I recently participated in a training session for animal humane care investigators. It was eye-opening, and many interesting topics of conversation surfaced over the course of the day. One theme brought up by more than one person was the frustration involved with making recommendations intended to improve the quality of life for the animals involved, and having those suggestions fall on deaf ears. “They won’t make the changes I suggest.” “They fall right back into their bad habits.” Or, “why should I even bother—they don’t listen!”
As I formulated my response to the last plea, I empathized with the investigator. As veterinary professionals, we have all been there: the client who doesn’t believe that her poodle could possibly get heartworm disease, or maybe the person who seems to feel that dental disease and tooth loss is a foregone conclusion—what’s the point of prevention? Or maybe it’s that allergic golden retriever on a prescription diet getting chicken nuggets for treats, or a dairyman with a frequently mucky lot dealing with recurring hoof disease. Why should we bother either, when “they don’t listen”?
Well if we adhere to our veterinary oath, we should bother because it is the right thing to do for the patient. Yes, you may feel like pulling your hair out the sixth time you explain to Mr. Jones that the reason his kitty gets little scabs on her neck and back is because of the fleas having a party in her fur, and that the “expensive” flea medication will save him money (and save the cat a lot of distress!) in the long run. But, maybe, when you explain the situation for the seventh time, Mr. Jones decides to address the problem per your recommendations. Whether it was a new approach to the problem on your part, or a change of circumstance on his part, and both he and the kitty finally get some relief.
So, please bother, even if they don’t seem to listen. You may eventually achieve a breakthrough, whether large or small. Your client and patient will thank you, your perseverance will set an example to your co-workers, and you may just rest a little easier at night.