Low-tech memories in a high-tech practice
As technology in veterinary medicine moves forward, it may be the simplest gestures that still touch the hearts of our clients.
Photo courtesy of Christie KeithThe practice where I work as well as the vast majority of veterinary hospitals I visit yearly have practice software that make it easy to personalize treatment plans and invoices with photos of patients. While this is a nice high-tech touch, there are some things I recommend that are about as low-tech, hands-on and emotionally impactful as you can get. They're also low-cost and high-benefit ways to really showcase the family-pet-veterinarian bond.
I recommend you do two things with a new puppy or kitten:
1. ClayPaws. Make an imprint of a puppy's or kitten's paw print for a memory that will last a lifetime. You can give it to the client as a welcome, but it's even better if you file away to be used when it's time for the pet's final grace.
2. Snippet of hair. As you know, infantile hair has a certain look and feel that changes as pets age. Cut off a piece of the pet's hair and put it in a little recloseable plastic bag inside a bigger bag that contains the ClayPaws.
When it comes time to say goodbye to the pet, you retrieve the paw print and snippet of the hair and present it to the pet owner as a kind of mile marker for the relationship you've shared over the years. Those two visible items of the pet's beginning, along with stories you share of all the times your lives intersected, will not only make this painful process much better, but may mean clients are more likely to come back to your hospital.
Mrs. Cassie Phillips and I recently said goodbye to her teacup poodle, Folger, who had lived to a healthy 16 years of age before hitting the slippery slope and going downhill fast. Folger went through Pawspice and when it was finally time for the final grace to be performed after-hours at the practice, I took a hard look at Folger's medical records so I could do a sincere form of rehearsed spontaneity once I was at the house. I also took his puppy ClayPaws, another ClayPaws to do an impression now, a snippet of his still-apricot puppy hair and a Polaroid we'd taken so many years before. The whole process of gentle sedation, our shared stories, these totems of affection and the final grace were just beautiful.
Less than two months later, I saw another beautiful apricot toy poodle named Folger II. Don't you just get a special skip in your heart for pets named with a “II” or “III”? And yes, we did the ClayPaws and trimmed a snippet of hair. I hope with Folger II, as with all our patients, that we have again honored that unique family-pet-veterinarian bond.
Dr. Marty Becker is a renowned speaker, TV personality and author. He practices at North Idaho Animal Hospital in Sandpoint, Idaho.