Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Assclownery Becomes An Art Form....

Unlike their human colleagues, veterinarians expect to be paid at the time services are rendered. They can (and will) refuse to treat if they aren't going to be paid for it. Payment plans are a rarity, and if they do happen, it's an exception made for a long time client.
I'm sure we've all been there when we have a sick pet or other urgency that needs immediate attention when we have no money. So we're scrambling to borrow, or max out a credit card, or neglect a couple of bills to take care of it.
There's a great deal of variation in the cost of vet care. In past posts I've gone over some of the reasons, so no need to reiterate them. The majority of the phone calls I get are people calling for price quotes. Things like vaccinations, and spays/neuters are no problem, and I can even "ball park" price things like ear problems and dentals, and c sections. On other issues, I always encourage the caller to come in for an exam and give the exam price, and tell them Boss Man will provide an estimate.
We have a good number of people who are established clients at another vet but come in for their pet's spay/neuter, or those who use us for all vet work but get their vaccines done at the local shelter. We've done exams for estimates and had the client go elsewhere, and we've done second opinions and had the client use us. We're seeing this much more in this economy, and it's all part of doing business. I do this with my horses: for lameness, I call Dr. X, who's a wonderful "leg man"-he can see where the problem is practically without looking. But he can't float teeth worth a crap, so for that and other things I use Dr. Y. It's nice to be an established client with two excellent doctors who know both me and my horses when I have an emergency (which usually happens after business hours).
What I can't do in my job is diagnose a problem over the phone. I'm not a vet (and a vet won't do this), nor am I a psychic (if I was, wouldn't I have seen my future as a middle aged woman picking up shit for a living and gotten a better career?). Still, the assclowns will try.
Today I get a call from a very demanding woman. Demanding is a bad thing to do with me, as my rebellious nature instinctively means I will do the opposite, or at the very least make things very difficult. This woman was in another vet's office, and got a quote for a "sore on my dog's back" and wanted me to do a price competitive quote over the phone. Despite me telling her several times we couldn't do something like that she was very persistent.
"Ma'am, from what you're saying, it sounds like a tumor removal, what is the diagnosis for your dog?"
" I told you what is wrong with him, he has a sore on his back!"
And then she proceeded to read me the itemized list that the vet had given her. I repeated that we couldn't quote something like that over the phone, and offered to give her an immediate appointment for a second opinion and told her the exam price.
I don't know if she hung up on me or the phone spontaneously combusted in her hand she was so mad.
I do understand sticker shock, especially when you think it's a simple fix and it isn't. If it's not an immediate emergency, you do have the time to get a second opinion or a price quote. Many people are afraid of having to pay for some things twice, but things like blood test results, x-rays and records can be faxed over to the next vet. It's done all the time.
I've seen some interesting stunts in this business, but this was a new one. I'm thinking she was trying to get me to quote as a negotiating tool at the vet's office she was at. This was beyond tacky, it's a new level of ass clownery.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Obviously I Overestimated..

..the average IQ of some of the pet owners that come into our office. Here's the scenario:
Owner A buys a yellow Lab puppy as a family pet and brings it to our office for the first set of shots. When the novelty wears off and the kids start ignoring the dog (big surprise there) she gives the dog to owner B. Since I'm not part of the transaction, I don't know the specific details of what information about the dog A gave to B.
Owner B brings the dog in to be neutered, and tells us that dog once belonged to A. I look up A's records, note that the dog still needs more vaccines, which I inform B about. Dog is neutered, vaccinated and it's all good.
10 months later Owner B calls inquiring about whether the dog needs a new rabies shot. The dog had a rabies shot when it belonged to A, and it's now several months expired. B is upset that we didn't send her a reminder card. Of course this lengthy phone call comes in when I'm by myself, trying to clean kennels.
I explain to the newest member of the Get A Clue Club that the reminder cards are made when the pet is vaccinated, then they are stored and sent out when it's time to revaccinate. Obviously, the reminder card went to owner A who didn't bother to tell B about it. Owner B spends at least 5 minutes on the phone berating me about the oversight.
Really?! Over a rabies shot?! Had B been an honest person and actually licensed the dog like the law says, the county would have let her know the dog needed another rabies shot. And with all the expensive electronic media out there that people have to remind them of important events she's going postal with me over a 15 cent postcard?!
The friendly people at Starbucks tell me this happens all the time. I'd last maybe 15 minutes there.
Maybe it was Berate Someone Who Can't Tell You Where to Shove It day. Or she was upset over something else and I got the brunt of it. I would have loved to tell her how ignorant she was, but she wasn't worth wasting my breath on.
 With everything that's happening in the world right now, I wish my life were going so smoothly that not getting a postcard was the biggest problem I have.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Full Moon Fever...

