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The science of rating clients


On occasion, I feel the need to refer a difficult medical case to another hospital. (Yes, I dump the problem on someone else.)

On occasion, I feel the need to refer a difficult medical case to another hospital. (Yes, I dump the problem on someone else.)

Fortunately, Behemoth Veterinary Hospital is right down the road. The man in charge is my good friend, Arnie, who sits at the helm of an operation that can only be described as the General Motors of veterinary practice.

Behemoth is only slightly smaller than the Pentagon and has almost as many people on its payroll as I have clients. So, when I find myself in a frustrating situation, I feel the need to share it with my old friend.

Just last week, I called Arnie concerning Miss Tross and her cat, Alba.

"Hi, Mike," he said. "Is this a social call, or are you about to dump another headache case on us?"

"I know you folks over at the Big B like a challenge once in a while, Arnie," I told him. "All your fancy computers and diagnostic gizmos will have a rough time with the case I'm sending over this time."

"Don't knock our technology," Arnie said. "At least we don't keep records on scrolls of parchment like you do."

"Very funny," I told him. "By the way, the Olympic Committee called. They want to know if they can use the Behemoth parking lot as course for marathon training. It's about 26 miles around, isn't it?"

"Oh, give me a break. You're just jealous because that Mickey-Mouse office of yours would fit in our garage and still leave enough room for the Budweiser Clydesdales. So, let's get down to business."

"Okay Arnie, here it is. I'm sending Miss Tross over to see you for a second opinion. You'll get a kick out of this girl. She's an eight, maybe even a nine."

I could tell that Arnie was smiling when he heard that. I could sense it right through the telephone.

Now, before you female veterinarians run to the hardware store to get the material for a letter bomb, let me explain. I was not referring to the chauvinistic practice of rating women on a scale of one to 10 on the basis of appearance. (Remember, this column has made it past several very politically correct editors.) To the contrary, I was referring to the Arnold and Michael Scale of Veterinary Client Buffoonery.

The Buffoonery Scale has nothing to do with a client's attitude, reluctance to pay or general nuisance value. It is strictly for rating zany antics. Right off the bat, I must warn you that there is no such thing as a one. That's because all pet owners, much like veterinarians, are at least a little wacky.

Most clients are threes and fours. An example would be the person who thinks that holding a piece of food in front of a nasty dog will keep it from biting when you give it a shot. However, if a person decides to do bird calls to distract a dog or cat from attacking, he probably deserves a five or six.

Now that you've got the idea, I'll give you an example. Cy Lent called me to schedule an appointment for his cat's annual visit. There seemed to be a bad connection, so I asked him to speak up.

"I can't, Doctor," he whispered. "If he hears me make the appointment, he'll hide under the bed all week." Mr. Lent only rates a five since this is not all that unusual a behavior for cat owners.

I could list a hundred examples of fives and sixes. These make up what we call The Lucy and Ethyl Category. But I'd like to get right to the sevens and eights. These make up the Moe, Larry and Curly Division.

Rhoda Dendron provides a fine example. She called with an unusual request.

"Doctor, do you treat plants?"

I informed her that the thought had never crossed my mind. She went on as if she never heard me.

"It's my air fern," she said. "I think it may be dying. Would it help if I rushed it in for oxygen?"

After explaining that the plant needed carbon dioxide more than oxygen, I told her to breathe on it six times a day. Miraculously, the plant survived. Mrs. Dendron rated an eight.

That brings me back to the amazing case of Alba Tross, whom you may recall was being referred to Arnie for a second opinion. Miss Tross had observed an unusual set of symptoms.

"This may sound strange, Doctor," she said. "But I think some cats can fly."

I was quick to inform her that she was absolutely right. It did sound strange.

She went on to inform me that Alba had not eaten a bite in more than a year and might be losing weight. Also, she was sure that, when no one was looking, Alba could fly. She found this very distressing because the cat could fall from flight and get hurt. I was glad to dump this one on Arnie, who handled it beautifully. After he dispensed a special gravity-enhancement flea collar, the problem went away. By mutual agreement, we awarded her a rating of 9.5.

Dr. Obenski owns Allentown Clinic for Cats in Allentown, Pa. For a complete list of articles by Dr. Obenski, visit dvm360.com/Obenski.

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