I recently made a phone call to my doctor’s office for advice on a simple health issue that required over-the-counter treatment.
“Anderson, M. Anderson, Michelle. Middle name? Hmm,” said my doctor’s assistant. “On ____ Street? No? There are a lot of Andersons in here. Just a sec. Oh, okay, I’ve found you. I’m sorry, but we haven’t seen you in two years. You’ll need to come in for an exam.”
Two years. Really? Where did the time go?
You see, for my own health I tend to take an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach and rarely make appointments. I like my doctor a lot, but I don’t see her often and probably wouldn’t know her if we bumped into each other on the street. I figure we stand in the checkout line together at Whole Foods all the time and I don’t even notice her. And I’m pretty sure that, without a chart in front of her, my physician wouldn’t recognize me, either.
Due to the nature of their work, veterinarians are familiar with where and how we live, and how we take care of and handle our animals.
That’s very different from the active and often personal client-practitioner-patient relationship my animals and I have with our veterinarians. The contrast is actually pretty startling when I think of it.
For example, the lovely Dr. Ruth Loomis sat on the floor of a darkened room after hours and cried with my husband and me as our Corgi, Wyatt, closed his eyes for the last time. Meanwhile, her family sat in their car outside as Mommy took time away from home to help our very sick dog.
Dr. Rex Urich, our diabetic cat’s vet, makes special house calls in his animal ambulance (a 1960’s era Volkswagen Bus) because traveling into town is too stressful for Marv. After our last appointment, Dr. Rex called me on a Saturday afternoon: “Michelle, I’ve been thinking about Marvin since I saw him last week, so I did a little more research. There might be something else we can do to make him more comfortable …”
And my equine practitioner? My horse vet, Dr. Jared Nyman, knows I’m a chronic worrier with a little too much access/exposure to horse health information. He also understands my Quarter Horse Jack is a pain to vaccinate, and he’s fully prepared for me to cry right there in front of him if he doesn’t fix Hanoverian Marathon’s bum hocks (No pressure, right?).
He’ll even stop by and check my horse’s eye because he’s “in the neighborhood anyway,” answer his phone at 9 p.m. when I fear a vaccination reaction or the onset of colic, and roll his eyes just enough when necessary to snap me out of my horsey hypochondria.
In return Dr. Nyman gets lots of referrals, checks that always clear the bank, extra back issues of The Horse for his clients, and homemade cookies.
The difference in rapport with my vets versus my personal doctor is partly due to my perspective on my own health versus that of my animals: I know how I feel, whereas my veterinarians help me interpret how my animals feel. It only takes a few minutes for me to tell my doctor where my foot hurts and when it started bothering me, but my veterinarian and I need to have a conversation for him to best understand the history of what’s going on with my horse (or dog, or cat). A lot of information can transfer during those talks.
Do I wish my relationship with my personal physician mirrored those I have with my trio of veterinarians? Yeah, kind of. But I understand that medical practices operate differently than veterinary clinics, and personal boundaries are inevitably softer when practitioners visit your farm or home rather than meeting in a sterile office environment a few times (or less) a year.
Due to the nature of their work, my veterinarians are familiar with where and how we live, and how we take care of and handle our animals. Plus a certain trust is built with veterinarians as you discuss your competitive aspirations, weigh the financial realities of treatment options, and make end-of-life decisions for your beloved pets.
And, come to think of it, I’ve never baked my physician cookies.
Do you talk to your veterinarian more than your personal doctor? Does how you manage your horses’ health differ from how you manage your own?