Finding your holiday happiness: eliminate fear, anxiety, and stress
A letter from Adam Christman, DVM, MBA
I know you are not immune to this situation. It’s holiday time and the family is relaxing, eating, entertaining, and watching football. For the most part, everyone is enjoying themselves but you. Why is that? You are the pet expert, yet relatives and guests will nonchalantly feed their pets items that can cause intractable vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis. It’s OK, they say––you’re a veterinary professional and can treat them. They will even ask for the “friends and family” discount the following day when their pet becomes super ill.
The holidays are a great time to show thanksgiving, gratitude, and appreciation. However, we have all noted that veterinary professionals tend to have “office hours” at the holiday table. We do it because we care and genuinely want to educate any pet parent about ways of keeping their pets nice and healthy.
Boundaries are blurred during the holidays. Has any relative leaned into you and started a conversation by saying, “I don’t wanna talk shop but my [insert species] has been [insert clinical signs] for the past few days. What do you think it is?” And although the pandemic and quarantine have made it more challenging to see one another other than it used to be, the challenge comes with fewer boundaries when we do see friends and family face to face.
I have a very good friend who is also my chiropractor, but I wouldn’t dare to ask him to adjust me during the family dinner. Setting a precedent for relatives is a good thing. For example, I have said: “I would be more than happy to see you and Fluffy, but it’s best if you come in for an appointment where I have all the tools and diagnostics I need to properly serve your pet better.” This does tend to work. For some reason, our friends and relatives think we carry around our stethoscope, prescription pad, and radiology machine in our car, enabling us to take a “quick peek” at their pet.
Something I have learned over the years about holiday presents and food is that guests should write a note on the gift that reads “NOT SAFE FOR PETS.” Merely saying it to the host or guest does not resonate as well as writing it down and taping it to the item. I have seen guests move such gifts far out of reach of their dogs, cats, and other pets.
Here are 3 other tips that may be helpful when entertaining guests during the holidays:
- Place a note on the back door or doggie door that reads: “Did you lock the gate? Is the dog inside?” Sometimes guests go outside to socialize, and fail to notice that the dog (or cat) has snuck out the door.
It’s a simple reminder.
- Plan and confirm ahead of time. Ask if anyone has allergies to pets and make sure your guests know how many animals you have in the house so you know whether to have animals loose, crated, kenneled, and so on. This makes it easier on everyone and less stressful on the veterinary guest.
- Respect pet parent requests. When they say, “no food or treats because the dog has diabetes,” for example, it must be accepted. I remember one of my friends had a note on her dog’s crate that said, “My eyes will impress, but I make a mess...no treats for me but belly rubs agree with me!”
My parents used to have a sign that read, “The Doctor is RELAXING,” and it rings true today. We need to enjoy the holidays without stressing over pets and taking consults from relatives.
We want to give a special shout out to those who do work during the holidays so that our pets can receive the treatment and care they rightfully deserve. But we also need to take off the doctor/ veterinary technician/client service representative cap and truly enjoy ourselves and the human-animal bond this holiday season. As much as we all want to palpate, aspirate, and examine these animals as invited guests, let’s try to simply pet and have fun with them. It will help keep your “why” in check and make you enjoy the holidays, and your career, in a more spectacular fashion.
Wishing you and your family and pets a joyous holiday season full of gratitude, love, and memories.