Veterinary Practice News Editorial Blog:
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2008
My House-Call Vet Extraordinaire
By Somyr McLean Perry
Managing Editor of Vetpracticenews.com and Veterinary Practice News
I never considered consulting a house-call vet mostly because I've never needed to. I've worked in clinics for more than 14 years and my pets have never seen a veterinarian who I didn't know personally.
I've since retired from veterinary nursing and for the first time I find myself a regular pet owner with the dilemma, and a lot of anxiety, over finding the right family veterinarian to care for my pets. I kind of feel like the old-fashioned family vet is a dying breed as corporate practices grow and “no after-hour emergencies or overtime” ads plague the veterinarians help wanted ads.
But it made perfect sense to look for a house-call vet based on the high-strung high-anxiety personalities of my pets. My 10-year-old cat Mardie leaves the house once a year for annual checkups and my 6-year-old dog Roxy is an anxiety case. It takes so much energy and planning to get them to a clinic, especially because Roxy has dog-aggressive tendencies. So why not find a vet to come to me?
It's not as easy as it sounds. Between HouseCallVets.org, the website for the Association of House-call Veterinarians, and the San Diego County Veterinary Medical Assn., there are only four or five house-call vets listed in the whole county! I tried to charm the San Diego VMA receptionist into telling me who her favorite vet is, but she wouldn't bite. So I chose the one closest to my home.
I must admit preconceptions about what she would look like ran through my head (white coat or coveralls), how timely her medicine was (a shot of pen and pred should do the trick!) and her bedside manner (no Bill Babers wrangling my dog to the floor, please).
My expectations were high. I wanted a family vet with common sense, good instincts, attention to detail about my pets’ health and personalities, as well as my pocket book. I ask a lot, I’m told.
It was in my journalistic nature to conduct a phone interview before committing to an appointment. “Tell me about yourself and about how you practice medicine,” I asked. She didn’t miss a beat. She said that her family owns a plant nursery, which she helps run, so her practice was exclusively preventive and wellness medicine and she only made house calls two days a week.
The schedule was a little inconvenient, but candor and confidence were reassuring. Her clients mostly comprised home-bound people with pets and those who had too many pets to realistically take to the vet on a regular basis. Hmm. I was neither. “That’s OK!” she said. Her next move sealed the deal for me. I knew she was the ONE.
“Tell me about you and your pets,” she said.
In all my years in veterinary nursing (14), all the clinics I’ve work at (four) and all the vets I’ve worked with (at least 30), my new house-call veterinarian extraordinaire beat them all (almost) in bedside manner and customer service. She sat on my floor, despite my offer for the comfy couch, she took time to interact with my pets to gain their trust, she listened to my laundry list of questions, problems and concerns for my pets, and, she took the time to connect with me.
Now, not every veterinarian can spend an hour and a half with every client realistically. And I believe she charged me accordingly. But first impressions mean everything. And she hasn’t disappointed me since.
It’s not all peaches and cream, mind you. She’s kind of hard to get a hold of … I’ve had at least one frustrating game of phone tag. Her schedule is extremely limited so it’s not like I can call her to come out if Roxy rips her toenail off. And, when the pets need anything that requires hospitalization, anesthesia or surgery, she’ll refer me to a clinic. But I get blood test results the next day, medications and food orders dropped at my front door and excellent customer service all around … including a hand-written Christmas card.
I wonder, are there more of her out there?
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