiting symptoms until a drug salesman pointed it out to me. "I can always tell when a doctor has just returned from a conference," he said. "They order things that they've never used before, and they speak in more medical lingo."
Half of my clients never knew I was gone. Others were upset because they needed me while I was away on what they undoubtedly perceived as a frivolous vacation. However, the difficulties getting away, client attitudes and post-seminar syndrome were minor problems. The real setback was this: When I spend time away from my office, there is no surgery or office calls. This leads to an uncomfortable state of affairs known as no income.
Dr. Michael Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.