Stop Annoying Your Vet!

by Tyler Sjostrom

An unexpected benefit of our current situation is that we’ve collectively become more attuned to the well-being of our neighbors. Caring for the health of those around us, mental, physical or otherwise, is a net positive. And this got me thinking about a friend who works in the veterinary field.

When my wife and I have a problem with one of our pets, we call Alex. A few years ago, when the health of one of our cats deteriorated quicker than America’s once-flattening curve, Alex talked us through it. When our dog got a twisted tummy and needed surgery, we again sought her advice. Even when we had a cat sneak out a few years back, we employed her legendary skills as an animal whisperer to help us bait a trap to encourage his safe return. Each time, we picked her brain for a relatively simple reason: we trusted her brain more than we trusted our own.

But at what cost? Soliciting this sort of expertise from friends who are skilled in a certain field is not uncommon, but it’s hard to think of another profession where you’d see more “friends” emerge from the woodwork. When you are getting a haircut, do you consult high school classmates who went on to careers as beauticians? If you’re having a heart attack, do you say, “A guy in my fantasy league is a doctor. I’d better see what he thinks first”? Of course, we don’t.

But with our pets, it’s different. Animals can’t speak to express pain and we’ve come to believe that our veterinary friends are essentially part animal; ipso facto, they’re more than happy to answer all forms of four-legged inquiry at all hours, day or night, right?

Maybe not. When I call Alex for animal advice — which I truly try to never do unless it’s a problem that she might find fascinating — I do my best to be mindful of her time and personal commitments. However, if she’d decided to express her love for animals by joining the cast of “Cats,” I’m ashamed to say that I’d probably have found someone else to consult instead. Seeing as vets commonly struggle to separate the needs of their patients from the needs of friends and family, I’m not at all alone here.

This creates an untenable problem for those in the veterinary field: an abundance of people asking for what is essentially free service, who may be taking advantage of their deep concern for animals. This leads to those in the veterinary line of work — who already treat sick and dying animals daily, who grow attached and say goodbye to patients, who might prefer animals to humans — giving more of themselves than they have to offer. But what about the veterinary workers themselves? We call the ghostbusters, so to speak, but who do the ghostbusters call?

When veterinarians have animal problems of their own, they rely on their hard-earned expertise and that of their colleagues. So let’s take their advice. Most often, they’d tell us simply to stop looking on our phones for answers and take our animal to the vet already. Even though your veterinarian friend may care for your pet as if it’s their own, it’s always in the best interest of your animal to be seen in person.

Let’s not assume that our friends in the veterinary field have unlimited time and energy to devote to animals who are not their own. Let’s let them enjoy a little distance from their work when they leave the office. And let’s not make them wish they’d screened our calls, or worse, joined the cast of “Cats.”