While Dr. Codger is away, Dr. Greenskin will pay
Dr. Jeremy Campfield lives near Sacramento with his family, including an aging mini Aussie and an obstreperous pitbull mix that some mistake for a chocolate Lab (to the delight of her owners). When the family is not getting their hands dirty in the garden, Dr. Campfield indulges in his love for the outdoors with hiking, kitesurfing and climbing aboard any two-wheeled contraption. Please remember: Watch for cyclists, share the road, and pass them like you love them!
With Dr. Codger on vacation, Dr. Greenskin must face a client who belittles her abilities and refuses treatment for a puppy in need.
Illustration by Ryan OstranderDr. Codger has left the sacred two-hour radius surrounding the clinic and is away on a major vacation (i.e., a three-day weekend), leaving Dr. Greenskin in charge of the practice. The young associate is starting to feel like her old mentor is growing more comfortable with her, and the fact that he's trusting her to run things while he's gone speaks volumes.
Greenskin is taking extra special care of every case that walks in the door so she can make the old vet proud with nothing but glowing reports upon his return. At least, that was the plan.
Things get sketchy
Mr. Sketch is a longtime client of Dr. Codger but has never been seen by Dr. Greenskin. He's brought all sorts of critters to Dr. Codger over the years, and the old vet has even been out to his place a time or two to help with an injured horse or a sick goat. Mr. Sketch periodically breeds a litter of Labradors that will be groomed into “huntin' dogs.”
Upon arriving at the clinic, Mr. Sketch is upset that the “new lady vet” is his only option, but his problems can't wait for Dr. Codger. Boy Pup #3 is very sick and has been vomiting nonstop for two days.
As soon as Dr. Greenskin suggests starting with a parvovirus test and some radiographs, the pushback begins.
Mr. Sketch scoffs, “Dr. Codger would know just what to do. I know this ain't parvo! He just needs some fluid and a shot. I already gave 'im some Pepto!”
Greenskin maintains composure and explains to Mr. Sketch that she can feel a firm mass in the puppy's abdomen. She is worried about a potential foreign body but definitely doesn't want to miss a parvo diagnosis.
Mr. Sketch reluctantly authorizes the diagnostics. “I don't think all of this is necessary, and this is more than the pup is worth already. You better not be wasting my money here. When does Dr. Codger get back? Fluids and a shot only cost me 40 dollars last time!”
With results come insults
Greenskin's suspicions are confirmed with a negative parvo test and a very obstructed radiograph. The small intestine appears to be blocked by what looks like a small corncob.
She gingerly reviews the radiographs with Mr. Sketch. “Are you saying I feed my dogs trash?!” he storms. “They get only the best food. I feed 'em Shmoo Shmuffalo Brand until they're fully grown. Do you know how much that costs?!”
Dr. Greenskin proceeds cautiously but firmly. “I don't know how the puppy got ahold of the object, but he's very sick now, and I recommend exploratory surgery. He is at risk of perforating. The longer we wait, the sicker he'll become and the greater the risk of intestinal rupture.”
Dr. Greenskin works up an estimate for surgical and postoperative services, which comes to between $2,390 and $3,905. Mr. Sketch begins to lose his composure (though it wasn't ideal to begin with). He grabs the sweet, sickly puppy and storms out of the office, leaving Dr. Greenskin and the rest of the staff heartbroken. The defeated receptionist sighs, “Dr. Codger is not going to be happy about this … ”
To be continued!
Are you having a tough time adjusting to your old crotchety employer? Is your new inexperienced associate just not fitting in at your practice? Please send stories, ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. All emails will be kept confidential, but the scenario may be featured in an upcoming installment of Old School, New School.
Dr. Jeremy Campfield works in emergency and critical care private practice in Southern California. This series originally appeared in Pulse, the publication of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Association.