Or is it a whole new graduating class of ass clown school eager to get The Cranky Catwrangler Ass Clown of the year on their resume?
First client in is a woman with a cat spay. She had arranged with a charity to help her with the cost of the spay, then was upset that the donation was so little. In this economy, there is only one charity left that helps with the cost of spay/neuter surgeries that can be done at a vet's office, as opposed to having it done at the local animal shelter. Funds are tight, and they handle several hundred requests daily. I pointed out to her that the charity had given her 4 times the amount they usually give for cat spays.
Second was a guy who had gotten a set of vaccines for his puppy, and was back for the second round. According to him, we had told him that this round of shots were paid for, they were not, and we told him so. He tried to argue, but we weren't budging on that one.
Third was a kid with a dog in for a spay that was over an hour late. He brought a check from his mom for $100 less than the cost of the surgery, and claimed he was quoted the lesser price. He left with his dog without getting the surgery.
I also had several people call for price quotes then complain about the prices. We are not vendors at a stall in a Tijuana market, we're a business and we don't work for free.
Seriously, WTF is wrong with people? Hubby had a guy come in last week. His business does not accept paper checks, and there are signs all over stating that fact. He pointed that out to the guy who insisted on writing the check. The guy ripped the sign down and threw it in the trash. Hubby threw the guy and his check off the property.
Now to top off my day. We had a client who came in on an appointment with a cat. The cat had ripped through the cardboard carrier, so she borrowed a leash (which is a rope with a loop) to bring the cat in from the car. The cat got away from her and ran off. I went out to try to help her and the cat ran across the busy street and climbed a tree in the median strip.
I think I mentioned that Animal Control in the town I work in, plus the surrounding cities, is contracted out to the Humane Society. Long ago, in another time, they did a wonderful job. Now they're under the control of some megalomaniac who wants to play Animal Cop and have his own show on Animal Planet. They're happy to hand out tickets and harass anyone they want to, but actual service to the taxpayers who pay their salary is non existent. But since they are in charge, I called them about the cat in the tree.
I spoke to some snarky bitch who snarled that they don't get animals out of trees. I told her the can could be caught by a catch pole. They never showed up. I called the Fire Department, who also refused to come. So under Boss Man's direction (and for once it was a good one), I called the local newspaper and explained the situation: a disabled woman whose cat escaped was up a tree in the median of a busy street, and none of the "public service" entities would help her. And I should  mention that the reason she was bringing the cat to the vet was because the cat had a scrape on her back and the Humane Society had given her a warning to have the cat seen by a vet or they would take her away.
The local police came and  hopefully they can help her out. I loaned her a large cat carrier and some canned cat food, hopefully to entice the cat down to safety. As it does every Ostara here, it was pouring rain when I left work.
Yes, it was a Monday.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Shout Out To Some Deserving People

Combining my love of the colorful and my affinity for unusual looking animals, I have discovered the joy of being owned by a Catahoula Leopard Dog. I have totally fallen in love with the breed. (The dog in the picture is not my dog.)
Catahoulas are not for everyone, they are energetic (but not the high energy of a Lab or German Shorthair), assertive (as opposed to agressive), need a dominant human, and at least an hour's worth of exercise daily. If you're looking for a running companion, have a large space for a dog to run, and want an intelligent constant companion, consider the Catahoula.
I got mine as a puppy out of the local county kill shelter, and since they are a rarity in these parts,  I hit the internet to find out more. And discovered  Catahoula Rescue Inc., which is a non profit organization dedicated to rescuing this wonderful breed. The tireless volunteers find Catahoulas and Catahoula mixes in kill shelters and work on getting them out and transported to either foster or forever homes. Volunteers are always needed, either to foster or transport them to their new homes. I realize that with the high cost of gas that offering to transport may be a strain on someone otherwise willing, but if you are planning  to travel by car somewhere, or you drive for a living, consider having a colorful passenger. Check their message boards for the dogs who need transport if you're interested in helping them out.
Through the Catahoula rescue I also discovered another wonderful organization called  Pilots N Paws These are pilots who transport rescued pets who need rides to their new home. They are all volunteers, and these wonderful men and women have made a difference to countless pets who need a second chance at a better life.
Both of these organizations are worth checking out.

