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Ghost of veterinary future delivers ultimate reminder


It seemed that everyone in the little town of Vetville had gone crazy. Arnie wanted nothing to do with them.

It seemed that everyone in the little town of Vetville had gone crazy. Arnie wanted nothing to do with them.

"Happy days, brother Arnie!" they shouted to him.

"Bah! Humbug!" he retorted, and hurried to his home.

Later that night, he tried to get to sleep, but the voices coming from the street outside his window kept him awake. The people residing in the little hamlet of Vetville were chanting with enthusiasm.

"Vitamins, pet toothbrushes, bandannas! We're saved. Marketing is our future. Marketing has come to save us."

"Bah! Humbug!" Arnie shouted at them. "You people are forgetting what got us where we are today."

Suddenly, stepping from the shadows of the bedroom, there came an apparition. It was the ghost of veterinary practice past (of course).

"I have come to show you the way it used to be," announced the uninvited spook.

"I know how it used to be," Arnie said. Now, hit the road before I call an exorcist."

The reveling in the street continued. "We're all going to specialize," the villagers shouted. "We can each be an expert at something." One gleeful student shouted: "I want to be a patella doctor."

"Bah! Humbug! Arnie shouted again.

"You're a dinosaur, Arnie," someone in the crowd retorted. "They could take some of your DNA and create Jurassic Park. Can't you see that we have been spreading ourselves too thin. We should each concentrate on one organ or joint. Specialization is our future."

"Bah! Humbug!" Arnie repeated. (He was in a rut.)

Moments later, his second visitor arrived. Naturally, it was the ghost of veterinary practice present. "Don't waste your time," Arnie said. "I am in touch with our profession every day. It is the people who are trying to improve it who don't know their anal orifice from a terrestrial excavation."

The mass hysteria continued throughout the town. "Quality, quality; the pet supermarket people say they have invented quality. At last, the same industrial policies that put McDonald's on the map can be ours to enjoy."

"What's the matter with you people?" Arnie called. "Don't you remember the pride and satisfaction that our profession provides?"

"Who needs it?" they yelled back. "We're going to get a 30-hour work week with medical and dental benefits. Commercialism is our future."

"Bah! Humbug!" Arnie the skeptic repeated.

As you may have guessed, the spirit of veterinary practice yet-to-come arrived momentarily. Out of curiosity, Arnie accompanied her to the year 2020. Quite surprisingly, he noted that small and mid-sized veterinary hospitals were thriving.

Accompanying the spirit to his own clinic, he was pleased to see an older version of himself still happily treating patients with the kind of personal care he had always believed in. The neighborhood, however, had changed. Vetville looked different. There were abandoned buildings where their used to be fields.

The ghost explained: "Each of those buildings represents a failure in our profession. For example, that small one was the office of a colleague who specialized in elastology. His entire practice consisted of gluing little rubber tips onto cat toenails. It was a specialty that thrived when a majority of communities outlawed declawing. Those laws were repealed in 2015, though. And do you see that building across the street? In the year 2010, that building was the home of Dot.com Pet Care. They tried to provide veterinary services online. Unfortunately for them, personal care and a solid doctor-client-patient relationship never went out of style.

Arnie was elated. Perhaps he was not a dinosaur after all. There was still a place for those of us with old-fashioned caring attitudes and a deep respect for our profession.

The next morning, he called his old friend and colleague who practices down the street in the real town of Allentown, Pa.

"Mike," he said. "I have good news. I have seen the future, and it is us."

Dr. Obenski owns the Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa.

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