I am the Enemy

It’s pretty hard for your pet to come and see me. Don’t get me wrong—he’s friendly, I’m friendly. This isn’t a defect in his character. It’s just that we want different things. I want to know how the inside of his mouth looks, and he wants to be in his own home. I want to bend his elbows back and forth, and he wants to be in his own home. And so forth. I do sometimes ask a lot… but all of that is for the single-minded purpose of helping him live a better, more comfortable life. (Yes, even when I take his temperature!) He doesn’t understand these things, but of course you do. You are a human, like me.

Try to see the visit through his eyes, though. Your pet is probably a very well-adjusted, gentlemanly individual, but today he is being handled, in a rather presumptuous way, by me. I might be friendly and kind, but I am not you. I violate his personal space, and I prod. You will help his checkup go smoothly if you make sure to send him the right signals.

He really needs to keep an eye on me, so please don’t grab your pet’s body tightly and block his vision. That is only going to make him claustrophobic and panicky. After all, I do lots of unpredictable things while he is looking straight at me. Who knows where I’ll take it if he’s immobilized and forced to turn his back? Remember, too, that you only get grabby when you are scared. Don’t send that message.

Please don’t expect him to suddenly comprehend the entire English language because he’s stepped onto my property. When you command him to “Get on the scale!” or “Go over there!”, he doesn’t want to disappoint. This is a brand-new trick, so it’s stressful to hear that you expect him to perform it unassisted. It’s difficult enough to perform the exercises he does know, such as “lie down (as this unfamiliar person stares at you while brandishing some sort of instrument)”.

Listen to the actual sounds you’re making, because he is hanging on your every whisper. A wheedling, high-pitched stream of baby talk just confirms his suspicion that something really bad is going to happen. Completely safe situations are accompanied by the soundtrack of human voices droning on about boring human topics. To create a safe environment, chat comfortably with the staff and don’t stare at the patient. Remember, you only stare when you are worried. Don’t send that message.

Finally, please don’t scold or yell in my building, as it is unkind and counterproductive. You are not teaching him something useful, only that the clinic is a scary and stressful place. I’m scary and stressful enough on my own, thank you.

I get it. I am the enemy. I’m okay with that because it is in my patient’s best interest. Help your pet interact with me in a way that makes him feel comfortable, and everybody wins.

Dr. M.S. Regan