Monday's Dogs Facebook Page

Pilots N Paws Facebook Page

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Why I Hate Hill's Pet Nutrition

Years ago, the first vet's office I worked in fed Hill's Science or Prescription Diet to the animals in our care. I hated having pets boarded at our place, because I'd walk in and the whole office smelled like someone blew up an overfilled port a potty. Not that poop smells good, but this was worse than usual. And there was so much of it that the first order of the day was giving the boarding animals a bath before putting them back in a clean cage.
Years later, and thankfully the office I'm at doesn't feed Science Diet. We do, however, handle Prescription Diet, which are foods formulated for specific medical conditions that are purchased through vets. We also carry other brands, but my big bitch today is about Hill's.
Corn. I have always avoided pet food with corn, wheat and soy because they are allergens, and especially cheap fillers. Corn is the cheapest filler of all (not so much any more with the biodiesel demand) and the first ingredient listed in any cheap generic dog food. There are plenty of arguments about whether dogs are carnivores or omnivores (read more here) but the truth is, dogs do need a meat based diet. To paraphrase Hill's justification of corn being the first ingredient in their food "there is no scientific proof that corn is an allergen, cooked corn is highly digestible and a source of nutrients." Which I call BullShit. How many dogs and cats do you find in corn fields, shucking cobs of corn and munching on the kernels? They go into corn fields for 2 reasons: to kill and eat something that is eating corn, or to take a dump. As for the argument that "they are getting vegetables and grains from eating the stomach contents of their prey", it's not the first frickin' ingredient or the main source of their diet.
Price. If people want to feed their pets food with corn as the main ingredient, that's their choice. But they usually do it because it's less expensive. Most of Hill's products are priced the same as all meat grain free foods. Why feed Ol' Roy quality at Orijen prices? If I'm going to spend over $40 or $50 for a bag of dry food, it sure as hell better not contain any corn. Corn based foods make more poop. Which means one dog can make a small space into a mine field in the course of a day. That's some pricey poop to be picking up. Hill's has the contract to provide the food for several county animal shelters. When the taxpayer dollars are being spent on food for animals, the county is going to contract with whoever gives them the cheapest price, NOT the highest quality. I've been in some shelters before the kennels are cleaned and the smell is enough to make you gag. That's from cheap food.

Quality Control. No matter how careful, the wrong stuff can get into bags or cans of food, no matter who it's intended for. I've noticed out of what we sell, it's more than likely Hill's than any other product. Dry food with oil in the bags, burst cans. We promptly replace it or refund the pet owner, which brings me to

Customer Service. Hill's customer service sucks. Awhile back in our Hill's order we had several cases of canned food. These are like the short round cat food cans (not like the taller dog food cans) which are very flimsy and easily punctured. They are packed in counts of 24 on cardboard and wrapped in heavy plastic.  Several of the cases had cans that were dented or burst open, and one or two cases were draining green liquid. There was a distinct rotting meat smell. We promptly called Hill's Customer Service line. After being on hold for over 15 minutes, we were told to break open the cases and count how many cans in each case were burst, for which they would give us credit for the bad cans.
WTF? Since when is Hill's blatant lack of quality control in my job description?! They sell this stuff by the case to us, not the individual can.  There is no way in hell I'm going to split up a case of cans where some are open and oozing and sell what appears to be in my novice eyes an okay can and risk the health of a client's pet. That's a lawsuit waiting to happen, and there is no way I'd knowingly do something to risk a pet's health.

Royal Canin and Purina also sell prescription diet foods, in which corn is also a main ingredient.Which I'm obviously not crazy about. But, their quality control is exemplary. If there is a problem with a food, all bags in that lot are picked up at their expense, and replaced. They give immediate credit for expired or the rare problem food and don't expect us to do their jobs for them. There is plenty of room in the prescription diet industry to make quality food, and I'm hoping some other company will step up to the plate. I'm sure we're not the only office who would love to stop having to use Hill's.

Note: Whatever you're using to feed your pet, if it works and you're happy with it, great. I'm not going to get into a debate about feeding, since I'm not a qualified nutritionist and as always, your mileage may vary. I do have a ton of opinions (no kidding) and I think that we need to know what we're buying. I'm not going to buy a bag of crap for the price of a bag of choice steak, and I don't think you should do so either. So here's a great website to educate yourself about dog food ingredients so your choices are more informed: Dog Food Advisor